May 11

Independent contractor opposes Illinois HB3437, warning construction career opportunities for minority youth are in jeopardy

MANHATTAN, IL, MAY 12, 2021 — The head of one of the Chicago area’s largest industrial mechanical contracting companies with a proven record and active program of minority recruitment and training has announced his opposition to HB3437, currently pending in the Illinois Senate.

The reason: House Bill 3437 would require privately owned petroleum refineries, petrochemical facilities, and ethanol plants in Illinois to pay state government-mandated wages on construction work done on their facilities. Under the guise of “safety”, and keeping jobs in Illinois, the bill is simply a ruse that will result in all construction and maintenance work to be performed exclusively by members of certain trade unions. HB3437 would require a certain percentage of professional “journeyman” working at the facilities, safety training, and reporting of minority participation in apprenticeship programs.

“This bill ignores economic equity and strips minorities of opportunities to work in construction,” says Michael Uremovich, owner and president of Manhattan Mechanical Services, an Illinois-based merit shop contractor.

“HB 3437 is not about safety” he continues, “but rather the hypocrisy behind this bill is exposed as 100% unionized facilities are exempt under the legislation. That means that union contractors are not required to meet the journeyman, safety training or apprenticeship reporting requirements. In fact, one of the more recent instances of a safety failure was at a 100% unionized refinery.”

He adds, “It’s also not about assuring use of Illinois jobs. First, the refineries, manufacturing facilities and ethanol plants impacted by HB3437 will see their costs increase which will result in fewer jobs in Illinois. Plus, contractors like myself will be forced to abandon support of construction career pipelines like the Community Builders Program. My company has partnered with a number of minority community organizations such as Project H.O.O.D to provide access to the construction industry for black and brown workers.”

In opposing the bill, Manhattan Mechanical joins numerous reputable organizations, including: Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, West Side N.A.A.C.P., Project H.O.O.D., Chicago Urban League, and other groups from communities of color.

Join Manhattan Mechanical Services, and the Construction Fairness Alliance in opposing HB3437 here.

In the name of safety, the bill adversely impacts merit shop contractors, who have worked relentlessly to diversify the construction industry. Established merit shops take training and safety seriously, Uremovich notes, implementing strict employee safety standards and apprenticeship training programs.

Below are four examples of the positive impact merit shop contractors have had on diversity and safety in construction:

Partnerships with organizations that provide training to minorities for job opportunities.

Manhattan Mechanical Services works closely with ABC. and Project H.O.O.D. to create career opportunities for young people living in underserved neighborhoods of Chicago.

Like other merit shops, Manhattan Mechanical supports ABC’s Community Builders Program and other workforce-development initiatives that empower individuals facing serious barriers. Manhattan Mechanical hires from each Community Builders Program cohort every four to six months. This program has trained more than 180 students from 10 underserved communities in Illinois. 

Graduates from these programs earn an average wage of $16.50 per hour while also having opportunities for upward mobility. “If HB3437 passes,” says Uremovich, “it will harm workforce development programs that are doing exactly what members of the General Assembly have been asking the unions to do for more than 40 years.”

A 2020 Union Members Report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (B.L.S.) indicates that unions represent only 13.9% percent of employed Black or African American individuals.

“The B.L.S. refuses to provide specific union demographic information by city or state, because minority numbers are so low,” says Uremovich.  

Opening of new facilities creating job opportunities in construction

Manhattan Mechanical Services recently opened a new facility in East Chicago, bringing 80 new, good-paying jobs to the community.

“We are committed to building a trained and certified workforce of craft professionals by offering accredited training programs through NCCER,” Uremovich remarked during the East Chicago grand opening in November 2020.

Entry-level pay is $16 per hour at Manhattan Mechanical. But once an apprenticeship ends, a worker will be in a position to earn a six-figure annual wage. 

Apprenticeship programs and career development

Manhattan Mechanical Services administers specialized knowledge and skills necessary for craftspeople working in the construction, maintenance, and pipeline industries. The company has trained approximately 160 men and women recruits since 2011, 25% of whom were minorities.

Manhattan Mechanical provides the journey-level assessments and performance verifications free of charge to employees and offers journey-level assessment testing to the public.

Impeccable safety record

Manhattan Mechanical Services has an impeccable safety record and consistently exceeds OSHA standards. The company recently celebrated its second consecutive year with zero OSHA-recordable injuries at a large University Park, IL chemical plant. This particular maintenance contract holds an impressive safety record as well — seven consecutive years injury-free.

“Petrochemical refineries are among some of the safest job sites, compared with private commercial projects, and state or federal construction projects,” says Uremovich.

“Illinois has the safest record in the petrochemical industry of any state in the nation,” noted Alicia Martin, President of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois, in a recent chapter news release.

“But this bill is not actually about safety or the needs of actual people in our communities,” she continued. “The over 350 opposition slips filed against this issue during a recent committee hearing is evidence that this legislation has many problems.”


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Cory Burfield

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About Manhattan Mechanical Services

Merit Shop Proud. 

Manhattan Mechanical Services is the premier merit shop mechanical services contractor in the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Area. Safety and integrity are the common threads binding our employees, our customers, and our community together.  We are committed to a progressive career path for employees, complete with certifiable skills training. Manhattan Mechanical Services is a unique services provider that supports our customers in multiple areas: industrial maintenance services, process piping, structural steel, equipment installation, scaffolding and insulation. We specialize in providing turnkey projects to our customers.  For more information, visit, call (815) 478-9940 or follow Manhattan Mechanical on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.