MERRILLVILLE | Action taken by the Town Council could help provide more job commitments for local building trade workers.
An ordinance adopted Tuesday requires project labor agreements for all construction, alteration and repair projects completed in Merrillville's tax increment financing districts and on properties in which Merrillville has granted tax abatement, Council President Carol Miano said.
Such agreements typically contain provisions requiring employers to pay workers at area prevailing wages and commit to hiring workers from local building trades.
Merrillville, like many other local communities, already has a measure in place requiring project labor agreements for projects completed on town-owned properties.
Randy Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, said the ordinance adopted Tuesday takes the matter "a step further."
"This was a big win in the wake of all this anti-union sentiment," Palmateer said.
He said there are situations in which tax abatement and other incentives are offered to businesses looking to locate in Northwest Indiana.
After receiving such incentives, some businesses with corporate headquarters outside of Indiana have brought in a workforce from other states to build local facilities instead of hiring out of Northwest Indiana's building trades, he said.
If companies are receiving tax incentives that help get their projects off the ground, Palmateer thinks "it's only fair" for area union members to receive the work.
He said hiring building trade workers from Northwest Indiana ensures quality, efficient and safe work.
Palmateer said it's also beneficial to use local labor because the workers who build the facilities will be spending their money there after the businesses open.
"They'll get their money back in the end," Palmateer said of the businesses.
Miano said the ordinance the council adopted is the first of its kind in Northwest Indiana.
Palmateer said local unions are striving to build strong working relationships with businesses, and the measure can help achieve that goal.
He said he will be pushing for other local municipalities to adopt the same ordinance.