Another Link on the Chain Binding Small Businesses in Rhode Island

The governor should veto this legislation:

Legislation approved by the General Assembly in the waning hours of a special session in October could transform the work force for large public projects in the state.
The bill would limit the number of apprentices employed on certain building projects by requiring that a higher share of more experienced journeymen workers be hired.

My understanding, from when the General Assembly debated the issue, is that reporter Alex Kuffner’s assessment of the scope of the legislation is far too limited. For instance, the language cites residential projects. The determining factor is whether the contractor participates in the state’s apprenticeship program.
The bottom line is that this sort of regulation — which the state should be shedding, not installing — helps large, established companies keep their prices (and, therefore, the cost to businesses and residents of construction) up and safeguards the strangulating negotiated salaries of union workers. For all the talk about small businesses’ being the “lifeblood” of the state’s economy and the necessity of “targeted” tax breaks for small businesses, when it comes down to it, Rhode Island’s aristocracy doesn’t prioritize economic opportunity.
The governor should veto this legislation.

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Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Justin-
I’m confused on this issue and please let me know where my understanding goes astray. It seems that this bill is good for the existing blue collar work force. My understanding is this will make it harder for people to become plumbers, electricians and carpenters. If there’s a limit to the number of them, then doesn’t that create an economy of better pricing for those workers that are already in the system? If there were no such limits and just anyone could become one of these workers, it would dilute the workforce and decrease the amount they could charge.
So it seems that your opinion to veto the legislation is one where you’re looking out for the customer, not for your profession. If that’s the case, good for you, I can’t argue with that. But is that the answer here or am I confused somewhere?
Thanks.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Come now, government helping big business create an artificial oligopoly by imposing strangulating regulations that only companies with a pre-existing vast infrastructure and resource cache can comply with? That would never happen. It’s certainly not what happened in the health insurance industry or anything.
Next you’re going to tell me that the patent and copyright system doesn’t help the starving artist in a private studio or Doc Brown invent his flux capacitor in his garage, but rather helps large corporations patent hoard to stifle competition and innovation and record labels to keep local musicians from mixing, covering, or producing similar sounding music.
Government is the friend of the little guy, Justin, isn’t that what the progressives keep telling us? It certainly isn’t the cause of the ever-widening rich-poor gap increase they keep railing against by handing lucrative contracts and beneficial regulations to the already politically and financially powerful in exchange for support. Government would never do that, trust them.

Jay
Jay
11 years ago

Patrick,
The bill would kill small businesses by limiting their ability to hire more apprentices, it would stifle growth in the construction trades and it would force open-shop companies to abide by the rules that the unions have negotiated with their client contractors. The average age of a construction worker in RI today is 54. Unless we do something to bring in younger replacement workers there will not be a workforce to draw from of talented, trained trades people in the not to distant future.
Further, the unions are trying to include the unlicensed trades, i.e. carpenters, laborers, glazers, masons, cement finishers, etc. This is the preliminary step to licensure which can only mean that down the short road there will be additional fees on our working people.
This legislation helps one group and only one group- unionized construction which makes up less than 20% of the total construction work force in our state.
If the unions want to have ratios with their clients, that is their right through collective bargaining. We do not need to have what they have chosen to follow thrust upon the entire industry.
This bill is bad and I hope the Governor vetoes it.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Patrick:Yes, you are seeing it correctly, but as Justin and Dan pointed out it goes deeper than caring about the customer.
This legislation was drafted by the unions. It forces contractors to hire more of the expensive journeymen on a job than they otherwise would – more than is necessary to provide an effective supervision/training structure on the job. It also favors the largest contracting companies at the expense of smaller ones. The “fat cats” are happy with anything that supports higher job prices as their overhead and profit margin are expressed as a percentage of direct job costs. Larding up the job with expensive labor, as this law does, will make it harder for smaller companies to compete.
When you look at the early history of trade unions in America and see that among their original purposes was to protect the insiders from competition (and especially protect them from those awful Negroes migrating up from the South), you will find that this law fits the pattern perfectly.
The original concept of trade unions may have been a reaction to unenlightened management (although capitalists were already quickly learning that better working conditions caused better productivity – viz. Henry Ford), in reality the union movement was quickly taken over by an unholy alliance of mobsters, Marxists and racists – and that alliance has created the unions of today.

Beth
Beth
11 years ago

I’m outraged by this bill! My husband and I spent a small fortune sending him to NE Tech to get training in HVAC and told that there should be no problem in finding a job. He graduated number 1 in his class – straight A’s – and couldn’t find a job because of the ridiculous legislation already in place regarding apprentices. He finally found one, has been laid off twice in two years, and is now only one year into his 3-year apprenticeship! This law would make it even harder for him to finish his apprenticeship. The GA should be ashamed of themselves. They’re not out to help the middle class but strangle them instead!

Justin Katz
11 years ago

As has been suggested above, this sort of legislation is only good for established, large players who have opted to operate under a severely restricted model. Anybody interested in innovation and advancement — from somebody with zero experience to relatively large businesses looking to grow further — will be hindered by these ridiculous apprenticeship ratios because they will not be able to compete or to learn and build as the go.
Moreover, the price of construction will go up across the board, which will put it beyond the cost threshold for some percentage of potential clients.
The inclusion of residential and the like also suggests that the large players are in fact looking to expand beyond their limited world and impose

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