Legislation that requires union labor for all city public works projects of $2 million will become law at the end of May 2020.

In the interim, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell — who let Bill 37 become law without his signature — told the Honolulu City Council he wants to work with them to address “legal concerns.”

“I appreciate Councilmember Joey Manahan for introducing and working hard on Bill 37 along with other City Council members, as the goal of Community Workforce Agreements is to promote efficient and timely construction projects without disruptions and to do so using local labor,” the mayor said in a press release Friday.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell answers Marcels Questions2.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell responding to reporters in February. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He added: “I look forward to working with all of the stakeholders to resolve the legal concerns pertaining to this bill, including amending the bill where necessary and passing legislation at the state level, thus allowing all counties greater flexibility in implementing Community Workforce Agreements.”

Under the legislation, CWAs — also known as project labor agreements — will be used for all large public works contracts.

Bill 37 was widely supported by labor groups. But opponents — many nonunion contractors — said the bill will hurt their own businesses because it amounts to a sweetheart deal for unions.

In Caldwell’s letter to Council Chair Ikaika Anderson, the mayor wrote, “Unfortunately, the mandatory nature of Bill 37 goes beyond the enactment of enabling legislation and infringes upon the authority of the Executive branch to conduct procurements and negotiate an appropriate CWA to the benefit of the City.”

The mayor added, “It is my understanding that the proponents of Bill 37 will seek to address this concern during the upcoming 2020 State Legislative session by amending the State Procurement Code.”

Caldwell also expressed concern that federal funding “may be jeopardized” for projects “due to the inclusion of certain provisions that may not be appropriate for all contracts.”

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