The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 28, 2011

Committee name changed to curb ‘culture of union favoritism.’ And this culture is...where?

By The Building Tradesman

(By Mark Ayers, President, AFL-CIO Building Trades Department)

News item: The “House Education and Labor Committee,” given that name in 2006 by the incoming Democratic majority, has been given a new moniker.

The new Republican majority has naming rights for committees, and they apparently can’t abide the use of the word “Labor” on one of the House committees, since it is sometimes interchangeable with “union.” Republicans similarly removed “Labor” from that committee when they won a majority in the House in 1994.

The new Republican name for the House panel is the apparently less-offensive “Committee of Education and the Workforce.”

By Mark Ayers
President, AFL-CIO Building Trades Department

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…by any other name would smell as sweet.” In other words, Shakespeare was implying that a name is simply an artificial and meaningless convention.

But, is it really?

The recent action by the Republican majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to change the name of the Committee on Education and Labor to the “Committee on Education and the Workforce” is a telling example where a name truly does have meaning and conviction and represents something more telling. In this case, it represents a shot across the bow of America’s Building Trades Unions as a warning that the ideals and worldview that we hold dear is about to come under withering attack.

The committee’s website, under the direction of new Chairman John Kline (R-MN), has issued a stark proclamation on how it intends to thwart what it calls “union favoritism.” The statement reads:

Concerned citizens from across the country continue to express their frustration with business-as-usual in Washington. Far too often lobbyist loopholes and special interest deals are placed ahead of the nation’s best interest. Despite the public’s concern, Democrats in Washington are embracing a culture of union favoritism that stacks the deck in favor of union bosses and against rank-and-file workers.

Republicans will fight for a level playing field that enables all Americans to pursue opportunity and economic prosperity. As part of that effort, Republicans will oppose policies that strip workers of their right to a secret ballot in a union election, whether those policies are advanced in the halls of Congress or through decisions made behind closed doors by unelected bureaucrats. Republicans will also ensure labor bosses are held accountable to workers through strong enforcement of legal safeguards that are the first line of defense against union corruption.

Republican oversight will vigorously defend the rights and freedoms of all workers.

The committee makes it explicitly clear that they are taking aim to limit the scope and reach of the Davis-Bacon Act, as well as the proliferation of federal project labor agreements.

Tellingly, there is no reference in the committee’s oversight plans to any investigation into the proliferation of a “race to the bottom” business model in the construction industry which has consistently been one of the single biggest sources of corporate law-breaking and fraud that can be found anywhere in the United States. From the abuse and exploitation of undocumented workers, to the misclassification of employees that robs both workers and government of revenue, to the runaway cost-shifting in the health insurance market, the non-union construction industry in America today is savaging the ability of American workers and American communities to maintain decent standards of living.

I guess the GOP simply wants to “defend the rights and freedoms of all workers” to remain poor and exploited.