Labor Leaders Release Major Study About the Associated Builders and Contractors, Exposing a Disinformation Campaign Designed to Undermine America’s Labor Laws

From the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department —

The Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), with the support of the AFL-CIO and LIUNA, today jointly released the findings of a first-ever state-by-state comparative analysis of the Associated Builders and Contractors trade association, better known as the ABC. The findings expose a pattern of data manipulation and an aggressive disinformation campaign, conducted by the ABC and on behalf of its affiliate organizations, designed to confuse elected officials, the public and the press into supporting policies that produce fewer jobs, lower wages, and minimal workforce training, which have had a detrimental effect on workers, their communities and the US construction industry as a whole.

“The ABC positions itself as the voice of contractors, but this new report makes clear, once and for all, that they represent a very small fraction of licensed contractors in the U.S. construction industry,” said Sean McGarvey, the President of BCTD. “What we now know is that the ABC’s primary purpose is not to engage in issues of importance to the construction industry, but to engage in ideological, anti-union advocacy that is hurting workers and damaging the industry overall.”

“We’re calling on the ABC to come clean with its members, legislators and the press,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “It’s time to be honest about the agenda driving ABC’s anti-union efforts, and who is funding them.”

“This report proves what we in the organized building trades have known for some time: that the ABC is essentially an astro-turf advocacy group funded for the sole purpose of torpedoing worker’s rights around the country,” said Terry O’Sullivan, President of the Laborer’s International Union of America (LIUNA).

The report, written by Dr. Thomas J. Kriger, analyzes the ABC from a number of different perspectives, including its origins, its membership and density among contractors in the American construction industry. The report also details the ABC’s finances, its formal apprenticeship and craft training programs (along with its affiliate, the National Center for Construction Education and Research, NCCER), and ABC’s more recent electronic, ideological issues advocacy.

Among the key findings of the report:

* In spite of the ABC’s claim to represent “80% of construction,” its membership in reality amounts to only 1% of the construction industry. The ABC has approximately 22,260 apprentices. The Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, has 429,000 by comparison.

* The ABC’s membership amounts to only 1% of all US construction businesses.

* A substantial number of the ABC’s membership is not related to the construction industry at all.

* In no state in the 46 where the ABC has chapters does the percentage of its member-contractors exceed 6%.

The data shows that the ABC’s workforce development capacity, based on its financial commitment (estimated at $30-50M annually) and the corresponding size and scope of its apprentice training system, is dwarfed by the $750 million annual investments made by America’s Building Trades Unions and its affiliated contractors, which has produced one of the nation’s largest, private, self-funded education systems.

While misrepresenting its member base as representative of “80% of construction,” the ABC engages in highly organized lobbying and advocacy campaigns that undermine project labor agreements (PLA’s) and other labor laws, including the Employee Free Choice ACT and Davis-Bacon, according to the report. State lawmakers and the press are in turn misled into believing that the ABC speaks for labor and construction, which is not the case. Many of its agenda items are aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC. The ABC’s 2009 Chapter Legislative Guide contained 18 bills listed as “property of” ALEC, while the ABC’s 2010 Legislative Handbook included 10 examples of copyrighted ALEC model legislation.

Examples of the ABC’s ideologically-based advocacy campaigning include:

* ABC’s national organization funds two political groups that provide legal services for chapters fighting PLAs (project labor agreements).

* To fight PLAs, the ABC created “” (as well as ““) to perpetuate so-called news stories, as well as a blog that tracks labor proposals and links to an anti-PLA Facebook page.

* ABC launched a prominent new media campaign known as “Halt the Assault,” which includes a website and videos on Youtube.

The report features a state-by-state analysis of the ABC’s local efforts to undermine unions and labor laws. The states in particular where the ABC is shown to be the most active are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, California and Washington, DC.

“At a time when the construction industry is hurting and unemployment continues to be high, the ABC is spending millions a year to promote anti-union, anti-government policies that are putting America’s workforce at risk,” said Dr. Thomas J. Kriger, author of the report. “The ABC’s low road employment strategy may have produced short term gains for open shop contractors and construction users, but this strategy also produced negative consequences for the industry and society.”

For a copy of the full report, go to

One Response to Labor Leaders Release Major Study About the Associated Builders and Contractors, Exposing a Disinformation Campaign Designed to Undermine America’s Labor Laws

  1. Pingback: Union-Busting Is As Easy As ABC (the Associated Builders and Contractors) :: IUPAT

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