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WOULD YOU PAY AN ELECTRICIAN TO CHANGE YOUR LIGHT BULB? CONGRESS WOULD, ABC SAYS; SENATE TO DECIDE TODAY FATE OF 'HELPERS' ON FEDERAL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

WOULD YOU PAY AN ELECTRICIAN TO CHANGE YOUR LIGHT BULB? CONGRESS
 WOULD, ABC SAYS; SENATE TO DECIDE TODAY FATE OF 'HELPERS'
 ON FEDERAL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
 WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Steven D. Westra, president, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., issued the following:
 The Senate will decide today whether to fund a regulation which could help invigorate the construction industry and bring the work practices and costs of public construction more in line with those of the private sector.
 The issue surrounds whether contractors can use a helper category on public construction work. On private construction jobs, a "helper" refers to the entry-level worker who performs many of the unskilled/semi-skilled tasks necessary on a jobsite that would otherwise be done by a trained craftsman at $15 to $30 an hour. Contractors working in the public sector, however, while they are allowed to use helpers, must pay them the same rate they would normally pay a skilled craftsman or journeyman. A contractor would be required to pay a helper top dollar, for instance, just to remove a pile of bricks away from a doorway.
 Organized labor has given the task of defeating helpers its highest legislative priority. A provision to permanently ban helpers has been ingeniously hidden in a bill created to provide emergency relief to recent hurricane victims. President Bush, who has promised to veto any efforts to kill the helper provision, must now weigh the risks of how it would appear to delay any relief efforts.
 When the Department of Labor attempted to implement helper regulations, organized labor balked. For years unions have sought to limit or prohibit the use of helpers. They argue that the use of helpers would create a permanent class of unskilled labor. In reality, the unions fear that helpers could one day compete with union members for jobs. Supporters of helpers maintain that their use lowers the cost of labor and helps create jobs. As young people are increasingly exposed to the construction industry, they have a greater opportunity to pursue the training necessary to explore a career as a skilled craftsman.
 Organized labor's long-running battle with the Department of Labor and non-union contractors over the use of helpers has lasted, so far, 11 years. When the DOL first tried to implement the regulations in 1982, it was promptly challenged by the building trade unions in court. A U.S. District Court in 1990 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1992, both upheld the helper regulations. The next stop, but by no means the last, will be the Supreme Court, where organized labor has requested that the court review the appeals court decision.
 At a time when unemployment in the construction industry is at record levels and the federal deficit continues to climb unabated, there is no sound basis for standing in the he way of these cost- saving and job-creating regulations.
 -0- 9/15/92
 /CONTACT: Dick Haas or Mike Henderson of Associated Builders and Contractors, 202-637-8800/ CO: Associated Builders and Contractors ST: District of Columbia IN: CST SU: LEG


TW -- DC008 -- 9549 09/15/92 10:45 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 15, 1992
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