LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ABC letter full of inaccuracies

By The West Virginia Record | Jul 11, 2012

Dear Editor:

I must respond to a recent letter sent in by the West Virginia Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors because it is filled with so many inaccuracies.

The general tone of the letter is to welcome the decline of labor unions following the recent recall election in Wisconsin.

While all of us Americans are entitled to express our opinions, this group went on to make some outrageous statements that were undocumented and shouldn't be left without comment.

Rather than repeat inaccuracies, let me simply say they claim laws that require minimum wages on tax-funded construction projects result in costlier projects. There's no evidence of this.

The facts -- backed up by numerous studies by major universities including Wisconsin, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, California, New York and more – show that laws to set minimum wages on tax-funded projects to wages typically paid in a region don't cost taxpayers more.

Instead they tend to promote local hiring and give local contractors a level playing field to bid on public projects.

The group also rants about Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and wants to make it impossible for governments to make use of this tool.

But it's the private, not public, sector that most often uses PLAs in West Virginia. Power companies like AEP and industrial facilities like Toyota prefer this tool because it brings value to their projects.

So if the private sector finds these agreements valuable why would we want to prevent government from following suit when the need arises?
Frankly, ABC lacks credibility.

They claim to represent 85 percent of construction workers but, in fact, represent contractors and suppliers.

They claim to have 130 contractors as members but list only 92 members on their web site, the majority of which aren't contractors but suppliers and vendors.

Updating their web site might correct the discrepancy but there are thousands of licensed contractors in West Virginia. Simple math shows they represent only a tiny fraction of those contractors.

Their apprenticeship program was disbanded around the same time that questions were raised about whether ABC properly accounted for taxpayer money the program received. ABC's "concern" about the taxpayers cited in their recent letters can be best shown by publically accounting for their use of those public funds.

Workers have a legal right to join unions and to find ways to improve their lives. And in West Virginia unions have an excellent track record partnering with hundreds of real contractors on such important issues as training, drug testing and safety.

ABC represents a small fringe group that writes letters, filled with misinformation, aimed at starting fights over nonexistent issues.

Lowering wages, as this group promotes, will not lead us to the prosperity. It would presumably make this small group of contractors richer.

Steve White

Editor's Note: White is Director of Affiliated Construction Trades, a division of the West Virginia State Building Trades Council.

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