Cleveland, OH…September 9, 2016. The Construction Employers Association (CEA), along with Case Western Reserve University, Donley’s, Gilbane Building Company, Towards Employment and others are advocating to protect local resident hiring policies that enhance workforce opportunities and provide efficient and quality construction delivery.
In May, the Ohio General Assembly passed HB 180 to prohibit public authorities from requiring contractors to employ local residents on public construction projects. During the legislative debate, proponents of the ban argued that residency laws like the Fannie Lewis Law limit workforce mobility, give out-of-state companies (which are not bound by residency laws) a bidding advantage, and limit competition on public works.
CEA voiced its support for the Fannie Lewis law and emphasized the importance of local control of these issues. “The Fannie Lewis Law works because it is broad-based. State laws invalidating local employment laws threaten to greatly reduce the scope and effectiveness of what we are trying to accomplish in the local, Cleveland-based workforce,” said Tim Linville, CEA’s Chief Executive Officer.
CEA contractors have been involved with residency based projects and understand that residency programs work in Cleveland and that this type program is positive for employees and contractors.
Don Dreier, CEA’s Board Chairman and Donley’s Executive Vice President said, “As a local business with a legacy in Cleveland dating back to 1895, Donley’s fully supports the City of Cleveland’s Fannie M. Lewis Cleveland Resident Employment Law. We understand the importance of providing Clevelanders an opportunity to be employed on local projects. Since the law was enacted 12 years ago, there has not been one instance where Donley’s has found these requirements to be challenging to meet. Instead of being unreasonable or an added burden, the use of local workforce through the law has enabled us to further develop residents’ skills and potential for career development. We have found throughout our long history of work in Cleveland that employing residents enables their participation in Cleveland’s economic development and can help combat poverty.”
Scott Orr, Vice President at Gilbane Building Company said, “Gilbane Building Company fully supports the City of Cleveland’s Resident Employment Law. We embrace the commitment to local inclusion efforts which we believe strengthens our community and makes positive steps towards a brighter future for our workforce. We have not seen these laws as a challenge or detriment to delivering successful projects to our Owners. We believe this to be a sound business practice, and we do not agree with House Bill 180 that bans governments from enacting local hiring laws.”
Case Western Reserve University is also speaking-out in favor of local resident programs. "As a member of the Cleveland community, Case Western Reserve is committed to including qualified local residents in solicitations for project construction and services. We find that hiring city residents brings great value to the campus, Cleveland and the individuals involved,” offered Chris Sheridan, Vice President for University Marketing and Communications.
Towards Employment, a 40-year-old workforce agency dedicated to creating pathways to good jobs for greater Clevelanders, has seen first-hand the value of the opportunities created by the Fannie Lewis Law. “In a city where much our local economy has been catalyzed by construction, ensuring that all of our neighbors have access to the jobs created through these development projects is critical,” said its Executive Director, Jill Rizika.
HB 180 passed the Ohio House 61-31 and passed the Ohio Senate 23-10. It was signed by the Governor on May, 31 2016 and had the backing of many state-wide industry groups. As the only contractors association to support local authority on residency requirements, CEA allied with Mayor Frank Jackson, Cleveland City Council, and the Greater Cleveland Partnership and testified against the ban in both chambers of the General Assembly.
At an August 23, 2016 press conference, Mayor Frank Jackson announced that the City would sue the State of Ohio because HB 180 infringed upon Cleveland’s home-rule authority. Jackson argued that the City had enabled major economic development and "all we ask is that a small portion of that come to the benefit of the people we represent. Whether they are in the building trades or contractors or the constituents who live in our neighborhoods....” “There are billions of dollars of development happening in our city; yet special interests in Columbus are attempting to prohibit our residents from seeing a financial impact from that development.”
The residency ban would have gone into effect on August 31. However, Judge Russo of the Cuyahoga County Court of the Common Pleas issued an injunction against the law, ruling that the City was likely to prove that it violated the home rule provisions in Ohio’s Constitution. A full hearing on the matter is scheduled for November 2016 and the result will likely be appealed.
Emphasizing local responsibility, Linville says that “local governments should have the ability to shape how local development dollars are put to work for the betterment of their citizens. What works in one area might not in another, so a blanket ban on such initiatives is not the solution.” CEA and its contractors understand that well trained employees are a key to quality building and successful businesses, so CEA will continue to advocate for programs that bolster the pool of skilled workers, including local authority to put the public to work on public works.