After reading James Bertolone’s latest column ("Anti-union contractors profit by exploiting their workers," RBJ, 1/15/10), I am compelled to send a response. As the Rochester regional vice president of Associated Builders and Contractors’ Empire State Chapter, I can only qualify this attack on our organization as offensive and unfounded. It is also a blatant attempt to distort the public’s view away from their real objective, which is to monopolize construction work for organized labor.
ABC is a national organization of more than 25,000 merit-shop contractors who believe that construction projects should be awarded to the most qualified contractors and their work forces-regardless of union affiliation. ABC members are construction and construction-related firms that offer 2 million workers nationwide access to good jobs, with competitive pay and health and pension benefits. Anyone who claims otherwise-including Mr. Berto-lone-is simply distorting the truth.
Additionally, ABC believes construction contracts-especially on taxpayer-funded work-should be about the best work at the best price. Evidently the construction unions do not share that point of view, and their submission proves it. Mr. Bertolone’s column-a partial reprint of a piece by Mark Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO-says America’s building trades unions will never apologize for advocating a business model "epitomized by project labor agreements." These Big Labor handouts unnecessarily increase construction costs, restrict the ability of 75 percent of New York’s private construction work force to compete for projects and deny taxpayers the accountability they deserve on public construction.
While both public and private project labor agreements limit work opportunities for non-union contractors, government-mandated PLAs are the most objectionable. Big Labor promises government officials-many of whom cashed union campaign checks during their last election campaign-that workers will be paid higher wages, local construction workers will be used and non-union contractors will have the opportunity to compete if contractors are required to sign a PLA in order to work on the project. It sounds like a great deal.
Then the other shoe drops. Fewer contractors submit bids for the project subject to a PLA, because non-union contractors refuse to agree to the PLA’s basic premise-that only union construction workers can perform the work on the job, which for a non-union contractor means devaluing their own work force in favor of a union work force.
Next, out-of-state union workers start coming to town and are assigned to the project through the union hiring hall, while local non-union workers, who despite Mr. Bertolone’s contention are highly qualified workers, sit on the sidelines, wondering why they aren’t good enough to work on projects funded by their own tax dollars. And as the project nears completion, cash-strapped communities notice that construction costs increased by as much as 18 percent, despite the fact that workers’ wage and benefit rates are set by state law.
This story plays out again and again, all over the country. PLAs are not about local workers or good wages; they are simply a tool to push non-union contractors and their work forces out of the market at the taxpayers’ expense.
In closing, desperate times call for desperate measures. Mr. Bertolone’s piece was so busy spreading lies about ABC that it failed to mention that the construction industry is experiencing more than 20 percent unemployment nationwide. Both non-union and union contractors know good men and women who have been laid off or forced to sit on the union bench because of the current economic situation in our country. Unfortunately, Big Labor’s response is to use its political influence to monopolize the market on the backs of everyday taxpayers.
Hard-working taxpayers deserve quality, accountability and results, not union handouts. Anything less is unacceptable.
For more information on PLAs and their negative impact on the American economy, visit www.thetruthaboutplas.com.
Marci Miller is Rochester regional vice president and membership marketing director at Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Empire State Chapter. She submitted this piece on behalf of ABC National and the Empire State Chapter.
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