Poll: Marylanders Support Equal Opportunity for Union and Non-Union Contractors Seeking State Contracts

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Marylanders overwhelmingly favor giving all private contractors – union and non-union alike – an equal opportunity to bid on state projects, according to a new statewide poll being released today.

The poll, conducted by The Tarrance Group earlier this week, also found that 87 percent of Marylanders believe the General Assembly should make it more of a priority to increase job opportunities for all workers in Maryland, compared to only 6 percent who believe the legislature’s priority should be to increase job opportunities only for union workers.

The poll was commissioned by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maryland, and comes as they prepare to testify in the Senate Finance Committee today in support of Senate Bill 661, which would prohibit project labor agreements on state contracts.

"These numbers show clear and compelling evidence that Marylanders do not favor any measure that would give union workers preferential treatment. The fact remains that more than 90 percent of the construction workforce has chosen not to join a union," said Mike Henderson, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Baltimore Metro chapter. "We think Senator Kittleman's bill is necessary to counter the many measures we have seen here in Annapolis and around the state that sought to discriminate against those workers who have choosen of their own free will not to carry a union card."

The telephone poll of 500 registered likely voters was conducted Monday and Tuesday by The Tarrance Group, a well-known national Republican strategy and polling firm, based in Alexandria, Va. The sample included 56.3 percent registered Democrats and 26.6 percent registered Republicans. The margin of error is 4.5 percentage points.

Among the questions asked by the poll was whether Maryland voters support requiring workers to join a union to be permitted to work on state contractors. Three-quarters of voters opposed such a requirement, including two-thirds of registered Democrats.

When asked whether voters favor or support giving an equal opportunity to all companies to bid on state contracts, regardless of whether they are union or non-union contractors, 87 percent of Marylanders said they favor an equal opportunity for all.

The legislation under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee, sponsored by Howard County Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman, would require state procurement contracts to include a clause prohibiting participation in project labor agreements. Such agreements typically require the contractor to adhere to obligations regarding union referral, union security, or collectively bargained compensation or benefits, according to a report by state legislative analysts.

In their report on the bill, the analysts conclude that the measure would have little effect on state costs, as both union and non-union contractors are required to pay “prevailing wage rates” on large state contracts.

However, the analysts noted that “small construction companies that normally use nonunion labor may experience increased opportunities to participate in large State public works projects.”

To read The Tarrance Group’s memo on the poll results, click here.

To read the questions and answers on the poll, click here.

To see a graphic presentation of the poll results, click here.
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