A majority of Des Plaines aldermen favor changes to city bidding rules that currently exclude contractors without apprenticeship or training programs from seeking work on city projects.
Supporters say it would lead to a better competitive bidding process and lower costs for the city in the long run.
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But trade unions don't like the proposed change, arguing the current rules ensure those working on city projects receive the best training for the job.
Next Monday, the city council will formally consider changes to the city's so-called "responsible bidder" ordinance that would remove a section requiring those bidding on construction contracts over $25,000 to have active apprenticeship and training programs approved and registered with the U.S. Department of Labor.
On a first reading -- an early, unofficial vote -- aldermen voted 5-3 last week in favor of removing the requirement.
If only one alderman decides to switch sides when the formal vote comes next week, the current ordinance as written could stay unchanged. Mayor Matt Bogusz, who only votes in the case of a tie, expressed his preference for keeping the ordinance as is, since he said it would "mitigate our risk."
"I am not interested in fly-by-nights who may or may not be here tomorrow. And I think that the city as an organization that's not going anywhere is best served by those in the community who have been here for a while and who have built the street credibility and the workforce to do the job right the first time," Bogusz said. "And if the job isn't done right the first time, I want to make sure they're there to get the job fixed."
Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman was the lone council member to vote against the original ordinance when it was approved in 2011. Since then, he's continued to push for changes to the law, arguing that removing requirements for apprenticeship programs would open up competition in the bidding process.
"The best company with the best bid will get the job," Brookman said.
Tom Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council, told aldermen that he represents the only "trained, clean, safe, and bigger-than-ever drug-free workforce" of 100,000 trade union members in the Chicago and Cook County area.
Villanova helped draft the first such "responsible bidder" ordinance in the Chicago area 12 years ago.
"It's got nothing to do with union/non-union," Villanova said. "It's about a trained workforce that the U.S. Department of Labor says is trained. Who do you want working in your buildings? Someone who is trained (and) safe? Or do you want somebody who was trained wherever?"
Aldermen Brookman, Mike Charewicz, Patricia Haugeberg, Dick Sayad and Joanna Sojka voted in favor of the ordinance change on first reading. Aldermen John Robinson, Denise Rodd and Mark Walsten were opposed to the change.
The next city council meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Monday at city hall, 1420 Miner St., Room 102.