Construction union leaders released a 165-page report on May 31 aimed at discrediting market penetration claims of their longtime open-shop nemesis, the Associated Builders and Contractors. The report, produced in four months by the AFL-CIO-funded National Labor College, comes in an election year amid growing ABC activism against mandated project labor agreements.
"ABC is particularly aggressive in [its] attempts to block familysupporting PLAs," said Laborers' union General President Terry O'Sullivan. It intends "to drive down wages, undermine training and skirt safety standards, while contractor profits increase at the expense of taxpayers and workers." The report claims, among other things, that ABC's membership makes up only 1% of all licensed U.S. contractors and does not exceed 6% in the 46 states in which the Alexandria, Va., group operates. The report also claims that ABC apprenticeship programs pale in comparison to their union counterparts in terms of enrollment, investment and graduation rates. The building trades spend an estimated $750 million on apprentice training, says the report.
But the study does not detail its methodology and relies on dated material to claim that ABC is "an Astroturf, political organization" guilty of "misrepresentation" and "data manipulation."
ABC dismissed the report as "a rehash" of prior criticisms. "The motivation for this report is that unions have been badly losing on the PLA battlefront," says Geoff Burr, ABC vice president of federal affairs. "The unions are supposed to be representing their workers in the worst construction economy in decades, and this is what they spend their time on?"
Earlier this year, ABC endorsed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who vows to "end the government's favoritism" toward unions in public- works contracting and to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act.