'Card Check' Would Cause Chaos for Union Construction Workers, Says AGC

September 28, 2010

The proposed "Card Check" legislation currently being debated in Washington poses real risks for the nation’s union construction workers according to a new analysis released today by the Associated General Contractors. The analysis singled out provisions in the bill, known as the Employee Free Choice Act, requiring federal arbitrators to settle all but the briefest of contract negotiations as particularly problematic.

"Having Washington-appointed officials set final contract terms for individual companies would make it harder to maintain a central benefit of unionized construction, collective bargaining," said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Association General Contractors of America, an association that represents both union and non-union construction firms.

Sandherr said "Card Check" undermines the common practice of having multiple construction firms agree to regional labor agreements, known as collective bargaining, which is designed to set a level playing field between different firms.  Since "Card Check" requires federally appointed arbitrators to set labor contracts for any time a firm can’t reach one within only 120 days, regions would see multiple, and widely varied contracts based on the whims and decisions of the arbitrators.
He added that the legislation also would put the pensions of single craft unions at risk.  That is because "Card Check" will make it easier for large multi-craft unions to recruit across a variety of skill sets. The resulting loss in pension contributions at the now depleted ranks of the single-craft unions will undermine savings programs for countless hard-working, highly skilled professionals, Sandherr noted.

Mr. Sandherr, who was in Colorado recently visiting a union construction site for a new hospital just outside Denver, added that the legislation also would hurt non-union construction workers.  He said the legislation deprives non-union workers of their right to a private vote before deciding whether to join a union. The bill also deprives non-union construction workers of the ability to negotiate pay levels, work rules and schedules because Washington-appointed officials will do that instead under the legislation.

Fortunately for construction workers in Colorado and nationwide, the state’s two Senators have the power to stop "Card Check" from ever becoming law, Sandherr said.  He noted that the association’s 33,000 member companies, including over 750 in Colorado, were asking both Senators to vote against the law and against any efforts to limit debate in the Senate on the legislation, known as a cloture vote.

"With the help and support of Colorado’s two Senators, unionized construction workers and their non-union colleagues will never have to endure the risks outlined in our new analysis," Sandherr said.