The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has asked the federal government to protect companies bidding to build President Donald Trump’s border wall from reprisals by states and cities who oppose the policy.
The move came after some city and state governments began planning sanctions against firms that get involved in building the wall, which one of its opponents called "a monument to racism and bigotry".
The AGC, which represents more than 26,000 firms, has asked federal attorney Jeff Sessions to sue any public sector authority that penalises a company that has participated in wall construction, and also to make additional security provisions against protesters who try to halt work or damage construction equipment.
The association sent a letter to Sessions in August arguing that "failure by the government to take action against such measures will embolden states and municipalities to discriminate against private companies that perform all sorts of controversial work for government, not just border-wall work".
Some states have already debated adopting measures against companies that bid for the wall. The California legislature this year introduced two bills in response to the wall, part of which would be build in the state. One, Senate Bill 30, would disallow contractors involved in building the wall from state tenders, the other, Assembly Bill 946, would have required the state government to divest from companies’ pension schemes. Both bills later stalled.
Meanwhile, individual cities have also considered action. Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond in California and Tucson, Arizona, have passed resolutions to stop doing business or divesting from firms involved in the wall.
Bloomberg reports that similar measures also have been proposed in eight states and 10 other municipalities including New York City. Letitia James, a public advocate in the city, has announced plans to have the city’s Employee Retirement System sell shares in wall contractors and introduce legislation preventing them from obtaining city contracts.
She said: "Companies have a choice: help build the wall, a monument to racism and bigotry, or do business in New York City. We won’t allow you to do both."
As well as formal legal measures, many contractors have been dissuaded from bidding by fears of reputational damage and a difficulty in putting together a supply chain, given the reluctance to work on the scheme on the part of many preferred subcontractors.
Jordan Howard, a director of AGC, told the Reuters news agency: "This is not an attractive business decision, considering a lot of the opposition and the little support you’re getting from the federal government."
Image: Texas-based Penna Group proposed a wire wall modelled on maximum security prisons