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"Take Our Taxes, Train our Workers... It's Time to Let the Work Begin"
Cincinnati, OH (February 6, 2014) – Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach joined ministers and more than 50 community and worker allies at the Build 513 rally outside the County Administration Building this afternoon, holding signs urging Hamilton County Commissioners to "Release the Funds" and "Let the Work Begin" on the EPA-mandated upgrades to the Metropolitan Sewer District projects. The rally followed Monday's telephone town hall that the Build 513 Coalition hosted for thousands of area-residents to learn how the City's recently upheld Responsible Bidder Ordinance will help train local workers for new long-term careers.
"The Ordinance is a good law, holding corporate contractors accountable for apprenticeship training that helps build a skilled, safe workforce," Build 513 Founder Rob Richardson said. "But the County is holding up work that is critical to keeping our rivers clean and our community safe."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that MSD issue contracts for about $3.2 billion in work to improve and upgrade the aging sewer system over the next 15-20 years. MSD ultimately must treat or prevent 85 percent of the sewage overflows into local rivers and streams. The County’s needless stall tactics are putting taxpayers in danger of costly fines for failing to meet EPA deadlines, according to City Councilman Charlie Winburn, who recently warned of a $1,500 fine for every day of further delay.
The Responsible Bidder Ordinance, in effect for nearly a year, includes the requirement that a contractor receiving a contract with MSD participate in an apprenticeship program with a five-year graduation rate. Training requirements, coupled with fair compensation, have been proven to save money for taxpayers, according to the National Employment Law Project. Councilman Chris Seelbach also recently pointed out that, since the ordinance was enacted, seven contracts with bids that beat the original estimates have already been awarded.
"Releasing the funding for these projects will allow clean water and good jobs to flow into our community," Seelbach said. "These projects also have a huge potential to help people get the skills they need to maintain a career. Much like a college degree, workers have an actual certificate that they can take with them after a job ends to future employers."
Under the ordinance, the bidding process is open to all contractors, union and non-union alike, that graduate just a single person in a given field from a proven apprenticeship training program. Even corporate front-group Associated Builders and Contractors admits a number of “non-union apprenticeship programs qualify.” Those who don’t are allowed to partner with programs that do. The ordinance also gives an advantage to local small business since Certified SBEs with subcontracts under $250,000 are exempt.
But instead of releasing the funds for the new projects, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners have done the bidding of ABC, which held a political fundraiser for Commissioner Chris Monzel and others who promised to insure the city’s MSD laws “fail.” Now, after pushing for a resolution to cease implementation of the ordinance, Monzel is blackmailing Cincinnati taxpayers with threats of frivolous litigation, which could put MSD projects at further risk of costly fines for missed EPA deadlines.
"We're here to send a message to all contractors: take our taxes, train our workers," Richardson added. "The City's ordinance endorses a standard of excellence, which should not be discarded for the benefit of a few contractors who fear it. It's time to let the work begin."
The Build 513 Coalition will continue turning to an increasing number of voters for support until the County comes around. Hundreds of people have already added their signature to an open letter, signed by Seelbach and Councilman Wendell Young, that urges Commissioners to "release the funds." Voters can sign the letter by visiting the online petition at bit.ly/lettheworkbegin.
*Photos and video to come.