Caltrans minority hiring rules spur lawsuit

The San Diego Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America and the Pacific Legal Foundation filed suit Thursday against Caltrans, alleging that the minority contracting rules that agency developed are unconstitutionally quota based. The agency labored for three years before ruling that 6.75 percent of all federally funded road and highway contracts must go to women, African-Americans, Asians, Asian Pacific Americans and Native Americans.

The  Southern California Contractors Association newsletter raises some practical questions about the lawsuit, to whit:

Caltans suppliers (asphalt, concrete, equipment, business services, etc.) are facing probable cancellation of their contracts, under the Governor’s executive order issued Tuesday.

For capital projects–stimulus and bond-funded work are good to go–while regular projects are going to have to go through an “exemption process” an nobody knows what that looks like since the guidelines aren’t out yet.

 Future bond projects are on hold until September when the state will, hopefully, sell additional bonds, including $1.8 billion for Caltrans.  Whether that actually happens depends on a real balanced budget solution–an unknown right now.

The newsletter isn’t on the SCCA’s website, but you can contact them here.

Quotas and minority set asides have their place. You don’t erase centuries of slavery and racial discrimination with the wave of a pen. But quotas can distort the social fabric, sometimes to a counter productive point. In any project that’s competitively bid minority quotas don’t make sense. I doubt there is a single successful general contractor who’s going to turn down a low bid from a minority subcontractor and pay more for a white male one. People like that don’t last long in a competitive environment.

Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, I’d like to see the ACG  to file a related suit against the California teachers and educational administrators for their failure to encourage or train enough women or minorities in the trades and construction management. A stipulation in this lawsuit should be that contractors should be allowed to waive minority set asides until the state can prove that it has trained enough of the type of people it wants to do the job.