The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 02, 2012

NEWS BRIEFS

By The Building Tradesman



Romney picks up ABC’s endorsement

PHOENIX (PAI) – Specifically citing GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s anti-union stands, the nation’s top anti-worker construction group, the Associated Builders and Contractors, has endorsed his candidacy – and not just for the GOP nomination, but for the Oval Office.

The group’s board, meeting Feb. 23 in Phoenix, specifically praised Romney’s opposition to project labor agreements, his backing of so-called Right-to-Work laws and his denunciation of Democratic President Barack Obama’s recess appointments – done after the Senate refused to act – to the National Labor Relations Board. 

Romney addressed the ABC board, thanking them for their backing.  His opposition to PLAs won him a standing ovation from the anti-worker, anti-union group.

"The election of Mitt Romney as president is a top priority for the commercial and industrial construction industry and the millions of Americans it employs," said 2012 ABC Chairman Eric Regelin, an Ellicott City, Md., contractor.  "He has articulated a clear position on issues important to ABC members, including opposing federally mandated project labor agreements, returning the National Labor Relations Board to a neutral arbiter of labor disputes and supporting the free-market, merit shop philosophy."

ABC is known for its vicious opposition to workers and unions.  It opposes project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction contracts, hates the union shop, tries to tear down union-run apprenticeship programs in favor of its own – often mismanaged according to the feds – and has members who routinely break labor law.

In his speech to the ABC, Romney pledged, among other things, that, "If I become president of the United States, I will curb the practice we have in this country of giving union bosses an unfair advantage in contracting.  One of the first things I will do –  actually on day one – is I will end the government's favoritism towards unions in contracting on federal projects and end project labor agreements.”

Besides repeating standard GOP rhetoric denouncing unions and their leaders, Romney’s reference was to an Obama administration directive strongly encouraging, but not ordering, federal construction contracts to be carried out with contractors who sign PLAs.  PLAs set specific work rules for projects, set wages and benefits, and guarantee the price and on-time completion.

"I also will make sure workers in America have the right to a secret ballot and I will fight for right to work laws," Romney told ABC.  ABC is one of many Right Wing groups now challenging the National Labor Relations Board’s proposed rule that would remove some of the legalistic hurdles businesses now use to delay and deny union representation elections.  He added Obama appoints “labor stooges” to the NLRB.

Several of those groups, though not ABC, are also suing to overturn Obama’s recess appointments to the board as illegal.  Without Obama’s three recess appointees, the NLRB lacks a quorum and can’t act on labor-management issues.

And so-called Right to Work laws, a key cause of the Radical Right and its business backers, ban unions inserting contract provisions saying they can collect dues, or equivalent payments, from workers they represent.  That provision, while still leaving unions with the representation responsibility, strips them of funds to do so. 

U.S. construction in January drops 2%

The new year got off on the wrong foot for the building trades: the value of new U.S. construction starts dropped 2 percent in January from the month before to an adjusted rate of $402.2 billion, according to a Feb. 21 report by McGraw-Hill Construction.

On an unadjusted basis, total construction starts in January were reported down 14 percent from the same month a year ago. Looking at the entire 12 months ending in January 2012 vs. January 2011, total construction starts were down 3 percent.

“For construction starts, the year 2012 got off slowly, with activity retreating further into the lower half of its recent range,” said Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “This is consistent with the view that construction is still struggling to achieve upward momentum, even with the recent improvement shown by the U.S. economy.

“There were some positive signs for construction during 2011, such as a stronger volume for multi-family housing, a record high for new electric utility starts, and even gains for a few commercial structure types (hotels and warehouses). However, these positives were offset by declines for single-family housing, public works, and institutional building. For 2012, both public works and institutional building will continue to be affected by diminished federal funding, as well as by tight state and local budgets.”

By region, total construction for January 2012 compared to January 2011 revealed decreased activity in the South Central, down 32 percent; the Northeast, down 28 percent; and the West, down 11 percent; while gains were reported for the South Atlantic, up 1 percent and the Midwest, up 16 percent.