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Senate Bill Promotes ‘Responsible Investments’

Sarlo Session

Sweeney-Singleton Bill Would Require ‘Fair Wages’ and ‘Fair Benefits’ In State Contracts 

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Troy Singleton that will promote a “Responsible Contractor Policy” to ensure that contractors, investors, managers, consultants, or others selected by the state’s retirement system make investments that support fair wages and benefits for workers was approved by the Senate today.

The bill, S-2663, would require the State Division of Investment to adopt rules governing investments of state-administered pension and annuity funds in real estate and infrastructure projects where the funds have “active,” controlling investments.

“We have an interest in the condition of workers employed by its managers, contractors and subcontractors that are consistent with the ideals of labor unions and others who advocate for workers’ rights,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “We believe that workers should be treated with respect and fairness, that they should be compensated for their hard work with fair pay and benefits. A workforce that is treated the way they should be produces a higher quality product and service and is a vital part of any successful business.”

The bill defines a “responsible contractor” as one who pays workers “fair wages” and “fair benefits,” which would be based on relevant market factors that include the nature and location of the project, comparable job classifications, and the scope and complexity of the services. The standards may also include factors such as employer-supported family health care coverage, pension benefits and apprenticeship training programs.

“The Responsible Contractor Policy will help to ensure that our workers are being treated fairly,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “New Jersey is a workers rights’ state with unions that help protect and promote fairness in the workplace. State government must set the example so that these standards are not lost or compromised.”

The measure would require the Director of the Division of Investment, in consultation with the State Investment Council, to adopt responsible investment rules and regulations governing the selection of contractors and subcontractors performing any construction, delivery of major construction materials, maintenance, repair, or restoration of a state real estate or infrastructure asset in which the state has an equity interest greater than 50 percent.

At the same time, the policy provides assurance that there is sufficient flexibility in controlling investment risks and returns while using responsible contractors. The policy adopted pursuant to this bill is prospective and the bill does not require the divestment of any pension funds that may be held at the time of enactment.

The rules would also exclude contractors and subcontractors that have been debarred in the past 36 months by a governmental authority for failure to pay prevailing wages or benefits on any prior job for which it is required by law and would require a position of if there is a legitimate attempt by a labor organization to organize workers. It also calls for the rejection of any investment that has the potential of eliminating public sector jobs.

The vote was 25-12.