Canton council expected to put new emphasis on local labor

Ed Balint staff report

City Council is expected to vote Monday on legislation that would allow preference to be given to local bidders for city construction projects under labor agreements that set strict requirements for contractors.

Under the proposal, the mayor or his designee would negotiate project labor agreements with the East Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council and its affiliated local unions.

Councilman Bill Smuckler, D-at large, said the proposed bid requirements “lean” toward using union labor. But he said the overall emphasis is putting local contractors and residents to work. Both local and nonlocal bidders could seek city projects.

“I think we have an obligation to put people to work first that live here,” Smuckler said.

Project labor agreements would not have to be used for every effort, Smuckler said. However, under the proposed legislation, if one is not used, the mayor or his designee must submit a written report to council offering an explanation.

The agreements would apply to any “new construction of any public improvement” project that is estimated to cost more than $50,000, including buildings, roads, sewers and water works, according to the proposed amendment to the existing bidding ordinance.

Bids can be awarded to local bidders that are not more than 10 percent higher – up to a maximum of $100,000 – than the lowest bid submitted by nonlocal bidders. One condition: The project bid does not exceed 10 percent of the engineer’s estimate.

Under the existing local bidder ordinance, when the city’s Board of Control is determining the lowest and best bid, contracts can be awarded to local bidders whose bid is not more than 10 percent higher than the lowest bid submitted by nonlocal bidders, subject to a maximum of $10,000. Project labor agreements would also apply to any reconstruction, improvement, enlargement, renovation, alteration, repair, painting or decorating of any public improvement that is estimated to cost more than $20,000.


Under the proposed project labor agreement legislation, bidders must provide certain information, including:

Whether the local bidder’s workforce is drawn mainly from local employees, plus the number of local employees and their job descriptions or trade specialties.

The reasons given for using nonlocal employees.

Whether the bidder participates in a bona fide apprenticeship program that is approved by the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council and the United States of Department of Labor.

Documentation that the bidder provides health insurance and pension benefits to its employees.

Documentation from previous similar projects regarding timeliness, quality of work, extension requests, fines and penalties imposed and contract defaults. Law Director Joseph Martuccio says that project labor agreements are legal under state and federal law. Martuccio described the agreements as a “blueprint” for bidders of public construction and renovation projects.


Councilman Joe Carbenia, D-9, introduced the legislation. Carbenia is a retired city firefighter and a longtime supporter of unions and the construction trades. In a letter to the council president about the legislation, Carbenia said that project labor agreements would establish responsible contractor standards on construction projects. Such agreements have been shown to stabilize working conditions, wages and benefits, and “provide uninterrupted construction services by contractors,” Carbenia wrote.

Council President Allen Schulman said project labor agreements would be both “pro employee and pro employer.”

Schulman, a local attorney who has represented clients in worker injury cases, said the agreements emphasize work safety.