The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 03, 2000

Lacking votes, GOP is forced to bury 'FAIR' Act

By The Building Tradesman

Nonunion contractors pushed hard for their top legislative priority, a bill in Congress that would give them relief from legal fees resulting from union organizing drives.

Despite a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, the bill, called the Fair Access to Indemnity and Reimbursement (FAIR) Act, never saw the light of day. A vote was expected on Feb. 17, but GOP leaders pulled it from consideration two days before because they lacked sufficient votes.

"Labor appeared to have the more successful grass roots lobbying campaign to thwart consideration of the FAIR Act," reported the Engineering News Record (ENR). Added House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois): "The unions had done their job."

Supported by the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors, the bill sought to allow small businesses with 100 or fewer employees and a net worth of up to $7 million to recoup legal fees if a firm was victorious in fending off charges from such agencies as the National Labor Relations Board or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The "charges" they had in mind are unfair labor practice charges stemming from union salting, when union members apply for work at nonunion contractors with the intent to organize their workforce. Sometimes workers who have been denied a job have filed unfair labor charges with the NLRB, citing their union affiliation as the real reason they were denied work.

Calling it the "Unfair Act," AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Robert Georgine said the legislation is "a back-door attempt to gut the effectiveness of the NLRB and OSHA laws."

Ironically, said the ENR, the bill was pulled the same day more than 400 ABC members were on Capitol Hill to lobby for the measure as part of the group's annual legislative conference.