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Construction Contractors Get New Ally.

Fred Lind is owner of Consolidated Enterprises Inc., a general contractor in Anchorage. He is also Alaska chapter president of Associated Builders and Contractors for the year 2000, an organization that represents general contractors, subcontractors, specialty contractors, material suppliers and peripheral support industries.

The organization--with its more than 22,000 members in more than 80 chapters throughout the U.S.--was founded in 1950 in Baltimore, Md., by a group of contractors who believed that projects should be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. ABC was recently named by Fortune magazine as one of the top 50 most influential trade associations in the nation.

"Our organization is dedicated to the belief that projects should be awarded based on merit, regardless of union affiliation," Lind says. "While this idea may occasionally put ABC and labor on opposite sides of some legal and legislative issues, it would be inaccurate to say that ABC is anti-union. Many of the subcontractors we work with are union-shop operations. In fact, merit-shop is more accurately described as union and non-union crafts people working together."

While that philosophy is as American as mom and apple pie, it does cause problems with unions on some issues, according to Eden Larson, ABC's executive director in Alaska. One such issue is union-only Project Labor Agreements-an issue much on the minds of contractors in Alaska these days.

"Construction unions have recently been aggressively attempting to negotiate Project Labor Agreements with owners to require that all workers on a project must join a union as a condition of employment," says Larson.

"First, let me correct a perception regarding the construction industry. Many perceive that if the general contractor on a project is non-union, then all trades will be non-union as well. That's simply not true. In practice, non-union general contractors use union subcontractors all the time. So, too, union general contractors regularly use non-union subcontractors. Frequently, the same trade may be represented on a job by both union and non-union craftsmen."

Larson says that unions argue that a Project Labor Agreement is required to promote labor harmony and eliminate jurisdictional disputes between crafts, thereby assuring timely, cost-effective completion. "Recent experience at the Lathrop High School project (a union job) in Fairbanks tells a different story," she says. "That project had overruns in time and budget, and was subject to many petty jurisdictional disputes. Time and budget considerations are a factor of the contractor's management ability regardless of labor affiliation."

Larson says that in Alaska more than 75 percent of construction trades work merit shop. "Common sense tells you that unions, representing less than 25 percent of the work force, cannot provide as many qualified craftsmen as merit shop contractors that employ 75 percent of the work force," she says. "If a task on a project requires special skill, the absence of a Project Labor Agreement assures that both union and non-union craft pools are available."

A strong supporter of the ABC during the past two years has been Bill Watterson of Watterson Construction. Readers may recall that his company went head-to-head with local unions over a construction contract with First National Bank of Anchorage.

"As an at-large member of ABC for several years, I liked their philosophy of open and fair competition on construction contracts," says Watterson. "I thought the construction industry here could benefit from what they had to offer. I'm pleased it has been so well received."

However, Watterson has hardly been alone in his support of ABC in Alaska. From July 1997 to December 1997, the organization went from 15 Alaskan charter members to a total of 32. By year's-end 1998, membership roles doubled again to 64. Today, it is well on its way to doubling again.

ABC Membership Benefits

Government Representation: ABC's national government relations department monitors legislation and regulations in Washington, DC, alerting ABC members of matters that impact their businesses and the construction industry. The ABC of Alaska chapter works tirelessly in opposition of union-only Project Labor Agreements through communication, education and grassroots lobbying.

Business Development: ABC is the only association actively promoting merit construction. It is also the only national construction association marketing its member services to construction users through a computerized referral system. Valuable contacts can be made at local chapter functions including membership and committee meetings, seminars and workshops, social events and more.

Discounts: ABC National administers a variety of benefit programs to save members money. ABC of Alaska members receive substantial discounts through a variety of construction industry vendors including Airborne Express, Delta Airlines, Digital Blueprints, F.W. Dodge Construction Information Service and Xerox.

Education and Training: ABC of Alaska has implemented a full-service apprenticeship and craft training program. With training available in a variety of crafts, ABC helps members produce quality journey workers to fulfill work force demands now and in the future. Management and safety training is also available.

Legal Rights: ABCs Construction Legal Rights Foundation provides legal assistance to ABC members for precedent-setting cases. The Chapter Attorney firm, Eide & Miller, provides one free consultation per specific labor issue affecting members. The firm also conducts an annual labor law seminar for ABC members.

Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Alaska Chapter, can be reached at 3380 C Street, Suite 100, Anchorage, Alaska 99503. Phone: (907) 565-5600. Fax: (907) 565-5645. E-mail: abcalaska@micronet.net

More Laborers Needed

One serious problem now facing the construction industry in Alaska is a lack of trained workers. ABC of Alaska, through its nationally affiliated training program, has been addressing the problem.

Locally, ABC was approved as a registered training program with the federal Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training. Now, more than 50 people are enrolled and being trained in nine trades, including: carpentry, electrical, HVAC service and installation, pipe fitter, plumber, roofer, sheet metal worker and sprinkler fitter.
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Article Details
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Author:GUDDE, LEVI
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:962
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