Marquette, MI (9/7/2020) An overview and outline of Cody's pro-worker/ pro-families policy.
Community Benefits Agreements
Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) primarily help protect low-income and working-class families and secure benefits for the community as a whole. More often than not local economic development projects are only possible due to tax incentives offered to developers, but unfortunately, they often have no guaranteed direct benefits for the community. Community Benefit Agreements create an opportunity to establish a dialogue between developers and community members from the early stages in a project, with the goal of resolving issues and disputes, building community support for the project, and meeting community needs and priorities such as affordable/workforce housing, hiring locally, creating green spaces, community assets, etc. The possible benefits for allowing the public more of a voice in these processes are limitless and the agreements are flexible enough to allow each Agreement to be tailored to the needs of the community while still being mindful of the developer's financial or logistical constraints.
The City Commission could establish a basic framework for implementing CBAs by passing a Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO). A CBO would simply give the Commission a legislative basis to initiate community dialogue and the creation of CBA for projects that meet certain minimum requirements. A CBO could also include language for the Commission to appoint a City Commissioner as a liaison with the CBA committee for a specific project, which would include community members and the developer. This liaison could represent the City Commission in the discussions between community members and the developer, help mediate conflicts, reduce bias if a Commissioner has a negative relationship with the developer or with community organizations likely to be involved in the Agreement, and take advantage of positive relationships one Commissioner may have with the developer and community organizations. This process would facilitate a positive partnership between all those involved instead of approaching this issue from an adversarial standpoint.
Responsible Contractor Policy
The City should look to include the use of responsible contractor language on City projects. The City can establish an agreement that workers being used by a private contractor on City projects have the opportunity to receive an apprenticeship and on the job training for the work they are doing. This would also provide a great opportunity for the City to partner with Northern Michigan University’s middle college technical program and retain a greater amount of skilled youth workers in our community. This language can also be used to protect workers by requiring the contractor to have up-to-date State safety licensing. I would note that responsible contractor language can be used in both Community Benefit Agreements and in City projects.
Stance on Privatization and Use of Non-Local Contractors
When most people hear “military grade” think top quality or that it’s superior to “civilian grade.” As someone who’s been in the military for almost six years now, I can tell you that when I hear “military grade” what I think is, “This was made by the lowest bidder.” Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence does it? The same is true for City projects: who would you rather develop our community’s infrastructure - skilled workers who live and work in the community and use the completed infrastructure every day, or the lowest bidder who pulls up stakes and heads to the next community?
State Preemption Issues and Solutions
In 2015, the State of Michigan passed Public Act 105 which explicitly prohibits local governments from requiring or mandating any of the following provisions on a developer or private contractor regardless if they are receiving special tax incentives, grants, or other incentives. Local governments cannot mandate the following: payment of wages higher then the State minimum wage, fringe benefits, work stopped for strike activity, providing employee paid or unpaid leave time, regulating work hours or scheduling, apprenticeship training programs, wage, hour, or benefits disputes. With that being said, the CBA language I outlined above complies with Section 15 of the act because it is an agreement made with the developer. Once the Benefits Agreement is finalized it would then become an amendment to the financing authorization which means the Benefits Agreement is valid and enforceable once the financing authorization is approved by the Commission.
Leading by Example
The Commission should explore options to assist our own employees and set the standard for helping workers and their families. The City could help employees with finding childcare services, guaranteeing an adequate amount of paid family leave, and guaranteeing a prevailing wage relevant to each occupational position and compare wages with other Municipalities throughout the Upper Peninsula to ensure we are being competitive and can retain our current employees.