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Bill aims to ban cities from making union contracts a consideration when putting out bids for a job

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MILWAUKEE -- A bill in Madison would ban local governments from requiring that companies bidding for a project have union ties. Supporters of the bill say it will encourage more competition. But critics say it is another Republican attack on unions -- one that is hypocritical.

Projects like the new Milwaukee Bucks arena or Northwestern Mutual Tower that already have labor agreements would not be affected. But going forward, the Republican-backed bill would ban cities from making union contracts a consideration when putting out bids for a job.

Milwaukee Bucks arena project

Milwaukee Bucks arena project

Rob HuttonBrookfield Rep. Rob Hutton is the lead author in the Assembly.

"Really, it's a government neutrality piece of legislation; simply saying government shouldn't be creating barriers to entry that contain requirements that aren't germane to any firm," Hutton said.

Critics say unions help ensure a quality workforce, estimating members statewide put $30 million toward worker training each year.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele

"If we're going to do something that threatens that pipeline, somebody better have a really clear answer to how we're going to keep having those skilled workers -- and by the way, those are pretty good jobs," said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Hutton says union contractors can still get the same amount of work -- they should just face all competition for public projects. He also disputes criticism that it is hypocritical for conservative lawmakers in Madison to dictate how local governments operate.

"I certainly don't believe a local unit of government should have the ability to exclude any firms, in this case, that are well-qualified, from even participating in a bid," Hutton said.

Worker at Milwaukee Bucks arena project

Worker at Milwaukee Bucks arena project

Officials with the Milwaukee Building Trades Council say eventually this bill would deconstruct workers' wages.

Dan Bukiewicz, President of the Milwaukee Building Trades Council

Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building Trades Council

"Who's going to benefit from this? Probably those at the top who want people to work for a little less and make a little more," said Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building Trades Council.

The Senate and Assembly held hearings on the bill earlier this week. Rep. Hutton says he expects the Senate to go first with the bill reaching the floor in about two weeks.


  • polymorph

    I’ve worked in union and non union jobs, the non union work harder and are better at their job for fear of losing it. I also make more money as a non union employee because you’re not locked in to a union wage. And because i’m better at my job.

    • Richard Bills

      Allow the competition, by all means. To not include Union competition will only diminish quality of, not limited to, workers safety and benefits, health and welfare in general. With union retirement pensions being eliminated We will adding more to the dependency on welfare and taxpayer assistance in old age. Catch 22 is in the works. Those at the top of the income scale are cutting the workers throats to increase their profits at the expense the taxpayer.

    • Unions look out for workers

      Your the rare case. I’ve been on both sides also and have non-union family members… I get paid more then non-union workers, have health care pension and annuity all included in my package non-union Employees have a 401k no pension and have to pay for their health care. “locked into union wages” lol ok if you say so most non-union guys get let go when they ask for a raise even when they deserve it…

  • No lives matter in kilwaukee

    Go ahead and we will see buildings and roadways collapsing beneath us . Hire a bunch of drunks and non trained druggie to build and that’s what u will have. Their should be training requirements if they want to compete on bidding government work. Leave the non union work to residential not commercial, at least the general public is not in harms way. U GET WHAT U PAY FOR. The union has never kept my job or found me a job, but they do keep employers paying a wage that I can raise my family with. I am all for right to work, just like I have the right to be on a safe project, so I make it home every night. That will not happen with the under qualified work force that u will get going non union.

    • Why be like that

      Lol, I’ve worked both Union and non-union and there are far more “drunks and druggies” as you call them in the union…furthermore my non-union shop has provided far more training than I ever received as a union member

      • Unions look out for workers

        If your going to lie make sure you know what your talking about I don’t know what Union you were in but I am apart of IBEW we have a 5 year program that is considered the best in the nation and college accredited. I also have worked both sides and have non-union family members. I get paid more then non-union workers, have health care pension and annuity all included in my package non-union Employees have a 401k no pension and have to pay for their health care. I work my ass off for what I have just like many union workers and just like many non-union workers work there ass off for what they have.

    • Why be like that

      How much training do you complete other than your CEU’S beyond your 5 year apprenticeship? How much is required by your local? You call me a lier, yet you say buildings and roads will collapse, thats a bit of a lie there. You also say the union has never found you a job, if you are an inside wireman how did you get a job without a referral? Seems to me they do in fact find you jobs, that’s how the book/referral system works in the IBEW. I’m not anti Union, but it’s not perfect either. I believe unions do some good, but there are good, qualified non Union shops as well. It’s just my opinion that if tax payer money funds a project all qualified companies should be allowed to bid on the project. I agree with you that there should be some sort of requirement to bid them, but I’d bet not all Union shops would qualify unless that was the only requirement. Like it or not, but not all Union shops fit the mold as qualified based solely on Union affiliation.

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