Is Biden’s Infrastructure Package Unfair to Non-Union Construction Companies?

A top construction trade association representing non-union construction companies is crying foul.

Source : United States Department of Transportation

May 25, 2021

Author : Alex Bustillos

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a powerful player in the construction industry with 69 chapters and 22,000 commercial contractors and companies related to construction among its ranks. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, they spent $2.4 million on lobbying in 2020 and contributed heavily towards Republican candidates from Donald Trump to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, as well as a number of Republican committees.

Earlier this month, ABC published a press release crying foul on the Biden Administration’s infrastructure proposal — dubbed the American Jobs Plan — for its alleged exclusion of “87 percent of America’s construction industry.”

That 87 percent represents the non-union workforce.

Some highlights from the ABC press release:

  • “Today, Associated Builders and Contractors and more than 900 member companies and chapters from 47 states sent a letter to the White House highlighting concerns with President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan and recommendations to improve it, streamlining the permitting process and supporting bipartisan workforce development efforts.”
  • “We are also concerned that the American Jobs Plan calls for passage of the PRO Act, supports inaccurate prevailing wage rates for construction projects and urges Congress to tie infrastructure investments to government-mandated project labor agreements and community workforce agreements that often discriminate against our nation’s small, women-, veteran- and minority owned businesses.”
  • “Placing stringent requirements that allow only union jobs and union employers to participate in rebuilding America’s infrastructure is an ineffective strategy that is likely to increase costs, reduce job creation, decrease the number of infrastructure.”

ABC also echoes Republican concerns about spending in the package on projects that are not traditionally considered infrastructure, and adds that the spending on roads that would be allocated under the American Jobs Plan is insufficient. Republicans have raised a counter-offer that is smaller overall but includes more money for roads. We broke down the funding in both proposals more thoroughly in a separate article.

The main fact sheet on the American Jobs Plan uses the word “union” 24 times while a separate fact sheet entitled “The American Jobs Plan Empowers and Protects Workers” is primarily focused on unions and uses the word in nearly every paragraph. 

“The President is calling on Congress to create new, good-quality union jobs for American workers by leveraging their grit and ingenuity to address the climate crisis and build a sustainable infrastructure. Increased unionization can also impact our economic growth overall by improving productivity,” the second fact sheet reads. It calls for the passage of the Pro Act and other pro-union measures.

It is not uncommon for public works contracts to be set aside exclusively for unionized companies. Earlier this month the Connecticut Department of Transportation published contract provisions for rehabilitation of part of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge. The project labor agreement stipulated that only union labor would be used, angering the Connecticut chapter of ABC. 

“Taxpayers have been told for years that there isn’t enough money for infrastructure- the state needs more revenue. Then in the next breath they are directing these no-bid, high-value contracts to special interest that will unnecessarily drive up costs with no added value,” Christopher Fryxell, President of the Connecticut ABC chapter, said.

“Here we have a local contractor who employs local residents, excels at this type of work and has recent experience on the Gold Star Bridge- and the governor doesn’t want them to have a fair opportunity to bid on this important infrastructure project,” he added.

ABC is correct that non-union construction companies are often excluded from important public works contracts. However, studies also show that unionized construction sites are safer, and it’s not surprising that authorities may want to prioritize safety on public works projects that are often themselves aimed at increasing public safety. 

What do you think about the exclusion of non-union construction companies from public works projects? Sound off on our social media.

Category : Labor Union Certified Firms Economic Stimulus Investment in Infrastructure Labor Public Works

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