(The Center Square) – Two Southern Indiana businesses have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation seeking to end a decades-long practice of setting aside some government contracting opportunities based on their disadvantaged status.
Mid-American Milling Co., based in Jeffersonville, and Bagshaw Trucking, based in Memphis, filed the lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Frankfort, Kentucky. The two companies, both involved in the road construction business, claim they have “a long history” of facing discrimination when bidding for federal projects, as some contracts are awarded to woman-owned or minority-owned disadvantaged business enterprises.
“Month after month and year after year, new federal highway contracts are let, and Plaintiffs remain at a disadvantage because of their race and gender,” the 20-page complaint states. “Despite being the lowest bidder on several federally funded projects, Plaintiffs have lost out (and, absent a remedy from this Court, will continue to lose out) to DBE firms based on race and gender.”
Mid-America and Bagshaw, both headquartered just north of Louisville, Kentucky, filed the suit in the Kentucky federal court because they said they compete for federal work in the Bluegrass State. They are seeking both a temporary and permanent injunction along with a judgment “ending the DBE program once and for all.”
Bagshaw President Greg Bagshaw said the program impacts the workers who also have ownership in the company.
“The American Dream belongs to everyone,” he said. “Joe Biden’s discriminatory policies are blocking this dream and hurting the hardworking employee-owners of Bagshaw Trucking, who are men and women from all races.”
The companies are represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and the case comes four months after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the use of race in the decision-making process for colleges. The institute is pushing for that ruling to extend to other aspects of federal law.
“It’s time for discrimination to end,” WILL Deputy Counsel Dan Lennington said in a statement. “Our clients are hardworking small business owners who just want to build roads and make America a great place for everyone. But time and time again, they lose out on business because of their race and gender. This is un-American, and we’re putting a stop to it.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation began its DBE program in 1980, citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal statutes for its creation. It was reauthorized two years ago when President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” into law. Lawmakers mandated that at least 10% of contracts for surface transportation projects to small businesses considered disadvantaged. That figure is expected to exceed $37 billion.
“All we are asking for is equal treatment under the law,” Mid-America Board Chairman James Hughes said in a statement. “The government treats our company differently because of race and gender. We’re asking the Biden Administration to dismantle this discriminatory program and embrace the right of equality for all.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation does not comment on pending lawsuits.