Employers in the construction industry have long known the value of apprentice programs, such as those offered by Associated Builders and Contractors.  But, did you know that having or participating in a qualified apprentice program may become a requirement to bid on government projects?  If organized labor gets it way through the so-called Responsible Contractor Reforms, it could happen.

Supplemental Conditions, a construction blog worth reading, recently posted an article on this topic pointing out that states on the east coast, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have passed or are considering statutes that would require contractors to have a Department of Labor approved apprentice program before they can bid on a government projects.  While merit-shop contractors have effective training programs, the programs may not be approved by the DOL.  If that is the case, the number of contractor able to bid on government projects would be greatly diminished.

The primary advocates of Responsible Contractor Reforms are labor unions.  The law firm of O’Donoghue & O’Donoghue, a large pro-labor law firm in Washington, D.C., has published a summary of these reforms explaining that the reforms are being pursued to ensure that

public works projects are awarded to reputable, responsible firms that have the qualifications, resources and personnel required to successfully perform contract work.

Not surprisingly, the qualification standards are tailor made for union contractors.

It is important that merit shops be on the lookout for Responsible Contractor Reforms in their operating areas.  The qualification standards must be broad enough to allow for an even playing field so that all qualified contractors, including merit shops, can bid on public projects.