President Must Act Soon, or Trump Infrastructure Plan is Doomed
A late 2017 New York Times story exposed how extraordinarily counterproductive Big Labor work rules and union featherbedding on construction have helped make the Big Apple subway undeniably the most expensive and arguably the worst maintained public transit system in any wealthy country in the world.
Metro investigative reporter Brian M. Rosenthal’s December 29 article, entitled “The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth,” began with a jarring example of union-boss abuse:
“An accountant discovered the discrepancy while reviewing the budget for new train platforms under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.
“The budget showed that 900 workers were being paid to dig caverns for the platforms as part of a 3.5-mile tunnel connecting the historic station to the Long Island Railroad. But the accountant could only identify 700 jobs that needed to be done, according to three project supervisors. Officials could not find any reason for the other 200 people to be there.
‘“Nobody knew what those people were doing, if they were doing anything,’ said Michael Horodniceanu, who was then the head of construction at the Met-ropolitan Transportation Authority [MTA], which runs transit in New York. The workers were laid off, Mr. Horodniceanu said, but no one figured out how long they had been employed. ‘All we knew is that they were each being paid about $1000 every day.’”
Outrageous Abuses Would Never Happen if Union-Free Hardhats Could Compete Fairly For Jobs
How did the mind-numbing exploitation of New York and federal taxpayers described by Mr. Horodniceanu happen?
The sad fact is, it and countless other similar abuses in public works projects occurred because construction union bosses endowed by a public policy with the monopoly-bargaining power to negotiate with contractors over terms and conditions of employment wanted them to happen.
And it is largely as a consequence of Big Labor-engineered featherbedding and other wasteful practices that it is now costing taxpayers $3.5 billion per mile for the MTA to bring the Long Island Rail Road to the East Side of Manhattan.
Government construction deals that mandate bizarre union-boss work rules such as requirements for “nippers” to watch items being moved from one place to another and inflate wages to levels that are unheard of outside of government-financed projects bilk taxpayers.
And they leave the MTA without the money it needs to make necessary mass transit repairs and upgrades.
Of course, if the 85% of American hardhats who are union-free and their employers were allowed to compete fairly for MTA and other federal taxpayer-funded public works contracts, construction union bosses would not be able to get away with plundering the people who pay for such projects.
Davis-Bacon Forces Bidders To Follow Big Labor-Dictated Work Rules
Unfortunately, in 2018, a woefully misguided law known as Davis-Bacon, which was signed by Big Labor-appeasing GOP President Herbert Hoover in March 1931 — 17 months into the Great Depression — continues to put union-free hardhats at a gross disadvantage in competing for federal contracts.
In a commentary published last spring by The Hill, a daily newspaper that bills itself as “the publication of record for policy influencers inside and outside Washington,” National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix explained how Davis-Bacon hurts union-free workers, businesses and taxpayers:
“By forcing bidding to follow union-dictated job classifications, work rules, compliance requirements and cherry-picked union pay scales, Davis-Bacon enables Big Labor to feed at the taxpayers’ trough on federal contracts.”
The ideal and permanent solution for the unfairness and excessive and unnecessary spending caused by Davis-Bacon is the congressional repeal of this nearly nine-decade-old relic.
However, even with self-avowed opponents of monopolistic unionism now wielding operational control over the U.S. House and Senate and the White House, Davis-Bacon repeal remains an uphill battle.
Any attempt to revoke this special-interest law would be opposed by virtually all Democrat politicians and by a significant number of weak-kneed Republican elected officials.
Fortunately, as Mr. Mix noted in his op-ed, the Davis-Bacon Act itself “expressly provides” for its suspension by the President of the United States in times of “emergency.”
Would President Donald Trump be criticized by Big Labor politicians for declaring there is an infrastructure emergency?
Of course, he would. But given that Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s opponent in the 2016 general election, herself said publicly during the campaign that the “state of our infrastructure is an emergency,” the partisan criticism would ring hollow.
Indeed, over the years, Davis-Bacon has already been suspended four times during emergencies declared by four different presidents, including Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who declared a purely economic emergency in 1934.
“Suspending Davis-Bacon by executive order . . . [ultimately] could save the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars, and stop billions of taxpayer dollars from being diverted into union coffers in the form of mandatory union dues and fees,” wrote Mr. Mix in The Hill.
President Can Stop Infrastructure Bill From Bilking Taxpayers
Right to Work leaders and members are currently trying to convince the President to suspend Davis-Bacon before Congress takes up legislation to address what is widely regarded as our nation’s infrastructure crisis.
By the time this month’s Newsletter edition reaches its readers, Congress is expected to have already received a plan from the Trump Administration calling for the expenditure of a trillion dollars, including at least $200 billion in federal taxpayer money, on infrastructure improvements and modernization. The money would be spent over the next decade.
“There is a widespread consensus across America,” observed Mr. Mix, “that the deteriorating state of roads, highways, waterways, ports, and other structures constitutes a national emergency.
“Assuming that is indeed the case, there is all the more reason to ensure that hardworking taxpayers get the biggest possible bang for their buck on federal public works.
“But study after study by independent researchers has shown that Davis-Bacon raises total construction costs substantially. One finding, cited in a 2007 Con-gressional Research Service report, is that the jack up could be as high as 38%!
“And Davis-Bacon effectively limits federal public works projects to politically-connected unionized firms at the expense of the 85% of American hardhats who have chosen to accept a job with an independent construction company. That’s morally indefensible.
“Fortunately, President Trump can stop taxpayers from being bilked and enable union-free construction employees and employers to compete fairly for pub-lic works contracts by suspending this unjust law.”
Well aware that previous GOP administrations have been willing to cede federal labor policy on issues like Davis-Bacon to a relative handful of union boss-intimidated Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Right to Work Committee began mobilizing public support for Davis-Bacon suspension over a year ago.
Committee Public Mobilization Campaign Began in Early 2017
“In 2017, the Committee contacted tens of thousands of identified grass-roots foes of compulsory unionism across America to urge them to sign petitions to President Trump calling for Davis-Bacon suspension,” said Mr. Mix.
After the White House infrastructure proposal is presented to Congress, the Committee will be prepared to expand dramatically its public mobilization campaign if necessary.
“The President ran in 2016 on putting Americans back to work, on rebuilding our country’s infrastructure to make it serve the needs of 21st Century em-ployees and employers and other citizens, and slashing government waste,” recalled Mr. Mix.
“It will be a disaster for our country, as well as the Trump presidency, if the White House allows one of Mr. Trump’s signature programs to be commandeered by Big Labor to serve its own agenda over the public interest.
“The Right to Work Committee is determined not to let that happen.”