The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 03, 2013

Rats to the ABC, and their GOP supporters

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – With at least one picket sign reading “ABC doesn't speak for me!” and a pair of inflatable rats, about 75 protesters took to Michigan Avenue next to the Radisson Hotel on April 24 to express their outrage with the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors and the Republican lawmakers they support.

The ABC honored Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and Sen. Pat Colbeck, R-Canton, with “Legislator of the year” awards for taking the lead in pushing right-to-work legislation through to approval in Lansing last December. The state’s new right-to-work law allows “free riders” to enjoy the benefits of union membership, without having to pay dues.

Studies have shown the ABC represents only a small number of licensed contractors in Michigan and elsewhere. But their political contributions and public relations acumen through events like this one give them outsized influence over lawmakers. Basically the arch-enemy of the organized building trades, the ABC supports RTW and fights against pro-worker laws that govern prevailing wage and project labor agreements.

“ABC represents a tiny minority of construction contractors in Michigan, and over 20 percent of their members are not even contractors,” said Derrick Boyette, an electrical worker from Battle Creek. “This fringe group undermines hard work by attacking workers’ fundamental right to collectively bargain for fair wages and benefits by pushing so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws, the elimination of project labor agreements and gutting prevailing wage protections. Lansing politicians need to work together to protect the wages and benefits of working people, instead of working with corporate CEOs to attack working families.”

Republican legislation is in the hopper in Michigan to repeal the state Prevailing Wage Act entirely, and others that would remove the wage requirement from school construction.