More Ink on Big Labor Favor

1 May 1, 2010  Federal Construction, Uncategorized

Christopher Neefus at reports on the April 13 final rule implementing the pro-project labor agreement (PLA) Executive Order 13502 that encourages federal agencies to steer lucrative federal construction contracts to construction companies signatory to Big Labor (“Obama Gives Unions a ‘Massive Payback’ with Executive Order, Contractors Claim,” 4/30).

Interviews with Rep. John Kline (R – Minn.), Brett McMahon of Miller and Long Construction, and Tom Owens, communications director of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), make this an interesting read.

Rep. Kline discusses how PLAs and the Obama order are actually schemes to support Big Labor’s failing mutli-employer pension plans.

On a conference call with reporters this week, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) agreed, telling he believes the new policy will aid unions, whom he says are “scrambling” to make their under-funded pension plans solvent by adding new contributors through PLAs.

Union pension plans, Kline said, are “grotesquely under-funded.”

“(Unions) are desperate,” Kline said. “(T)he real solution here is for them to seriously look at the benefits and renegotiate the exorbitant benefits that they’re getting — in other words tightening their belt –and they’ve been unwilling to do that, so they’re scrambling for anything else to make these things solvent.”

Human Events covered Rep. Kline’s comments on Big Labor’s failing pension plans in greater detail (“Union Hypocrisy Marching on Wall Street,” 4/29):

“Union pensions which are by and large the multi-employer pensions are in trouble,” said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee told HUMAN EVENTS. “One of the problems with these union pension plans is that the nature of the governing body is sort of half union members, half employers. The unfairness of it is the union members are there day in and day out — the employers revolve. The union members on these boards constantly push for greater benefits, greater benefits are awarded, and it’s simply unsustainable.”

“You now have orphans — that is employees and retirees who are part of these pension plans where there’s no employer anymore,” Kline said. “The burden on the employers that are left standing goes steadily up. The withdrawal liability is in millions and millions of dollars and would put companies out of business. They are in great trouble.”

Meanwhile, with CNSNews, McMahon explains the impact of PLAs on taxpayers and nails the real intent behind government-mandated PLAs and the Obama executive order:

…[McMahon] contends that use of PLAs will wind up costing more taxpayer money because projects will be costlier. Only 15 percent of construction workers are in union shops, he said.

“(The policy) is an attempt to make a market for organized labor because they can’t compete in the regular marketplace due to the overall price of the services that they are supposed to be offering…”

Have a laugh at BCTD’s Tom Owens’ feeble defense of PLAs by attempting to discredit ABC and denying that the Obama administration’s final rule represents a favor to Big Labor.

Owens should know that five of the six construction firms on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For are ABC members. On Engineering News Record’s 2009 list of top contractors, 17 out of the top 20 contractors are ABC members and 159 ABC contractors made the list.

You don’t achieve that kind of industry success and recognition with a business model that assembles “the lowest skilled, lowest wage workforce that we can in a race-to-the-bottom approach that does tremendous damage to communities” as Owens incorrectly claims.  Owens and the BCTD’s poisonous rhetoric against quality contractors and their skilled employees is exactly why contractors and employees choose to remain open shop and refuse to sign PLAs. 

Update: The Waterbury Republican American blog covered this CNSNews story with this accompanying cartoon by Glenn Fodden of

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One Response to More Ink on Big Labor Favor

Ed May 1, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I love how Owens and the BCTD trash merit companies and their employees and then try and organize them. No wonder why union membership in the construction industry is at 14.5 percent and has been declining for decades.

It’s like when Big Labor claims that only construction workers who have gone through union apprenticeship programs are skilled and should have first priority over everyone else on projects.

The building trades try and organize nonunion journeymen and look the other way if they don’t go through the union apprenticeship programs. They just want the dues money and work for their members at the expense of taxpayers and everyone else.

They can’t even do it fairly in a free and competitive market so they get their political buddies like Obama to carve out a market for them.

It’s a good thing most companies still believe in a strong work ethic and rewarding employees based on merit, otherwise this cronyism would spread and we’d end up like a banana republic.

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