Thursday’s crowd was particularly receptive as Mr. Romney said he would pursue right-to-work laws and forbid unions from collecting dues that could be used for political purposes.Romney was referring there to Project Labor Agreements, agreements that set uniform standards for all workers, union and non-union and from different trades, on a large construction project. They promote efficiency on projects involving multiple contractors and avert strikes and other labor disputes; additionally, they can contain provisions calling for jobs to be filled by local workers or, as in a recent Los Angeles PLA, people from economically disadvantaged communities.
“If I become president of the United States, I will curb the practice we have in this country of giving union bosses an unfair advantage in contracting,” Mr. Romney said. “One of the first things that I will do – actually on Day One- is I will end the government’s favoritism towards unions in contracting on federal projects.” The audience responded with a standing ovation.
The Associated Builders and Contractors really hates PLAs, even though PLAs include non-union workers, as part of a more general hatred of unions and workplace safety regulations and prevailing wage laws and really anything else that protects workers. But it's important to understand that the ABC is not the voice of the construction industry. Though the organization tries to present itself that way, a forthcoming (not yet available online) independent report by Thomas Kriger, a professor at the National Labor College, finds that if the ABC's claim to represent "23,000 merit shop construction and construction related firms" is true, it represents just 0.03 percent of the nearly 800,000 construction firms in the country. There is not a single state in which more than 6 percent of licensed or registered contractors are ABC members.
Not only that, the ABC does not appear to define "construction related firms" in the way that most of us would: Its members include 59 banks Freddie's Bar-B-Que of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, the Land and Sea Restaurant of Corpus Christi, Texas, and the Rose of Sharon European Florist of Jacksonville, Florida. In fact, there are only six states in which 75 percent or more of ABC members are actually contractors.
The Associated Builders and Contractors is a totally appropriate Mitt Romney endorser, in other words, since like him, it's not quite what it wants you to think it is. It portrays itself as speaking for a higher proportion of contractors than it does, portrays itself as speaking for contractors specifically when in fact many of its members are restaurants and banks, and uses that false image to promote a comprehensive anti-worker agenda. And in his speech to them, Romney basically promised to enact that entire agenda if he's elected.