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9/21/2016
Local worker rule dies before council debate; Weiner: "The sole beneficiary of this legislation appears to be the trade unions with a mandatory participation requirement." News Journal

"We don't believe that you should be mandating labor affiliation as a condition of doing work in New Castle County," said Ed Capodanno, President of the Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents non-union construction firms in the state. 

Councilman Bob Weiner, one of two Republican County Council members, said the legislation would have detracted from the competitiveness in the county bidding processes. 

"This ordinance thus appears to favor a small constituency," Weiner said. "The sole beneficiary of this legislation appears to be the trade unions with a mandatory participation requirement."

Local worker rule dies before council debate

Xerxes Wilson, The News Journal 7:05 p.m. EDT September 21, 2016

Large New Castle County projects would have been subject to new hiring rules under a plan the County Council was considering

Story Highlights

The New Castle County Council dropped a plan to require local labor for large projects.
It also would have required 5 percent of the workforce on county projects be Delaware veterans.
The rules would have applied to public projects costing more than $5 million.


An effort to require local workers and veterans on New Castle County-funded construction projects costing more than $5 million will be withdrawn before it can be debated in the County Council.

The bill would have mandated that 30 percent of the workforce on major county projects live in New Castle County and 5 percent be Delaware veterans. The county also would have had to enter into an agreement with organized labor dictating the terms of such projects.

But Councilman Jea Street said the legislation, which was introduced to County Council last week, will be withdrawn before Tuesday's council meeting because he knows the effort has no chance of passing.

"There is no support for it," he said. "The handwriting is on the wall. It is not going to pass."

Street said the bill would have ensured at least some of taxpayer dollars used on a construction project stay within the county. He used the ongoing construction of the $21 million library on Del. 9 near Wilmington as an example of why the legislation was necessary. 

"The project right now that is the most expensive is the library in my councilmanic district," Street said. "There is great concern in my district about the lack of diversity and that residents around it are not able to work on it."

Construction projects over $5 million are rare in New Castle County, though some planned sewer projects and future buildings would be affected by the rules.

The stalled legislation was similar to an effort to require the same parameters for state construction projects, which also fell flat in the General Assembly earlier this year. Contractor groups and some members of County Council echoed the same concerns that were voiced during that debate this summer. Some feel it would give organized labor a monopoly over major construction projects in the county.

"We don't believe that you should be mandating labor affiliation as a condition of doing work in New Castle County," said Ed Capadanno, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents non-union construction firms in the state. 

Councilman Bob Weiner, one of two Republican County Council members, said the legislation would have detracted from the competitiveness in the county bidding processes. 

"This ordinance thus appears to favor a small constituency," Weiner said. "The sole beneficiary of this legislation appears to be the trade unions with a mandatory participation requirement."

James Maravelias, president of the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council as well as the Delaware State AFL-CIO, said criticisms about the cost to taxpayers are off the mark because the cost for county construction projects is still dictated largely by prevailing wage laws that apply to union and non-union firms. He added that the labor agreements required by the legislation are necessary to police the residency requirements.

The unemployment rate in New Castle County was 4.7 percent in July, the most recent month for which data is available.

"We don't believe that you should be mandating labor affiliation as a condition of doing work in New Castle County," said Ed Capodanno, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents non-union construction firms in the state. 

Councilman Bob Weiner, one of two Republican County Council members, said the legislation would have detracted from the competitiveness in the county bidding processes. 

“This ordinance thus appears to favor a small constituency," Weiner said. "The sole beneficiary of this legislation appears to be the trade unions with a mandatory participation requirement."

James Maravelias, president of the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council as well as the Delaware State AFL-CIO, said criticisms about the cost to taxpayers are off the mark because the cost for county construction projects is still dictated largely by prevailing wage laws that apply to union and non-union firms. He added that the labor agreements required by the legislation are necessary to police the residency requirements.

The unemployment rate in New Castle County was 4.7 percent in July, the most recent month for which data is available.

On Wednesday, County Executive Thomas P. Gordon said he supported the effort from the start. 

Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick speculated that the bill was primarily a political ploy to curry union support for county candidates ahead of last week's primaries. The legislation was introduced the day before the Sept. 13 Democratic primary in which Gordon, who had the support of various local union organizations, lost to Wilmington attorney Matt Meyer.

"I think it was a political move," Kilpatrick said.

Street said his intentions were not political.

"My only motivation was to try to increase diversity and give county residents an opportunity to work on county projects, period," Street said. "I've been screaming about the absence of diversity on these projects ever since I've been on council."

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"Iíd like to express my appreciation to Councilman Bob Weiner who exhibits strength, determination and fortitude and is always on the side of the people. I followed Bobís actions when he was head of CCOBH's zoning committee and made strong efforts to try to stop the Brandywine Town Center construction. He has continued with energy and zeal in many pivotal positions in spite of enduring a lot of negative professional and personal attacks. I appreciate that he is never deterred."

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