Domestic Dispute in Big Labor’s House

1 January 20, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Despite the special interest handouts to Big Labor by politicians supported by construction trades unions at the local, state and federal level, trouble’s brewing in the fragile house of Big Labor. 


Cartoon by Michael Ramirez from Investors Business Daily

A reader sent me this sensational letter from Terry Nelson, executive secretary treasurer of the Carpenters’ Disctrict Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity.

Nelson is outraged that Gerald Feldhaus, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), has tattled to Mark Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), AFL-CIO, that the local Carpenter’s Union is harming the local BCTC.

Here is Feldhaus’ plea to the BCTD:

We need your help, and we need it now!…I am referring to the continued and expanding efforts by the Carpenters Union to WRECK the AFL-CIO building trades here in St. Louis and, with only a few exceptions, around the nation based on conversations I’ve had with my counterparts elsewhere.

Here are Feldhaus’ key accusations against the Carpenter’s Union [emphasis added]:

[Carpenters have] unilaterally abrogated agreements with our various trades, agreements that have been in effect for decades and provided a working, harmonious relationship on jobsites;

…refused to sign Project Labor Agreements designed to keep a jobsite all union and protect everyone’s jurisdiction.

…And owners, who are faced with the difficult economic conditions today, are growing frustrated. They could well begin demanding that the contractors start using non-union firms, and then all hell will break loose

Feldhaus proposes that a “new Carpenters Division or Union within the AFL-CIO Building Trades department needs to be created quickly, initially funded by the other International Unions.” He confides, “it’s no secret that union construction is now overshadowed by non-union across America.”

I’ve explained how Big Labor sells PLAs to public and private construction owners as a tool to promote worksite harmony and avoid strikes caused by the multiple union trades that compose just 15.4 percent of the U.S. private construction workforce (“PLA Basics: Unions Offer Project Labor Agreements as a Solution to Strikes Created by Union Members,” 5/7/09).

For example, here’s the California State Building and Construction Trades Council’s labor peace selling point on PLAs:

The compelling fact about PLA’s remains the economical and efficient process that PLA’s provide public agencies – ensuring that projects are built with a steady supply of highly skilled productive craftworkers and with labor harmony.

Big Labor recognizes that strikes, work stoppages, slowdowns and other labor unrest caused by union members and bosses can shut down a jobsite and delay the opening of a project, potentially costing construction owners lost revenue. PLA salesmen leverage the threat of union-led strikes to obtain a PLA with terms and conditions that benefit union workers and signatory contractors and eliminate competition from merit shop contractors.

It flirts with extortion and is particularly unsettling because nonunion workers – 84.4 percent of the U.S. private construction workforce that are effectively eliminated from PLA projects – don’t engage in strikes or jobsite unrest.

But the simple truth is that PLAs don’t prevent union strikes or labor unrest on jobsites – just visit this blog entry and read confessions from union bosses that PLAs have failed to prevent strikes.  And a chapter in this report provides examples of PLA projects that suffered strikes and other forms of labor unrest.

But now this smoking gun letter demonstrates why PLAs deliver no accountability to jobsites because Big Labor can’t get their house in order.

If Big Labor can’t get all trade unions to sign a PLA, how can a PLA possibly promote jobsite harmony and prevent labor strikes?

If quarrelling trades are raiding the work of other union trades, where’s the value of using all union labor? 

With your help, will continue our PLA myth-busting and shed some sunshine on these corrupt backroom deals.

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