A Suggested Tea Party Agenda

December 27, 2010 by
Filed under: The Right Answer 

So the Tea Party Republicans are looking for places to save money.  Excellent.  I have a few suggestions that will not only save money for the nation as a whole but also a bundle for the transit community.

While our current federal budget provides a target-rich environment for budget cutters, here are my favorites:

Davis-Bacon Act– A depression era act (1931) which didn’t have a whole lot to do with the depression, the act was primarily designed to keep outside interlopers from swooping in and undercutting local contractors for local construction projects (and, oh, by the way, keeping minorities from taking advantage of employment opportunities).  It stayed on the books and became a huge friend of the labor unions as it required federal construction projects to pay “prevailing wages”.  Prevailing wages are determined by the Department of Labor and basically equal the local union wage scale.  If even if a small percentage of a project is funded by the federal government, this requirement is invoked, resulting in the kiss of death for any number of potential projects across the nation that would depend on federal funds to successfully get off the ground.  It has been estimated that this act, by inflating labor wage rates, costs American taxpayers $8 billion annually (and a $100 million in administrative costs) Not exactly chicken feed.  Repeal this act and, presto, we’ve saved a pot full.  Keep in mind the legendary Senator Everett Dirksen’s (R-IL) quip that “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you talking real money.”

Project Labor Agreement– Allow me to introduce the Project Labor Agreement, or PLA.  When a Democratic Administration comes into power, an executive order is quickly issued putting PLAs into effect.  When a Republican Administration is ushered in, the E.O. is just as speedily rescinded.  What exactly is a PLA?  Well, for federal construction projects using $25 million or more in federal funds, it requires contractors to sign a pre-hire agreement recognizing unions as the sole and exclusive bargaining representatives for the project, and requires employees to either join the union or pay union dues if they elect not to join.  Contractors are required to hire from union hiring halls. In return, all labor unions on the project pledge not to strike during the duration of the project.  A sweet deal?  You betcha.  Requiring a union shop effectively precludes non-union contractors.  PLAs are promulgated under the guise of introducing stability and predictability in large, complex federal construction projects.  In actuality, they impose union labor rates, restrictive union work rules and unnecessarily increase the costs of the project.

13(c) Labor Protections– The enabling legislation establishing the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now the Federal Transit Administration) in 1964 contained a provision requiring union sign-off on every grant the agency makes.  Without the sign-off, no grant can legally be made.  It may have made sense in 1964 when the act went into affect and the industry was transitioning from the private to the public sector.  The provision was designed to protect existing labor – management agreements when private transit companies were acquired by public authorities (private transit operations hit the bottom in 1963, when transit in the aggregate became unprofitable, the result of decades of massive government highway spending).   The original transit legislation provided funds for these acquisitions, preserving failing transit operations across the country.  Although its original purpose has long since been made obsolete, the provision endures on the books (under 49 U.S.C., section 5333(b)) and is used as a hammer when needed by the transit unions to pressure balky transit authorities to accept the union view on labor issues.  No other transportation program has such a provision.  It is certainly nothing the federal highway program has to worry about.

Tea Party Republicans could do worse.   Although I abhor litmus tests, perhaps action (or no action) on these issues would signal how serious our new budget cutters are about tackling the federal deficit.  Sacred cows must be corralled.  Do I hear mooing?

[To our readers: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy, Bountiful New Year in 2011!!]


5 Responses to “A Suggested Tea Party Agenda”

  1. sal magundi says:

    “a Happy, Bountiful New Year in 2011!!”

    except of course to working americans in unions

    • Glen Bottoms says:

      I certainly don’t begrudge Unions their due. Quite to the contrary, they are free to seek the maximum benefits for their membership. I am also free to advocate a more affordable future in this country in both private and public sectors. Mandating certain wage levels (Davis- Bacon, or Project Labor Agreements for example) and creating playing fields titled to certain special interest groups, whether they be unions, big business or other organizations, unnecessarily increase costs. I invite you to read the interview of Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL-CIO, by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post [Overtaxing the Rich isn’t the Answer– The Washington Post- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/06/AR2010070603210_pf.html] for exposure to views that are every bit as narrow as those of the anti-tax zealots.

      Maybe I should adjust my ending salutation. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Realistic Expectations for All in 2011!!!

      Glen Bottoms

  2. david Peterson says:

    A large percentage of TEA Party members like myself are ordinary working people. As the Depression/Recession in the U.S. deepens, reasonable and honest people are waking up to the fact that the union movement has been virtually eradicated by the “free trade” and anti-labor policies of the two party commissars, and the Wall St. controlled U.S. media.
    In the current, “race to the bottom,” middle class families are becoming impoverished and turned into a new proletariat with declining wages, pensions stolen and serial unemployment. As the existance of the Tea Party attests, over the last 25 years, voters are becoming more and more powerless. Like Wall St and Govt., many unions have indeed been guilty of corruption which needs to be cleaned up. However, America also needs to again be a nation where working people have dignity, the right to organize and are treated as first class citizens. The destruction of unions also contributes to Bigger Government, as citizens have no other option to try to have their legitimate concerns addressed.

  3. beowulf says:

    Interesting pst Glen. Soo would you trade all of those for Labor lawyer Tom Geoghehan’s idea for making union membership a civil right? (and I wonder if the AFL-CIO would):

    “3. Make it a civil right to join, or not to join, a labor union.
    Remember: organized labor is not our base. The working people of the country are our base. We have to repackage labor law reform, even over the protest of organized labor itself… instead of trying to fiddle with an old 1935 law based on a collectivist view of the world, let’s bring labor law up to date. How? Let’s amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to give the same individual type of civil right to join—or, yes, not to join—a union… If we amend the Civil Rights Act and let people go to court for any employer reprisal to block a union, and to let the rank and file get their own lawyers and start handing out subpoenas, we’ll get back a labor movement fast….

    But how to sell it? Tell people their rights will trump the rights of the union as an institution.

    “That includes the right not to pay dues, not to pay a cent, i.e., a completely voluntary labor movement. “My God, unions will never survive.” I want to say, Nonsense: they all survive in Europe… the people who benefit from such large-scale bargaining in a country like Germany are free not to pay—and many don’t. So what? Many do—up to 20 percent of the workers in the country. Yet collective bargaining covers more than 50 percent of workers. So, what do we do about the free riders? Let them ride.

    “Yes, I worry it won’t work here. I don’t propose to tear down the existing compulsory dues structure all at once. After all, I have to make a living representing unions. But I think ultimately there is no alternative, in a culture so radically individualistic, but to opt for a voluntary model, whether we have European-type labor laws in place or not.

    “Otherwise, if it is not voluntary, as it is in social democratic Europe, it is hard to see why Americans would vote in yet another institution they cannot influence democratically. Albert Hirschman, the great Princeton economist, contends that to be accountable, institutions have to offer either “voice” or “exit.” That is, people either need to really run the institution or to have an easy way out. Organized labor offers neither. That’s why people distrust it.

    “I’d prefer to increase voice, to let the rank and file rule. But it’s still impossible to get real union democracy. So the only way to do it seems to be the European way, to let people opt out and make membership voluntary. If that happens, unions here will behave like socialist-type unions in Europe, constantly trying to market themselves and please the members so they will keep paying dues.”

  4. beowulf says:

    Thanks for the feedback Glen. I actually don’t have a problem with private sector unionization, if you treat your employees such that they want a union, you probably have it coming to you. Obviously govt mandates to pay union wages, such as Davis-Bacon, are another matter. Thanks for the Trumka link. Odd that a labor leader missed the obvious answer — challenge the premise that a 3% budget deficit is a reasonable goal. So long as we carry a 4-6% of GDP trade deficit, the budget deficit has to be at least that high simply to counteract the demand drain.

    I apologize for the lengthy quote above. Geoghegan’s article is rather long and I was trying to put the meat of his point up without the reader having to click through, didn’t mean to go overboard.

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