Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

Geography trumps Quality? by grassroothawaii
May 4, 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Frances Nuar

I sat down outside of Bogart’s Café yesterday with a friend of mine to have brunch and catch up, little knowing the conversation would soon turn political, and not on account of my friend. Bob, a friendly stranger standing outside (name changed for privacy) had been saving our table for us, and never left once we arrived and sat down. Conversation quickly turned to Senate Bill 2840 that the House and Senate passed the other day, overriding Governor Lingle’s veto. The bill mandates that at least 80% of government contracts be awarded to local workers. Bob himself is a local construction worker and found the bill puzzling, considering as he said, local workers weren’t qualified enough to win the contracts in many cases.

That was the start of the whole debacle that started this bill in motion. Local contractors lost the bid to paint Aloha Stadium and uproar ensued, union workers going so far as running an ad claiming the government was destroying local jobs by awarding contracts to mainland companies. What they failed to mention was that the local union failed to win the contract because they were not qualified to win the contract, not having the proper training or licensing for the project. And yet they cried wolf claiming they should have been granted the contract.

So now what? A bill has been passed to ensure that even if local union workers are not qualified for the job, they still must be awarded the contract. Funny when you think about it. There is no mandate to ensure higher quality work, rather a mandate that provides local workers with jobs whether or not they are the most qualified or the most competitive. The bill does nothing to create jobs, it merely mandates the jobs that do exist be awarded to the most local, not the most qualified candidate. So for example, Hawaii is looking to build a rail system, yet no one here has experience building rail. Eighty percent of workers must be local, so only 20% of workers hired to build the rail might possibly have experience. Bob thought it was strange, and he is a local worker. Well he thinks he is. He’s lived here for 10 years, has a Hawaii ID, but an out of state phone number. Looks like it will be left up to the lawyers to decide whether or not Bob can work on the rail. In the meantime, hopefully local unions will be providing increased training for their workers so they start to qualify for the jobs they are going to be awarded regardless.


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