The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 25, 2012

Study: Anti-union ABC is a shell when it comes to construction

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI) – A top anti-union lobby, the Associated Builders and Contractors, which proclaims itself as the national voice of non-union construction companies, actually represents a small share of U.S. contractors, a new study shows.

And the study, by National Labor College political scientist Thomas Kriger, reveals some ABC members aren’t even contractors.  They include a florist in Jacksonville, restaurants in Texas and Oklahoma, 44 Chevy dealerships and 59 banks.

“ABC is an ‘Astro-Turf’ Washington Beltway political advocacy group with a well-funded PR and lobbying machine,” Kriger said during a presentation April 30 during the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades legislative conference.

ABC is notorious for its anti-union stands.  It vigorously lobbies to kill the Davis-Bacon Act, which mandates the Labor Department set locally prevailing wages for federally funded constructions.  And ABC strenuously opposes project labor agreements.  PLAs set standards – like grievance procedures and work rules – for projects.

The 23,000-firm ABC garnered headlines in February when GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, now his party’s presumed nominee for the Oval Office, got its endorsement after a speech blasting PLAs and unions.

Kriger concluded ABC is a “shell” organization that does little of its own research, instead sending Right Wing talking points to its members.  Among his other findings:

  • ABC’s membership equals 0.03% of all construction contractors.  Its maximum density in any state is 6 percent.  In 46 percent of the states, it has fewer than 1 percent of contractors.
  • The non-partisan Construction Users Roundtable reported joint labor-management apprenticeship training committees, with union participation, turned out 351,000 apprentices from 2002-09, in an industry that is hitting an age crunch.  ABC’s programs turned out 19,000 apprentices over the same period.  The roundtable’s members recommended contractors hire jointly union-management trained apprentices.
  • ABC’s membership includes 673 insurance brokers, the 44 car dealers and the 59 banks. It also includes a party rental firm, the Florida florist and the restaurants.

“ABC’s low-road strategy for labor relations and employment has had a detrimental impact on the construction industry and on our society as a whole,” as lawmakers have catered to its lobbyists, the study says.  “In the industry today, there are too many low-skill, low-wage jobs, where working men and women receive minimal training.  ABC’s aggressive advocacy of the low road contributed to growing inequality.”