Burlington City Council considers strengthening worker protections

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington is considering an ordinance that would strengthen worker protections by making sure contractors that do business with the city are required to meet certain criteria.

“Making sure that we are really getting the best for what we pay for. And this is the way we are going to do that to ensure high-quality work from responsible contractors who are really being transparent about what it is that their practices are,” said Burlington City Council President Max Tracy, P-Ward 2.

Tracy says the proposed ordinance would strengthen the terms in which the city hires contractors by mandating that government-funded contractors who bid for projects over $100,000k would pay the Vermont prevailing wage and enter into a prequalification process to determine the contractors experience, financials, and employment practices are responsible.

The city of Montpelier has already instituted a responsible contractor ordinance.

“It keeps the fly-by-nights or the non-responsible contractors out, it keeps them honest. There’s language you are signing contracts that say I will pay these and it just protects the city’s money and it gets the wages that should be in the workers’ hands, not just one person,” said Tim LaBombard with the Vermont Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents several union shops in the state.

He helped sponsor the bill, which he says is not just about unions, but all workers who would be involved in these contracts with the city. -- that you don’t have to be a union to be responsible.

However, Matt Musgrave with the Associated General Contractors of Vermont, which has both union and non-union membership, says having the word responsible in the title of the ordinance insinuates that contractors in the state are not responsible. He views this as “a solution looking for a problem” since there are already many state-level regulations contractors have to follow to make sure they are classifying employees correctly and are following best practices.

“Efforts are being made to paint employers in a bad light and it’s very clear that it’s an attempt to proliferate unionization. We take it very seriously when we hear our contractor members are being called irresponsible or unsafe,” Musgrave said.

The Ordinance Committee is expected to take another look at the measure before sending it back to the council for a vote.

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