The AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) on Thursday unleashed a harsh condemnation of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the non-union construction-industry trade association, with the release of a study reported to illustrate ABC’s “pattern of data manipulation” and “aggressive disinformation campaign” that damage the interests of unionized companies and workers.
|The report takes Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) to task for an alleged “pattern of manipulation” of government and the media and an “aggressive disinformation campaign.”|
“The ABC positions itself as the voice of contractors, but this new report makes clear, once and for all, that they represent a very small fraction of licensed contractors in the U.S. construction industry,” said Sean McGarvey, BCTD president.
BCTD said the report—An Analysis of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)—is a “first-ever state-by-state comparative analysis of the Associated Builders and Contractors trade association,” with findings that “expose a pattern of data manipulation and an aggressive disinformation campaign, conducted by the ABC and on behalf of its affiliate organizations, designed to confuse elected officials, the public and the press into supporting policies that produce fewer jobs, lower wages, and minimal workforce training.”
The results are “a detrimental effect on workers, their communities and the U.S. construction industry as a whole,” BCTD said.
AFL-CIO representatives, including its president, Richard Trumka, were joined by the study’s author, Dr. Thomas J. Kriger, in discussing the study during a news teleconference with media representatives on Thursday.
“At a time when the construction industry is hurting and unemployment continues to be high, the ABC is spending millions a year to promote anti-union, anti-government policies that are putting America's workforce at risk,” Kriger said.
Kriger is professor of labor studies at the National Labor College, a Silver Spring, Md.-based higher-education institution that provides education programs exclusively designed for union members, leaders and staff.
A copy of the full report is available at www.knowyourabc.com.
“This report proves what we in the organized building trades have known for some time: that the ABC is essentially an astro-turf advocacy group funded for the sole purpose of torpedoing worker’s rights around the country," said Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborer’s International Union of America (LIUNA). The organization also supported the study.
|The report says ABC’s media campaign, “Halt the Assault,” is “based on the premise that our nation’s free enterprise system….is under attack from ‘big labor and federal bureaucrats.’”|
Gail Raiman, ABC vice president of public affairs, told D+D News that association officials had not had a chance to review the 165-page report in detail.
“But from a quick review, we saw inaccuracies,” Raiman said, citing calculations in the report that include residential housing.
“ABC companies do commercial and industrial construction, not residential,” she said.
“ABC is focused on getting the construction industry back to work, and creating the environment for all contractors to prosper based on merit,” Raiman said. “We’re focused on job creation, safety, workforce development, and working to ensure that all contractors have the opportunity to work regardless of labor affiliation.”
Regarding the report’s focus on apprenticeship progams, Raiman said ABC member companies are involved in a variety of training programs outside of the apprenticeship sphere, with a range of craft training programs offered by companies and through partnerships with “secondary and post-secondary career and technical education schools.”
The Prevailing-Wage and ‘PLA’ Debate
Among other political lobbying efforts, ABC has been active in campaigning for passage of legislation that would weaken so-called “prevailing wage” rules on public-works projects and project labor agreements (PLAs) on such projects.
LIUNA’s O’Sullivan called PLAs “the very best tool to insure that public investments that are kept within the local economy and benefit local workers, local taxpayers and local communities.”
ABC has achieved some traction in its lobbying activities, with measures banning PLAs progressing to passage at the state level in some cases. And the U.S. House earlier this month approved an amendment to the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill that would bar federal agencies from requiring contractors to sign PLAs as a condition of winning bids for military construction and housing projects.
Report Challenges ABC Assertions
on Representation of Industry
The BCTD said key findings of the study include the following.
• ABC claims to represent “80% of construction,” but its membership in reality amounts to only 1% of the total number of licensed or registered contractors in the U.S.
• ABC has approximately 22,260 apprentices. The Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, has 429,000.
• A substantial number of ABC’s membership is not related to the construction industry at all.
• In no state in the 46 where the ABC has chapters does the percentage of its member-contractors exceed 6% of the total contracting businesses.
“While misrepresenting its member base as representative of ‘80% of construction,’ the ABC engages in highly organized lobbying and advocacy campaigns that undermine project labor agreements (PLAs) and other labor laws, including the Employee Free Choice ACT and Davis-Bacon,” BCTD said, referring to the report’s conclusions.
“State lawmakers and the press are in turn misled into believing that the ABC speaks for labor and construction, which is not the case,” BCTD said
“We're calling on the ABC to come clean with its members, legislators and the press," said AFL-CIO President Trumka. “It's time to be honest about the agenda driving ABC’s anti-union efforts, and who is funding them.”
Report Attacks ‘Ideologically Based Advocacy’
BCTD said the report analyzes the ABC from a number of different perspectives, including its origins, its membership and density among contractors in the American construction industry.
The report also details the ABC's finances, its formal apprenticeship and craft training programs (along with its affiliate, the National Center for Construction Education and Research, NCCER), and ABC's more recent “electronic, ideological issues advocacy.”
The report cites the following examples of ABC's ideologically-based advocacy campaigning.
• Funding two political groups that provide legal services for chapters fighting PLAs (project labor agreements).
• The launch of “thetruthaboutplas.com” and “stopunionstimulus.com” to perpetuate “so-called news stories,” as well as a blog that tracks labor proposals and links to an anti-PLA Facebook page.
• The launch of a new media campaign known as “Halt the Assault,” which includes a website and videos on Youtube.
“The ABC’s low-road employment strategy may have produced short-term gains for open-shop contractors and construction users, but this strategy also produced negative consequences for the industry and society,” said Kriger, the report’s author.
The report includes a state-by-state analysis of the ABC’s local efforts to undermine unions and labor laws. “The states in particular where the ABC is shown to be the most active are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, California, and Washington, D.C.,” BCTD said.