Stimulus favors union contractors, says head of builders’ association

The stimulus package that has passed both houses of Congress is tilted toward union contractors, said the president of an association of nonunion builders.

“Essentially, if you are not a unionized contractor, you need not apply” for construction jobs funded by the stimulus package, David Myers, president and CEO of the Western Colorado Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, said in a news release.

Myers’ misgivings amount to scare tactics, but not much else, a union official said.

An executive order signed by President Obama dovetails with the stimulus package by encouraging federal agencies to award construction projects under project-labor agreements. Those agreements, Myers said, require the agency to recognize unions, use the union hall to hire workers, pay union wages and benefits and obey union work rules.

Nonunion shops “can sit at the table” and work out agreements, just as unions can do in negotiating such agreement, said Larry Beard, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 969 in Grand Junction.

“It’s just a tactic to scare everybody away from all this, from corporate America, actually,” Beard said.

The prospects of stimulus spending on the Western Slope are unclear, but it’s possible the discussion could be more than academic.

As many as 126 bridges in Colorado are listed as deficient, and improving them are just the kinds of jobs contemplated by the stimulus package, Beard said.

While there might be jobs in which union and nonunion shops vie for contracts, the possibility that union wages will prevail seems unlikely, Beard said, because in most determinations, 70 percent, the prevailing wage is nonunion.

The stimulus and executive order, however, leaves millions of nonunion workers out of the running for stimulus construction work, Myers said.


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