The Quality Construction Alliance — a coalition of five union construction associations, including TAUC — held its annual National Issues Conference in Washington, D.C. April 27-29. It was a chance for union contractors from across the country to gather together and meet with their legislators to discuss a variety of very important policy issues.
Tuesday morning’s session was held at the Newseum’s rooftop conference space, offering attendees breathtaking views of the skyline of Washington, DC and the Capitol Building. Former Senator Norm Coleman moderated the first panel presentation entitled “Building Tomorrow’s Private Pensions: Hybrid Plans for the Multiemployer World.” Preston Rutledge, Tax & Benefits Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee; Randy DeFrehn, Executive Director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Pension Plans; and U.S. Congressman Phil Roe, M.D. of Tennessee all participated on the panel.
Congressman David McKinley of the 1st District of West Virginia gave an impassioned speech on the need for energy-efficient building as a way to save energy, save money and create jobs. “While many of our challenges are complicated and won’t get solved overnight, energy efficiency is one area where we can find common ground,” he argued.
Representative Jim Renacci of the 16th District of Ohio and Representative Bill Pascrell of the 8th District of New Jersey both spoke on the need for sound infrastructure and procurement policy to ensure that the United States remains the most cost effective location in the world to conduct business, while ensuring the safety of our roads and bridges for its citizens.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Representative Rodney Davis of the 13th District of Illinois, Representative Ryan Costello of the 6th District of Pennsylvania, and Dr. David Weil, Administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, also presented on a range of topics at the conference.
Contractors Hit the Hill
After the sessions concluded, contractors headed for Capitol Hill, where they met with their local representatives to discuss many issues, including:
Multiemployer Pension Reform: TAUC members asked their elected officials to support new plan design rules for multiemployer pension plans – specifically, a composite model that is distinct from both the traditional defined benefit model and the defined contribution model. This would accomplish the final piece of the multiemployer pension reform proposal, “Solutions Not Bailouts,” and bi-partisan support is expected. The composite model would enable multiemployer pension plans to voluntarily adopt more flexible plan structures that would reduce risks for contributing employers but still provide reliable, lifetime income for secure retirement for workers. A hearing on new plan design is being held April 29th in the Education and Workforce Committee.
Transportation Infrastructure Investment: Attendees asked their representatives to support efforts to enact multi-year surface transportation and aviation authorization bills prior to the expiration of current programs and encourage the use of public/private partnerships.
Federal Construction Procurement Reforms: QCA supports a number of procurement reforms including H.R. 838, the Security Bonding Act, to ensure contractors who post a bond for federal work have accessible and tangible assets to cover a default for the benefit of the taxpayer and responsible contractors. QCA also supports H.R. 1481, the Small Contractors Improve Competition Act, specifically because there are provisions included in the bill that would prohibit reverse auctions for award of small business construction contracts.
Energy Efficiency: Representatives were asked to co-sponsor the bi-partisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness bill in the Senate (S. 720) or its House companion bill, which had not yet been introduced. This legislation would encourage efficiency upgrades through tax credits and state grant programs, R & D funding and updated building codes and create good, high paying skilled jobs.
Congressional offices were asked to contact Senator Shaheen’s office to see about cosponsoring another bill – the Heat Efficiency through Applied Technology Act, or HEAT Act – before it is introduced. The bill would spur investment in combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat to power (WHP). Producing heat and electricity from one source and capturing waste heat from industrial processes both offer significant economic, reliability and environmental benefits and would create jobs & energy security.
Davis-Bacon: Lastly, attendees pushed Congress to oppose any efforts to repeal Davis-Bacon either as a stand-alone bill such as H.R. 987, the Davis-Bacon Repeal Act, or piecemeal as amendments to Appropriations bills (such as the Energy and Water Appropriations bill or other public construction bills). Prevailing wage simply protects local workers and the economies of local communities on federal government projects. Davis-Bacon is not the union rate; it is based on locally prevailing wages in an area regardless of the density of the local union workforce.
As the conference drew to a close on Wednesday, April 29, Representative Donald Norcross of the 1st District of New Jersey and a former assistant business manager for IBEW Local 351 spoke to the attendees on the need to have union contractors and their partners in the labor movement play an active role on Capitol Hill for the good of the industry. North America’s Building Trades Unions Secretary-Treasurer Brent Booker closed the event by echoing the need for union contractors and labor to work together to push pro union construction and maintenance agendas forward for the betterment of our collective industry.