The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 15, 2014

ABC says wage proposal isn't about wages. It's about wages.

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

The anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors call themselves an advocate for open shop contractors. As such, they rarely pass up the opportunity to lobby for legislation and regulations that keep workers’ wages low – and they’re at it again.

A July 30 posting in the ABC’s Newsline came under the headline,  “Effects of Minimum Wage Proposal on Federal Contractors Raise Concerns.” The ABC said that the Department of Labor’s proposal to implement President Obama’s Executive Order 13658, which establishes a minimum wage for federal contractors, “should be withdrawn or substantially modified.” The executive order, issued in February, would require a $10.10 per hour minimum wage for employees of private contractors working under federal contracts.

Such contract workers often toil in government buildings, in areas such as food service, maintenance and construction. But even a $10.10 per hour minimum wage is apparently too good for those workers, the ABC said.

“A major issue with the proposed rule goes beyond the matter of the wage rate and addresses the idea that the president and the DOL went beyond their authority to override acts of Congress by setting a new minimum wage,” the ABC’s Newslinearticle said. “The primary concern in these comments is not the wage rate itself, but rather the unlawful and unprecedented arrogation of power by the Executive Branch to set a new minimum wage in direct contravention of the above-referenced acts of Congress,” ABC wrote.

The Obama Administration said the Executive Order “seeks to increase efficiency and cost savings in the work performed by parties who contract with the Federal Government…. Raising the pay of low-wage workers increases their morale and the productivity and quality of their work, lowers turnover and its accompanying costs, and reduces supervisory costs. These savings and quality improvements will lead to improved economy and efficiency in Government procurement.”

Given the ABC’s traditional strong lobbying against prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements – which tend to maintain a decent pay level for workers – it’s not a stretch to assume that they would attack any effort which would cut into the profits of their contractors. After all, if it isn’t all about the higher wages, as the ABC says, then why are they bothering with this? Why are they wading into the realm of Constitutional law and the powers of the Executive Branch? Aren’t there enough opposition Republican members of Congress who can challenge the president’s authority to issue executive orders?

The ABC goes on to say that it “would be administratively prudent” for the DOL to modify the Executive Order “to achieve greater conformity with the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act.” Left unsaid, of course, is that if the ABC and its ilk would lay off their virulent opposition to labor unions, work rules and employee job descriptions could easily be spelled out in collective bargaining contracts – which of course would likely lead to even higher worker wages.