In California, union workers are waiting to reap the rewards of their leadership’s long fought battle for High-Speed Rail (HSR). The jobs associated with the long-term project are expected to pay solid wages for years and set the new standard for infrastructure spending in the United States.
If there is any doubt about how promising HSR is for workers one must only look to the actions of the anti-worker Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and their longtime lobbyist Kevin Dayton for reassurance. Dayton, in trying to demonize unions on the website Union Watch explains the exact benefits of being in a union and the boon that is coming down the HSR tracks. Dayton laments that unions are benefiting from their political activism and that the HSR project and the good wages associated with it are likely to be viewed as one of the “lasting accomplishments of union labor”:
If this project moves forward, it will become part of the pantheon of huge American infrastructure projects that unions cite when they brag about the lasting accomplishments of union labor. And unions can also claim an essential role in the politics behind its advancement.
HEAVEN FORBID! A SUCCESSFUL AMERICAN INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT! WITH POLITICIANS ON BOARD! WHO WILL EVER FREE US FROM THE TYRANNY OF GOOD JOBS!?
The ABC is so vehemently anti-union that they have, in fact, stopped making sense. Their world is so filled with hate for the union boogeyman that actually building something is now considered a travesty so long as unions are involved. There is a certain sadness to this line of thinking and a childlike spite: we lobbied California’s legislature for an XBOX but they gave us a PlayStation, so now we hate video games.
Dayton further decries that unions used money to lobby for the passage of the ballot proposals that created the funding for these infrastructure projects. Whoa, whoa…wait a second. Not only does the contractors’ association now hate contracts, the lobbyist hates lobbying?
When Proposition 1A was on the November 2008 ballot asking California voters to authorize borrowing $10 billion for the high-speed rail project by selling bonds, unions provided a substantial portion of the campaign funding. Leading the charge was the California Alliance for Jobs.
It is true that in 2008 the California Alliance for Jobs spent $516,500 to help ensure the passage of Proposal 1A. This measure approved the issuance of $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds for the HSR project. However, while Mr. Dayton would have you believe that this is some type of astronomical figure it remains less than what the ABC spent on influencing the 2012 elections.
According to OpenSecrets, the ABC spent $598,235 this past election cycle. Of that total, $318,000 went directly to Republican candidates and $280,000 went directly against Democratic candidates. Zero dollars went to Democrats and zero dollars were spent trying to defeat Republicans.
Now the ABC worldview becomes clearer: lobbying for infrastructure spending, for good jobs and for contractors to have a decade of work = bad. Spending money to one-dimensionally influence elections = good. Got it.
But the ABC does not only fund candidates it also, just as Mr. Dayton suggests union leadership never should, funds causes that would directly benefit its members.
In 2012 alone, the ABC lobbied for anti-union bills such as the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (which is rearing its ugly head this year again), Representation Fairness Restoration Act, Davis-Bacon Repeal Act, Frank Guinta’s Auto Enroll Repeal Act and many others. These proposed laws do nothing but try to limit union activity, wages and work standards. Actually, that’s untrue. They also aim to reward rich ABC donors.
So, if you’re a union member who needs to be reminded that your leadership is in your corner, Kevin Dayton’s argument against unions is a great place to start. After all, if the ABC were in charge, no money would have been spent to bring High-Speed Rail to California and nobody but the anti-worker bosses would have a say in what happens next.