Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Opinion: With WV SB 412, Sen. Craig Blair addresses serious problem

By Bryan Hoylman

president and CEO

Associated Builders and Contractors of W.Va..

A recent editorial on Senate Bill 412, a bill dealing with W. Va. Jobs Act reporting requirements, attempted to explain the legislation’s intent. Unfortunately, it missed the mark and missed it badly.

It was explained that when companies contract with the state and are required to submit certified payroll to verify if there is compliance with the West Virginia Jobs Act (statute that mandates 75% of the workforce on state funded projects reside in West Virginia), that the public would no longer able to view this information. That the Government would in turn keep this information “secret.”

This is patently false. There is only one area of the payroll reports that is required to be redacted if FOIA’d from the government and there is a very good reason for it. That information is the individual wage information collected through the certified payrolls.

Last year, the legislature repealed the requirement to pay prevailing wage on public projects. Now that the State operates under a free market approach to bidding for construction services, labor costs are going to vary based on each company’s bid when previously every contractor was required to bid the exact same wage and fringe rates.

This now makes that information proprietary. The true intent of this legislation is to protect that information from being used to gain a competitive advantage over other companies who are competing for the same work.

This legislation, if enacted, would not prevent the state from enforcing the West Virginia Jobs Act, it would not prevent the State from enforcing any wage and hour laws, it would not prevent the public from knowing if companies who contract with the state are hiring 75% of workers form in state, and it would not suddenly legalize or allow previously illegal or unethical activities which the editorial almost eagerly attempts to imply.

The state of West Virginia, just like any other government around the country does an extensive amount of work with the private sector.  Yet, the only industry we put under so much scrutiny with regards to obtaining their internal information is Construction. No one is demanding who IT companies hire or how much their research and development costs are, or how much catering companies pay their employees when they provide services to the state. That is because this information is proprietary. It is contained in a formula used to complete for the lowest qualified bid.

Labor unions have spent decades trying to make these laws more stringent and intrusive in the Construction Industry. That accomplishes two things for them, first it makes fewer companies interested in bidding state work due to the absurd amount of mandates and requirements. And now, given the fact that the government in West Virginia no longer fixes the labor costs to match union collective bargaining agreements, essentially prohibiting anyone from under bidding them, they’re looking for other ways to gain advantage over their competitors. It also allows them to know everything about those they compete against, and it allows them to access it through the force of Government itself.

Let’s not make the mistake of allowing union executives to convince West Virginians there is some larger sinister plan developing here. It’s simply labor unions mischaracterizing, well let’s be honest, they’re lying about what this law is meant to accomplish and that it will prohibit them from being able to cheat the system by using the government to get information about private employers and employees who choose not to affiliate with them.

Senator Blair is addressing a serious problem with this legislation. And that is the coercion between wealthy special interests in Charleston and government bureaucrats who have an agenda that includes continuing to disrupt private companies’ ability to compete fairly for work funded by the taxpayers of West Virginia.

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