’s Solomon Jones Believes Directing Public Construction Work to Unions is Discriminatory

As has reported, there are lawsuits against Plymouth Township and the Colonial School District over their recent adoption of “Responsible Contractors” policies/ordinances. The two lawsuits were filed by three plaintiffs; Associated Builders and Contractors, Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter, Inc., VellNiece Construction, LLC and Jeanette Tennant.

The lawsuits state that the policy adopted by the Colonial School District and ordinance by Plymouth Township violate the Pennsylvania Public Bidding Law, the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and is preempted by federal law.

Basically, the lawsuits claim that due to language within the policy/ordinance, the bidding process favors union labor. This is done through a mechanism of requiring specific graduation rates from an apprentice program.

There was an interesting opinion piece on yesterday titled “Why should black people vote Democrat?” in which columnist Solomon Jones indirectly addresses this issue. He writes:

If Democrats want blacks to continue voting for them, the party must address the fact that for every $100 in white family wealth, black families have just $5.04. Just because slavery and Jim Crow no longer officially exist — though the criminal justice system is a reasonable facsimile of both — does not mean we can ignore discrimination in hiring, lending, and housing. And in many cases, Democrats perpetuate some of this discrimination.

In Philadelphia, for instance, the city mandates that large-scale city-funded construction go to union labor. The city knows that skilled building trade unions are overwhelmingly white and male because of discriminatory membership policies, but those unions are a part of the Democratic base. In Philadelphia and other cities like it, Democratic mayors must open up city-funded construction to nonunion labor. That would create more high-paying jobs for African Americans, and help black families to begin closing the wealth gap.

The plaintiffs mentioned in the top of the article include a business association of union and non-union contractors (ABC), contractor VellNiece Construction, and VellNeice Construction’s owner Jeanette Tennant. Tennnant lives in Plymouth Township (thus also within the Colonial School District).

This is how Tennant describes her business on Facebook:

Established in 2008, VellNiece Construction LLC is a growing General Contractor, located at 137 E Glenside Avenue, Glenside PA 19038. VellNiece Construction is designated as a SBE, MBE, WBE, and DBE. The company was founded by and is currently 100% member managed by Jeanette Tennant, a female African American and former native of the City of Philadelphia. Our services are well suited for small and larger sized projects throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. As a general contractor we coordinate the entire construction project using our highly skilled project management team, field staff, and subcontractors.

While the lawsuits address the ramifications on the bidding process due to the requirement involving the apprentice program graduation rate, Solomon points out that union friendly laws and policies exclude minority labor pools due to his belief that unions have discriminatory membership policies.

For example, VellNiece Construction would not qualify to bid on work in Plymouth Township, where the owner is a resident, nor Colonial School District, which is the owner’s school district. That is not saying VellNiece should get the work, it is saying VellNiece wouldn’t even qualify to bid. The minority and women owned business is not even afforded the opportunity.

Plymouth Township’s “Responsible Contractors” ordinance was adopted by a vote of 4-1 (four Democrats to one Republican) and the Colonial School Board’s vote was 5-4 (five Democrats for and four against).

If the adoption of the ordinance/policy concern you, below are what we think are interesting questions:

  • When adopting the ordinance and policies was there any research done on how many minority owned and/or women owned contractors would qualify to bid?
  • If the ordinance/policy is so focused on apprentice program graduation rates, why did no one think to include that the programs graduate a certain number of women and minorities?

There is a meeting of the Colonial School Board on Thursday, September 20th at 7:00 p.m. (that’s tonight).