Commentary: A Responsible Bidder Ordinance would benefit Detroiters
Anyone driving around, shopping, or living in Detroit today cannot help but marvel at the amount of construction going on in the city. The skyline is full of cranes lifting materials for new buildings and the roads are being repaired and replaced by excavators, pavers and dozers.
But renewal by itself is not enough.
The investment into rebuilding Detroit means very little if it does not also come with an investment in Detroiters. That is why it is essential for the city to select contractors who truly have the best interest in providing opportunities both to the city of Detroit and its residents. It is why Detroit needs a Responsible Bidder Ordinance.
Putting a Responsible Bidder Ordinance on the books protects Detroit while empowering its citizens. It would require contractors bidding on city-funded projects to meet criteria to prove that they have the best interests of the residents — who are funding this work — at heart. A crucial part of this language is a requirement that eligible bidders offer a U.S. Department of Labor-certified Registered Apprenticeship program. This will guarantee that companies wanting to work in the city limits will offer Detroiters highly skilled training, and lifelong careers, not just temporary jobs.
These are the careers that Detroiters and their children are entitled to, and it is a moral necessity that the city supports, not discourages, the efforts and work of those that provide those opportunities.
At Operating Engineers 324, we know and understand these opportunities well. We have over 14,000 members throughout Michigan who know what it means to have gone through a Registered Apprenticeship, and become a skillful, compensated professional. They understand it takes more than a printed certificate and a handful of training hours to become a journeyperson.
Our apprenticeship numbers are the largest in our history and include the largest number of Detroit residents we’ve ever had. As our footprint in the community has increased — through career fairs, A. Phillip Randolph Technical High School, pre-apprenticeship programs we sponsor and more — the interest in our program has increased as well.
We partner with contractors to self-fund a Registered Apprenticeship program that costs millions of dollars to maintain. We make sure our apprentices and graduate apprentices are the best in the world. But these apprenticeships require employers, and the projects the city of Detroit can provide.
That is why it is imperative Detroit require companies bidding on city construction contracts to meet criteria that include partnership with a Registered Apprenticeship program. It is an investment in the communities, and opportunities for the families of Detroit to find sustained career success in a field that has been too foreign for too long.
Greater access to opportunities creates a greater Detroit, and the city can help provide that access by requiring contractors to build rewarding careers as well as roads, bridges and structures.