Colonial School Board Votes to Waive Portion of “Responsible Contractors” Policy to Allow Irresponsible Contractors to Bid on $1.4 Million Renovations of Colonial Elementary School

On the agenda for the Thursday, March 21st meeting of the Colonial School Board was a motion to waive a requirement of the “Responsible Contractors” policy the board controversially adopted in 2018.

Please note that our headline is satirical. If you have not been following this issue, we explain it in further detail below.

Also to provide some background, after the adoption of the policy a lawsuit was filed in federal court that claimed the policy discriminates against non-union contractors. The lawsuit is ongoing.

You can view the bid documents here.

Back to the article, the agenda stated:

Move that the portion of the Responsible Contractor Policy that requires a Contractor to certify participation in a Class A Apprenticeship Program for each separate trade or classification in which it employs craft employees will not apply to contractors bidding on the Colonial Elementary School alterations project.

There wasn’t any discussion when the motion was made and the vote was taken (it was passed). Here is the video:

During the debate when the policy was adopted, those in favor of it (Board President Felix Raimondo, Vice President Leslie Finegold, Adam Schupack, Jennifer Dow and Eunice Franklin-Becker) argued that the policy was necessary to make sure school district construction projects had the most qualified workers and were safe. Safety was discussed a lot.

The policy has 11 requirements to qualify as a “Responsible Contractor.” Eight of the 11 requirements just outline that a bidder can’t be in conflict with various government entities over taxes, crimes, licensing, etc. No one disagreed with these.

Another involves having a minimum amount of training through U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration. No one disagreed with this one.

Another involves contractors paying prevailing wage, which is already required for any public job in Pennsylvania.

The one that was controversial, was No. 8, which sets requirements in regards to the bidder participating in a very specific type of apprentice program and having specific graduation levels.

This is how the requirement reads:

The firm participates in the Class A Apprenticeship Program for each separate trade or classification in which it employs craft employees and shall continue to participate in such program or programs for the duration of the project; and,

This is how a Class A Apprenticeship Program is defined:

Class A Apprenticeship Program – an apprenticeship program that is currently registered with and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency and has graduated apprentices to journeyperson status for two (2) of the past seven (7) years. To permit development of recently registered programs, the graduation requirement shall not apply to an apprenticeship program registered within the past ten (10) years if the program provides apprenticeship training for a craft or trade by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency at the time the program was registered. Any program not required to meet the graduation requirements may, in addition to providing proof that it is currently registered with federal or state government, be required to provide evidence that the program is actively engaged in bona fide apprenticeship training activity.

It is argued that this requirement gives an advantage to union shops in the bidding process.

Participating in an apprentice program was touted by the board members supporting the adoption of the policy a being the foundation of being well trained and safe. The apprentice program was one of the key elements, if not the element, that makes a contractor a “Responsible Contractor.”

That has now been waived for the renovations needed at Colonial Elementary. Thus the satirical nature of the headline above.

As we mentioned (and the video shows) there was no discussion of delaying the renovations of the elementary school until the school board could guarantee it would be “Responsible Contractors” doing the work.

After having argued so adamantly for this requirement as being necessary, you would think those who supported it would address this issue.

In the above video, Chris Epstein (who is running for Colonial School Board), asks for an explanation of the decision and whether the work that will be done will be safe.

She is assured by the board that it will be safe.

Note that the major renovations to Plymouth Whitemarsh High School and the new gym were all done without a “Responsible Contractors” policy being in place.

And that tells you everything you need to know about the “Responsible Contractors” policy.