Non-union mechanical contractor and Construction Fairness Alliance push against Illinois HB3437

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Independent contractor opposes Illinois HB3437, warning construction career opportunities for minority youth are in jeopardy.

The head of one of the Chicago area’s largest non-union industrial mechanical contracting companies has spoken out in opposition to legislation currently pending in the Illinois Senate.

The reason: House Bill 3437 would require privately owned petroleum refineries, petrochemical facilities, and ethanol plants in Illinois to pay state government-mandated wages on construction work done on their facilities.

Michael Uremovich, owner and president of Manhattan Mechanical Services, says the bill — under the guise of safety, and keeping jobs in Illinois — is simply a ruse that will result in all construction and maintenance work to be performed exclusively by members of certain trade unions.

HB3437 would require a certain percentage of professional journeyman working at the facilities, safety training, and reporting of minority participation in apprenticeship programs.

“This bill ignores economic equity and strips minorities of opportunities to work in construction,” Uremovich said in a May 11 statement.

“HB 3437 is not about safety, but rather the hypocrisy behind this bill is exposed as 100 percent unionized facilities are exempt under the legislation. That means that union contractors are not required to meet the journeyman, safety training or apprenticeship reporting requirements. In fact, one of the more recent instances of a safety failure was at a 100 percent unionized refinery.”

“It’s also not about assuring use of Illinois jobs. First, the refineries, manufacturing facilities and ethanol plants impacted by HB 3437 will see their costs increase which will result in fewer jobs in Illinois. Plus, contractors like myself will be forced to abandon support of construction career pipelines like the Community Builders Program. My company has partnered with a number of minority community organizations such as Project Hood to provide access to the construction industry for black and brown workers.”

The statement says Manhattan Mechanical has joined organizations including Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, West Side N.A.A.C.P., Project H.O.O.D., Chicago Urban League, and other groups from communities of color in opposing the bill, under the Construction Fairness Alliance group umbrella.

Uremovich asserts that, in the name of safety, the bill adversely impacts merit shop contractors, “who have worked relentlessly to diversify the construction industry,” the statement says. Established merit shops take training and safety seriously, implementing strict employee safety standards and apprenticeship training programs, he says.

Illinois has the safest record in the petrochemical industry of any state in the nation,” noted Alicia Martin, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois, in a recent chapter news release.

“But this bill is not actually about safety or the needs of actual people in our communities,” she said in the statement. “The over 350 opposition slips filed against this issue during a recent committee hearing is evidence that this legislation has many problems.”

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