Conservative lawmakers in Virginia's House and Senate are so eager to attack working Virginians, they're throwing smart business protections for taxpayer dollars out the window--and they're doing it with the help of the national, pro-corporate greed group ALEC. Legislation that has been approved by House and Senate committees seeks to prohibit Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), which are actually extremely beneficial to Virginia. Project labor agreements are a market-based tool that sets rules and expectations for management and workers and as a result, projects with PLAs come in on-time and on-budget.
Opposition to a blatantly anti-labor bill is beginning to build in Virginia, and State Senators Dave Marsden and Chap Petersen and Delegate David Englin are among those voicing criticism. House Bill No. 2, introduced by Delegate Bob Marshall, would prohibit Virginia from providing funding for Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metro Project if it is subject to a project labor agreement (PLA).
PLAs don't actually require projects to only hire union workers--they are a tool for taxpayer accountability. PLAs require the use of trained workers and safety standards for contractors, and worked great on Phase 1 of the project, as we pointed out previously. State Senator Dave Marsden said in a statement this week,
"What concerns me is that this bill appears to stem from an anti-union mindset that places ideology over public good and job creation. It could lead to experienced workers who performed well on Phase I being excluded from Phase II, and create the need for the expense of training new workers. Just as importantly, the PLA will create local jobs for a largely local workforce... A PLA is not always necessary on public projects, but I would ask my good friend Delegate Marshall, 'what problem are you trying to solve with this legislation?' It seems that continuing the PLA during Phase II is in keeping with good public policy. Let's not remove what has proven to be successful tool from consideration."
(More below the fold.)
Unions, bruised and battered over the past few years, stand in the middle of a struggle over fundamental American values. Do Americans wish to swing toward a society demarcated by lower and upper classes or a society more equitably constituted by working, middle and upper echelons?
As Verizon would tell it, the decline in revenues over the past few quarters or so justifies an immense reduction in its union employees' health care and pension benefits, affecting nearly 45,000 union employees. All the while, top-level Verizon executives continue to make millions of dollars in annual compensation. Does this sound fair?
Over the last decade, unions in the U.S. have been lambasted as harbingers of entrepreneurial stagnation and economic backwardness. While the assaults on unions in the U.S. are as old as their inception, the precarious position of unions in the 21st Century has led many to question just how long unions can "hang on" in the U.S.
In some cases, union leadership has been unable to distinguish itself from the political players that it proposes to protect its membership against. That is, union corruption throughout some of the highest levels of leadership of disparate unions across the U.S. have left all unions in general with a perceived "legitimacy gap."
This perception has fueled the riotous calls of Republican politicians throughout the U.S. to strip the power of unions. These politicians seem to suggest that unions have become parasites upon the U.S. economy. Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black!
Of course, not all Republican politicians have been so irresponsible in their assessments of unions. That said, it appears that to be a Republican politician in today's political climate, you HAVE to refute the very existence of unions.
But as unions are the bulwarks of the middle class of America, what these Republican politicians are really attacking is the middle class.
Hiding behind their rhetoric of "bureaucratic red tape" and the "entrepreneurial spirit," these demagogues of the super rich claim that unions are an un-American institution, an institution somehow running against the best interests of the country.
What could be more American then the grassroots creation of the various unions throughout the country, however? What could be more American than granting thousands of American citizens the opportunity to live an economically prosperous life, free from the tumultuous tides of an unforgiving global economic structure?
What IS un-American is the attempt by the super rich and their political stooges to concentrate America's wealth and political power into the hands of an elite minority.
Whether or not the power of union's rises or falls, one thing is for certain: unions themselves represent a socially rich country, one that seeks to give its citizens a relatively fruitful standard of living.