#VoteNoon3. In July and August, Twitter was abuzz as Nashville’s construction community actively campaigned against Charter Amendment 3. The proposed amendment sought to require contractors to assign at least 40% of work hours on Metro construction projects of at least $100,000 to employees who reside within Davidson County. Contractors against the amendment noted the shortage of skilled workers that exists in the construction industry. Requiring employees to live within the physical boundaries of Davidson County further limits the pool of available employees. Nevertheless, much to the dismay of the Chamber of Commerce, Associated General Contractors and Associated Builders and Contractors, amongst others, the amendment passed.
In response, several large contractors decided to refrain from bidding future projects, opting to avoid the uncertainty surrounding their ability to comply with the amendment and enforcement efforts from the Metro government. Requiring employees to live within specified geographic boundaries can increase labor costs, causes safety concerns arising from contractors being forced to employ unqualified workers and delays projects where sufficient labor cannot be found. But Nashville is not alone. Even in pro-labor locations such as San Francisco, local hiring laws receive considerable pushback. Further, those governments contribute millions in additional funding to find and train local workers and provide hiring assistance. Thus far, the Metropolitan Government has not provided any indication it will provide similar funding. Moreover, the amendment itself does not set forth how the requirement will be policed or enforced. And perhaps the most troubling aspect of the amendment is the fact current Mayor Karl Dean opposed the amendment.
But, it appears these contractors and trade organizations will not have to wait on the sidelines for long. On Monday, Williamson County State Senator Jack Johnson (R) filed legislation to block the local hiring requirement, setting the stage for a battle between the largely republican legislature and newly elected Mayor Megan Barry (D). The Tennessean quoted Senator Johnson, who said “If Davidson County wants to pass bad public policy that impacts the people of Davidson County, that’s their business. But in this particular instance, it affects other counties.” The Mayor-Elect, who was backed by organized labor and supported the amendment, responded “. . . it is unfortunate that legislators outside of Davidson County feel the need to override the will of 58% of voters in Nashville,” arguably acknowledging the potentially short life of the amendment. For now though, contractors must navigate the muddied waters while they wait to see whether the Tennessee legislature moves quickly to invalidate the amendment.
Photo: Ken Lund