CHARLESTON — In the 2018-19 budget year, the Division of Labor cited 526 violations of the Jobs Act, fining contractors a total of $106,450, according to a report to the West Virginia Legislature.
Enacted in 2001, the Jobs Act is intended to assure that 75% of jobs on state-funded public works projects go to local workers. It authorizes the Division of Labor to impose fines of up to $100 a day on employers who knowingly violate the act.
A legislative audit released in June concluded that the Jobs Act has been largely ineffective, in part because in order to comply with federal law, local markets were defined to include out-of-state counties that are within 50 miles of the West Virginia line.
The audit found that means workers residing in 150 counties surrounding West Virginia, with a total population of 17.3 million people, are considered part of the local market area. The local market includes the major metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
“In terms of general population, West Virginia makes up 9.5% of the local labor market,” the audit noted.
The audit also concluded that the Division of Labor receives no additional funding for Jobs Act compliance, and relies on 18 inspectors statewide to enforce the act — along with multiple other regulations that the inspectors enforce.
According to the report to the Legislature, Labor inspectors conducted 338 Jobs Act field inspections in 2018-19 and reviewed employment and payroll records for 1,943 construction projects.
While the majority of projects in the report were listed as in compliance with the Jobs Act, contractors and projects cited as being out of compliance were:
- S&D Industrial Painting of Tarpon Springs, Florida, six citations on a Division of Highways project in Nicholas County.
- HVB ICF Contractors of Gay Mills, Wisconsin, on a Mercer County Board of Education project.
- Southern Trades of Louisville, Kentucky, on a Doddridge County Board of Education project.
- Bonsai Design of Grand Junction, Colorado, on a Division of Natural Resources project in Summers County.
- KVK Contractors of Tarpon Springs, Florida, on a West Virginia Parkways project in Kanawha County.
- Oglesby Construction of Norwalk, Ohio, on a West Virginia Parkways project in Mercer County.
Additionally, 20 employers requested 353 Jobs Act waivers and were granted waivers for 341 workers.
Under the law, if an employer cannot find sufficient numbers of qualified employees within the local market area, the employer can request permission to fill those slots with employees from outside the market area if WorkForce West Virginia is unable to make referrals from the local market.
According to the report, WorkForce West Virginia made a total of 12 referrals to contractors, 11 to S&D Industrial Painting and one to Boca Construction of Norwalk, Ohio. None of the 12 were hired, according to the report.
At the time of the audit’s release, Steve White, director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, said that despite the shortcomings, the Jobs Act has been effective in encouraging contractors to hire West Virginia workers.
“When the contractors see in the contract that there’s an interest in local hiring, they take notice,” he said.
Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.