An organization representing non-union construction industry companies and their employees is involved in a legal challenge against the Office of Administration, the Attorney General, and others over two projects the organization claims are in violation of a 2007 Missouri law prohibiting the awarding of union-only construction contracts for publicly-funded projects without public scrutiny. The Heart of America Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors has filed the lawsuit ABC Lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court alleging the actions of the Bayless School District in St. Louis and the St. Charles County Ambulance District were illegal.
The suit alleges that in the Bayless case a project was awarded and completed without allowing non-union bidders to compete. It claims that in the St. Charles Ambulance case the process was rigged to allow only union bidders to compete.
Jim Kistler, President of the Heartland Chapter of the organization, says the 2007 Fairness in Public Construction Act was violated in both cases. The Bayless School job is completed, but the St. Charles Ambulance project has yet to begin. So, he is seeking different remedies for each project.
“In the Bayless case … we want the school board to pay back the money they spent illegally,” said Kistler in an interview with the Missourinet. “The other one is the St. Charles County Ambulance District and in their situation they put in their bid language they’re encouraging everybody to enter into a union agreement. But then they required companies to certify – to sign one of two certifications: The first certification said I am already union, the second certification said I will become union – I’m willing to become union.”
Kistler says any union requirement is not only illegal but closes the door on the vast majority of Missouri’s construction workers.
“About 85 percent of construction workers in Missouri are not union,” said Kistler. “So, if you force everybody into a union contract you’re either eliminating 85 percent of the workforce from working on this taxpayer-funded project or you’re forcing people into a union contract throughout which they’ll never see any benefit.”
In addition to filing the lawsuit, Kistler and his organization are demanding that Governor Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster enforce the construction procurement laws of the state.
The Attorney General’s Office has informed the Missourinet it does not plan to comment on the lawsuit. The Governor’s Office and Office of Administration have offered no comment on the suit.