Harry C. Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, says Card Check – the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) – along with the Project Labor Agreement Executive Order 13502 will impair the rights of black business owners, open the door for black employees to be threatened, and flat out put black laborers out of work.
The Employee Free Choice Act would eliminate the secret ballot in workplace unionization voting, and EO 13502 would require the use of union-friendly "project labor agreements" in connection with large-scale construction projects.
Regarding Card Check, Alford says, "By eliminating the right to vote in private, workers would not only be deprived of the right to vote their conscience, but would also be more vulnerable to the intimidation and coercion tactics known to be used by union organizers," Alford opined.
Some of those feared tactics have been outlined by the Center for Union Facts, which reported that thousands of unfair labor practice cases have been filed against unions since 2000 – including 1,417 for coercive statements, 416 for violence and assaults, 546 for harassment, and 1,325 for threatening statements.
“African-Americans, in particular, have bitter memories of voter intimidation and have a responsibility to stand up against any proposition that will take away their democratic voting rights,” noted Alford.
Furthermore, EFCA would allow government arbitrators to dictate labor contracts if unions and employers cannot reach their own agreement within a 120-day period.
Alford sees a big issue with this stipulation.
“Currently, only 2 percent of minority-owned businesses are unionized. The passage of EFCA will further reduce the rights of an overwhelming majority of African-American employers by introducing government arbitrators with final decision-making authority into the collective bargaining process,” Alford warned.
“This legislation would drive many hotels out of business, eliminate jobs and ultimately be the end of black hotel ownership,” he added.
Alford also voiced great concern over Executive Order 13502, signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 6, 2009.
The Language of 13502
“Large-scale construction projects pose special challenges to efficient and timely procurement by the Federal Government,” the Order declares. “Construction employers typically do not have a permanent workforce, which makes it difficult for them to predict labor costs when bidding on contracts and to ensure a steady supply of labor on contracts being performed.
“Challenges also arise due to the fact that construction projects typically involve multiple employers at a single location. A labor dispute involving one employer can delay the entire project.
“A lack of coordination among various employers, or uncertainty about the terms and conditions of employment of various groups of workers can create frictions and disputes in the absence of an agreed-upon resolution mechanism.
“These problems threaten the efficient and timely completion of construction projects undertaken by Federal contractors. On larger projects, which are generally more complex and of longer duration, these problems tend to be more pronounced.
“The use of a project labor agreement may prevent these problems from developing by providing structure and stability to large-scale construction projects, thereby promoting the efficient and expeditious completion of Federal construction contracts.
“Accordingly, it is the policy of the Federal Government to encourage executive agencies to consider requiring the use of project labor agreements in connection with large-scale construction projects in order to promote economy and efficiency in Federal procurement.”
All well and good, opined Alford, but in reality the project labor agreements policy is ruinous to Black enterprise in the construction industry.
“[T]ake a closer look at the national construction industry and you will see that only 13 percent of America’s construction workforce belongs to a construction labor union,” Alford argued. “With the enactment of Executive Order 13502, almost nine out of 10 construction workers in the United States, regardless of race, will now be unable to work on federal construction projects.”
Alford used the example of Philadelphia where minorities make up 55 percent of the population, 80 percent of unionized construction workers were white males and 70 percent lived outside of the city. In contrast, non-union projects had a 72 percent minority employment rate with 71 percent of those workers living in the city.
How a PLA Works
With a project labor agreement, the owner or general contractor of a construction project signs an agreement with the union or unions representing crafts that will work on the project before the actual work force for the project is hired.
The agreement governs the terms and conditions of employment of the craft employees who will work on the project and typically provides for union wage rates and benefits, grievance and arbitration procedures for resolving disputes under the agreement, and the right of the signatory unions to be the exclusive bargaining representatives of the covered employees.
Not surprisingly, project labor agreements are highly favored by unions and are typically criticized and resisted by nonunionized construction contractors.
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