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Tell the governor: ‘Skilled’ contractor bill is a job-killer | Opinion

By Michael Murphy and Andrew Green

With the stroke of Gov. Phil Murphy’s pen, New Jersey is poised to potentially push more manufacturers out of the state, close longstanding contractors that support these manufacturers, eliminate thousands of family-sustaining positions, and put the lives of employees in economically distressed communities at risk.

S-972 (and its Assembly version, A-805) concerns skilled and trained workers employed by contractors in certain industries. If signed into law, it will mandate that specialty chemical manufacturing companies and refineries can only hire contractors who pay prevailing-wage rates and have approved apprenticeship programs — mainly, union contractors — to do certain “skilled” work. In our view, it applies public contract law to private businesses and will further erode the ability of those businesses to be successful and stay in New Jersey.

The bill (and its Assembly companion, A-805) was rushed through the Legislature during the COVID-19 pandemic — at a time when many people’s focus was rightly on keeping small- and mid-sized businesses afloat. The approval came despite opposition testimony given earlier in the year by such groups as New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, and the Chemistry Council of New Jersey — as well as from manufacturers, non-union contractor companies (like ours) and the employees we hire.

This job-killing bill now sits on Murphy's desk.

What’s this bill all about? Plain and simple, it’s an overreaching, union-building bill. It will steal’s one person’s job to employ someone else. It basically mandates that privately owned companies, such as refineries and chemical plants, hire union-represented construction workers to complete work currently done by non-union contractors and subcontractors.

If S-972 becomes law, the refineries and manufacturers would be unable to hire the local non-union companies they trust and have worked with for decades, and their skilled workers. The law would increase cost to industry. Productivity on affected projects would decrease, since union workers who are less familiar with these projects would replace workers who have completed similar tasks safely for years.

In addition, the bill would kill jobs if non-union contractors were forced to shut down. This would disproportionately hurt minority workers who live in economically distressed communities such as Linden, Paulsboro and Salem City.

The unions that are pushing for this bill to become law will tell you that the change is a matter of safety. However, that’s not the case. Non-union contractors maintain the qualifications and complete all the safety training required to work at these high-risk manufacturing facilities. Otherwise, our companies and employees would not be allowed to work in these facilities.

Our companies pay good salaries, and many provide 401K savings plans and health insurance for our employees. Many of our employees depend on these careers to purchase their homes and cars, and to send their children to college. We urge New Jersey residents who care about giving all citizens the right to the American dream to contact Murphy and tell him not to sign this misguided bill.

Michael P. Murphy is the owner of M.P. Murphy Industrial Contractors LLC in Paulsboro. Andrew Green is a manager at the Paulsboro site of Kenny Atlantic-Mansfield Industrial Inc. The Senate gave final passage to S-972 on June 29; it awaits action by the governor. A petition to oppose the bill can found at don’

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