By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Call your Illinois state lawmakers today and tell them to vote against HB2493, the Illinois Responsible Bidders Act, for if it passes, African Americans will not be able to get government contracts and won’t be able to mow lawns for a living unless it’s on their own property.
That is the dire warning from former Illinois State Representative attorney Paul Williams who is now legislative counsel for the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce.
The controversial Act passed the House Labor and Commerce Committee yesterday and is headed to the House. “We still have an opportunity to stop this bill,” said Williams. “If representatives of color do not vote for the bill, it will not pass but if we give in and support the unions over the interest of our people, it will pass.
“Anyone of fairness would recognize that we need to be able to recapture our community. We’ve got to make people understand that our interest is more important than the union’s interest,” Williams told the Chicago Crusader.
He demanded that lawmakers “resist the union’s attempt to expand their monopoly on the work to every level of government, every level of private investment involves government money, we won’t be able to cut grass in a local municipality if this passes.”
We need to let legislators know that this is something we must not allow to become law,” he said. It takes 60 votes to pass this bill but Williams said, “There are 67 Democrats and we have over 20 Blacks. If those individuals stand up there is no way they can pass this out. If the Blacks stick together, it cannot pass,” said Williams.
The issue is the requirement that would-be contractors must participate in training and apprenticeship programs that are approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, aka “Responsible Bidder Ordinances.”
“They are trying to pass a bill call the Illinois Responsible Bidders Act. This bill would extend the Illinois Responsible Bidders Act (of 2004) which now says in order for you to get any state contract, you have to be an Illinois Responsible Bidder which is already law but they want to extend it to local levels.”
To get a contract, Williams said, “You have to be a signatory to the union or you have to use apprentices from a U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship program in your process in order to do so,” said Williams.
Williams said 90 percent of U.S. Department of Labor’s Training Programs are run by the Joint Apprenticeship Council of the AFL/CIO. The issue is “very few if any Blacks have such a program.” Williams said Blacks cannot afford to have such a program on their own.
“The impact of this is that it ends up more or less foreclosing or shutting out Black contractors to the extent that they do have Black contractors because the vast majority of the apprentices in these programs are white apprentices. Blacks have not had access to those programs dating long before Washburn Trade School closed or it existed. We could not get into those programs,” he said.
Williams added, “Right now, they control a virtual monopoly on all state work. This would say they would have a monopoly of all municipal work, on the park district, school district, every Water Reclamation program….”
“Young Blacks can’t get into these programs,” Williams said. For African Americans, these jobs do not lead to union membership. “To allow them to extend this, would ensure that we would not be able to do one bit of work in any local area (of government) what so ever.
Williams warned, “We could not be able to bid on it as a contractor and with this requirement most of us wouldn’t be able to work on them because we can’t get access to these unions. These unions do not allow us to seek or know anything about their operations.
“We do not have access to the unions. We don’t know how many of us enter or graduate from the unions. The Washburn Trade School opened in 1919 for training immigrants. Around 1983-1984 the school student population changed to almost Black so rather than open up the books to allow Black men in, they closed the school. The only thing left of the Washburn Trade School is the culinary program.”
However, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia said on her website, “A Responsible Bidder Ordinance will ensure that the taxpayers of your municipality are protected by a uniform set of guidelines to which all contractors adhere.”
Rep. Jay C. Hoffman (D-112th) said, “The taxpayer’s money will go to the safest and most qualified companies.” However, Williams says the contracts won’t go to Blacks.
William said this is a wake up call and that it is time for Blacks to teach their own people to renovate homes and “recapture our community.”
Here is Wednesday’s, March 29, 2017, committee vote: http://my.ilga.gov/Hearing/LegislationInfo?hearingId=14590&tab=2&CClerkVoteId=17410&LegislationDocumentId=130721&PreviousHearings-page=1&chamber=H&_=1490883395072&GridCurrentCommittees-page=2