Construction industry group files lawsuit against St. Petersburg

Those familiar with our law firm know that we have branch offices in St. Petersburg, Orlando and Fort Myers, in addition to our main office in Sarasota. In fact, a Florida construction industry controversy has broken out in St. Petersburg.

An industry trade association says it’s illegal for the city to require contractors to hire disadvantaged workers and apprentices in order to land contracts for St. Petersburg city projects of $1 million or more.

Days ago, the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors filed a lawsuit against St. Petersburg, arguing that the worker requirements violate Florida law. The group also says the mandate discriminates against certain workers and it raises construction costs.

The city said when it adopted the law that the requirements will help more people acquire craft labor skills needed in the construction industry.

“Requiring the employment of apprentices will promote the advancement of skill sets in construction trades to improve the quality and quantity of work,” the ordinance states.

Associated Builders & Contractors rejects the argument in favor of an open competition approach in which contracts are awarded solely on merit. The trade group’s legal challenge is to a St. Petersburg ordinance approved in 2015 and then amended four months ago by the City Council.

One of the key sticking points in the ordinance, the trade association contends, is the requirement that at 15 percent of all work on the city projects must be performed by apprentices working for the contractor or a subcontractor.

Another sticking point requires employment of disadvantaged workers, including veterans, people who did not finish high school, those with a criminal record and people who have recently received public assistance. The ordinance also targets residents of south St. Petersburg for special consideration.

The city said the law will help to reduce the number of city residents who need public assistance.

The lawsuit requests a permanent injunction against the ordinances.