Associated Builders and Contractors’ new “Building America: The Merit Shop Scorecard” reviews and grades state-specific information significant to the success of commercial and industrial construction stakeholders. The meritshopscorecard.org site identifies states that have created an environment where merit shop contractors are well positioned plus those where strategic improvements need to be made in order to create a friendly business climate.
|CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS CLIMATE ON THE MERITS|
|MAP: Associated Builders & Contractors|
The Merit Shop Scorecard grades states on project labor agreement (PLA), prevailing wage and right-to-work policies; construction job growth rate; commitment to developing a well-trained workforce; level of flexibility in career and technical education curricula; and, use of public-private partnerships (P3s).
“The Merit Shop Scorecard will be a useful tool for lawmakers and industry stakeholders to explain how state policies affect the ability of contractors to conduct business and expand their operations,” says ABC Director of Labor and Federal Procurement Ben Brubeck. “[It] highlights high-performing states that have enacted policies opposing anti-competitive schemes and restrictive, cost-inflating mandates while embracing fairness in the workplace. It also identifies low-performing states that have failed to foster environments where businesses can thrive, invest and create construction jobs in local communities.”
The merit shop philosophy, Brubeck adds, holds that people and companies succeed based on free enterprise principles within the free market system, which is characterized by open and fair competition and diverse participants. Those who adhere to this philosophy believe employees and employers have the right to determine wages and working conditions through either individual or collective bargaining, as they choose, within the boundaries of the law. They oppose violence, coercion, intimidation and the denial of the rights of employees and employers. Furthermore, they believe it is incumbent upon all branches of government to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and that government should award contracts based solely on merit to the lowest responsible bidder, regardless of labor affiliation.
Top ranked states such as Arizona, Louisiana and Virginia all received high-performing grades for enacting PLA, prevailing wage and right-to-work policies that favor free enterprise. Conversely, low performing states such as New Mexico, Alaska and New York received poor overall rankings by earning D or F grades for their policies on PLAs, prevailing wage and right-to-work legislation and other measurable categories.
The Merit Shop Scorecard was developed with input from ABC chapters as well as industry stakeholders across the country. The website provides criteria and definitions for the seven key issues on which state policies and records are evaluated: PLAs, P3s, prevailing wage, right to work, workforce development, career and technical education, and job growth rate. The meritshopscorecard.org site will be updated monthly with exclusive state construction unemployment rate estimates from economist Bernard Markstein, Ph.D.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its latest regulatory agenda late last year, indicating priorities and anticipated rulemakings for the Obama administration’s sunset year. The Associated Builders & Contractors reviews key rulemakings or proposals and industry responses:
The DOL Wage and Hour Division plans to issue a final rule in July. Commonly referred to as “the overtime proposal,” the rule would more than double the minimum salary for the white collar overtime exemption and automatically update salary levels on an annual basis.
ABC and the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity requested the agency withdraw the proposal. “If the proposed unprecedented increase in the minimum salary of exempt staff becomes final, it would be extremely disruptive and harmful to both employers and many of their currently exempt employees, and destabilizing to the construction industry as a whole,” ABC commented. As a PPWO member, the group has worked to educate members of Congress on the overtime proposal’s impact on small business.
The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council plans to issue a final rule implementing President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order 13673 in April. Commonly referred to as the blacklisting proposal, it would require federal contractors and subcontractors to disclose any “violations” of 14 federal labor laws which occurred in the three years prior to any procurement for federal government contracts/subcontracts exceeding $500,000. The proposal also requires contractors and subcontractors to update disclosures of labor law violations every six months while performing covered government contracts. Reported violations may then be used to disqualify contractors and/or subcontractors from performing federal work, based on a complicated and seemingly unconstitutional set of agency-proposed procedures.
ABC submitted comments urging withdrawal of the FAR Council’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the DOL’s Notice of Proposed Guidance implementing the blacklisting proposal. Summary of efforts opposing the measure is posted at www.abc.org/blacklisting.
DOL plans to issue a final rule in March on a proposal that would severely narrow long-standing reporting exemptions for employers and third-party experts, and redefine labor relations “advice.” It will greatly restrict employers’ ability to receive third-party advice to educate their employees about collective bargaining. Actions that were previously considered privileged communications or advice would now carry onerous requirements for employers, attorneys and association staff. ABC submitted comments requesting the agency withdraw the proposal.