Let’s say you’re a contractor that receives federal money for big construction projects. Wouldn’t you want to take the high road in ensuring workplace safety, fair wages, and respecting collective bargaining rights so that your reputation on the job doesn’t get tarnished?


If you’re the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors, apparently not.

President Obama issued an executive order this summer that would bar companies with a history of workplace and safety violations from winning government contracts. Federal contractors who steal their employees’ wages, tolerate unsafe working conditions or fail to pay their taxes would get shunned, allowing more responsible companies to helm the jobs.

But rather than bolster their own standards, ABC may instead be lawyering up. Geoff Burr, ABC’s vice president of federal affairs, told the New York Times Aug. 18:

We look at what they’ve been doing with executive action and are deeply concerned, and have focused a lot of our energies on how we can roll back these things.

Burr said that ABC is now mulling over “the virtues of a litigation strategy,” the Times stated.

 The well-funded, anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors is preparing to fight a White House executive order that would make federal contractors adhere to better work standards

A day later, the paper’s editorial board denounced ABC for bucking decent, law-abiding practices that treat workers with respect.

It would seem noncontroversial to advise federal procurement officials to steer clear of companies with repeated and egregious violations that cheat, sicken, harm, and kill workers. But when President Obama signed an executive order in late July to that effect, the pushback from industry was immediate, notably from the Associated Builders and Contractors, whose members do 60 percent of federal construction jobs.
It would be outlandish for industry groups to argue that procurement officials and the public do not have the right to know about a contractor’s compliance with federal labor laws or defend practices that hurt workers.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a heavy hitter – not just in the industry, but in the political sphere. They’ve so far donated more than $1.3 million this election cycle to anti-worker candidates, political action committees and dark money groups who oppose collective bargaining, want to roll back or eliminate the minimum wage, scrap project labor agreements and slash unemployment insurance.


The October issue of The Electrical Worker shines a light on the connections between ABC and other anti-worker groups that are working to reelect candidates like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, Maine’s Paul LePage and others.

Read more reporting on ABC’s opposition to the executive order at the We Party Patriots blog.

And look for more coverage of Obama’s pro-worker initiative in the November issue of the Electrical Worker.


Homepage photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Nina Matthews Photography.