...announced government projects in Hawaii, California and Oregon also contain provisions for the pacts, he said. A final federal rule encouraging their use on large projects was published on April 13 and set to take effect 30 days later. “More is on the way,” he added.

Conference attendees welcomed remarks from Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who noted that the administration would seek to expand loan guarantees for nuclear powerplant construction as part of future climate-change legislation, paving the way for “six to nine more reactors. … The world will need a new industrial revolution to build clean energy,” he said.

The regulatory environment also has improved for labor. The U.S. Dept of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service have stepped up investigations of independent contractor misclassification in recent months. Union leaders are also confident the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has swung in their favor with the recent appointments of union-friendly members Craig Becker and Mark Pearce. “We are certain to see sweeping changes given the composition of the NLRB,” ABC’s Geoff Burr said.

Vice President Joe Biden
“This White House is waging a war to get you back where you belong. The reports of our demise are premature.”
— Vice President Joe Biden

Additional appointees throughout the administration also could help labor’s cause, Ayers said. He chastised Republicans in Congress for holding up Obama appointees, telling attendees it’s time to “be rid of these Bush obstructionists, once and for all.”

Although labor has checked many items off its political agenda, others still remain undone. After being blocked in the Senate in 2007, the Employee Free Choice Act, dubbed by opponents as “card check,” was reintroduced in 2009 but has not moved ahead. The health-care bill was signed but without the “Merkley amendment,” which would have required construction firms to provide health benefits or pay fines.

Ayers said those issues remain on the unions’ agenda, but he doesn’t anticipate any action in the near future until “we know we’ve got the votes we need.” Biden exhorted attendees not to be “down on our prospects this November. The reports of our demise are premature.”