MacIver News Service | June 21, 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON, Wis. — It’s long been clear that Big Labor-backed Democrats despise Wisconsin’s worker freedom laws.
Now it appears a top Democrat lawmaker has no compunction about breaking state law.
Rep. Gordon Hintz, who serves as the Assembly’s minority leader, last week opposed a Wisconsin Center District board motion to hire a nonunion security firm. Hintz hinted that the board should find ways of circumventing a state law that prohibits special considerations for unionized firms.
“I still think there were ways to get around this (statue) without breaking the bank on costs, without having an actual contract but by raising expectations,” the Oshkosh Democrat told the board, according to a story published Monday in the Milwaukee Business Journal.
That’s quite an admission from Hintz, but not altogether surprising from a legislator whose fourth-largest special-interest campaign contributor in the 2018 election cycle was organized labor, according to Project Vote Smart. Labor unions represented the second-largest special-interest donor to Hintz’s campaign in the run up to the 2016 election, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Hintz did not return a request for comment. An aide to the lawmaker on Wednesday said someone from the office would get back to MacIver News Service. No one did.
Some board members last month asked Center District President and CEO Marty Brooks whether the district, a semi-autonomous government body in Milwaukee, could sign a “labor peace agreement.” The sweetheart deals, much like Project Labor Agreements for construction projects in the public sector, are contracts between an employer and a labor group in which employers agree to certain concessions in return for the union’s promise not to stop work or call for boycotts of the business.
Critics see the “peace” agreements as legalized blackmail. In Wisconsin, they are illegal — thanks to a 2017 law that prohibits Project Labor Agreements and labor peace compacts.
That fact seems to be lost on Hintz, who was in the Legislature when the Republican-controlled majority passed the reform measures.
He’s not alone.
Even after Brooks and Center District Board Chairman Jim Kanter reminded the board that state law forbids such agreements, five board members — all Democrats — opposed the recommendation to hire the nonunion security firm, according to the Business Journal. The no votes included Hintz, Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan, who represents Gov. Tony Evers, Milwaukee Common Council President, Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman, and state Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee).
The board ultimately voted 9-5 to hire Per Mar Security Services, based in Davenport, Iowa, the Business Journal reported. The three-year contract begins at the end of the month. Brooks said the nonunion firm was “by far the most qualified of four bidders and submitted the second-lowest price,” the publication reported.
None of that seemed to matter to Hintz and his fellow good friends of Big Labor.
It’s the second report in a week of government liberals refusing to recognize established labor law in Wisconsin.
As MacIver News Service first report this week, Madison City Council members recently had to be reminded — again — that, no matter how much they may want to, they cannot award building projects based on whether the bidder plans to hire a union shop.
In a memo sent last week, Assistant City Attorney Kevin Ramakrishna informed Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and the council’s Finance Committee that as of 2017, PLAs are illegal under state law.
“The City Attorney’s Office issued a Memorandum on April 17, 2018 discussing the impact of the legislation,” the attorney wrote. Apparently some city council members in this uber-liberal city didn’t get the memo — figuratively, that is.
“The advice therein continues to be accurate, and, as related to the Judge Doyle (mixed-use building) project, the City cannot require a union workforce, set labor rates, or enforce similar provisions through best value contracting,” Ramakrishna advised.
“This validates why the (PLA) issues had to be addressed. You have these activist Common Council members in these local communities predisposed to structuring contracts at the disadvantage of others,” said state Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), who co-authored the Project Labor Agreement reform laws.
Hutton noted that the law doesn’t pit union contractors against open shops. State statutes prohibit discrimination of any kind in awarding public construction contracts. Governments are not allowed to select bids based on union or non-union status of the competing companies.
Municipalities still have the ability to set goals for employee and subcontractor diversity standards.
“But the irony here is we have communities talking about diversity and inclusion and not alienating anyone and right off the bat they are discriminating against half of the companies because they are not union,” Hutton said.
“There is a hypocrisy of what they claim to be supporting,” the lawmaker added. “Construction workers should have an equal opportunity to make a living, to use their gifts and abilities, and cities shouldn’t be picking winners and losers” through union preferences.