David Stokes
You knew this was going to happen sooner or later. Ten years ago, when HVAC contractors in St. Louis County succeeded in significantly increasing the licensing requirements for HVAC work in a way that would benefit union firms and workers, they focused on the commercial aspect of the work and left out the residential work. The naked power grab for commercial work was enough for them in 2000, and the political price they paid prevented them from reaching for any more, until now.

If you are not familiar with the story of how the pipefitters union and their allied contractors tried to knock non-union contractors out of the HVAC business 10 years ago, then you just have to read this awesome Riverfront Times story about the pipefitters plan. To paraphrase Berkely Breathed's comment about how Caspar Weinberger's poetic request to him provided a template for how to "get something from someone who is not inclined to give it to you," if you are interested in knowing the real reasons that occupational licensing laws are passed, "all you need to know is here."

Needless to say, the proposal for new restrictions on HVAC contractors is a sick twist on capitalism. It is just a joke to hear that the supporters of licensing requirements for residential work are once again promoting their arguments as increasing "safety." As my friend, "D" (I'll err on the side of caution and not use his name — he can claim credit in the comment section if he so chooses), who sent me the link to the Post-Dispatch article, said:
Isn't the more likely story that the bad economy has created a greater incentive for established contractors to try to protect their territory by establishing barriers to entry?

My friend has hit the true story on the head. It would be shameful if this were passed by the various local governments to which the proposal is being brought. I hope to be a part of the fight against it.

About the Author

David Stokes
David Stokes was a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute from 2007 to 2014 and was director of development from 2014 to 2016.