The U.S. economy is thriving, business is booming, and elected officials at all levels of government are responsive to the needs of the construction industry, small businesses and their employees. Though that statement is something to aspire to, it doesn’t represent the current environment. Much remains to be done to fix the economy and educate legislators on the challenges facing merit shop contractors.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is dedicated to furthering the merit shop philosophy and promoting legislation that benefits the construction industry, but the truth is these efforts are incomplete without the involvement of business leaders. Their valuable knowledge and personal experience give them the unique ability to explain how elected officials’ actions directly impact construction businesses.

Elected officials in the U.S. Congress, state legislatures and local governments need constituents’ input to do their jobs as effectively as possible. They rely on the public to tell them how existing and proposed laws and regulations affect families, the construction industry, and individual companies and employees.

So far this year, thousands of ABC members have participated in grassroots activities by submitting comments and making the Obama administration aware of the damaging effects of its proposed rules and policies promulgated through the Department of Labor (DOL), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

For example, regulators at the NLRB reissued a proposed rule that drastically shortens the time frame for union representation elections and undermines employer free speech and due process rights. The rule also strips employees’ right to make an informed decision about union representation while violating their privacy by requiring employers to hand over phone numbers and email addresses to union organizers. More than 1,200 ABC members submitted comments on how this rule would directly impact their business, and the battle continues as ABC members ask Congress to do everything possible to rein in out-of-control agencies.

Concerned ABC members also have submitted comments on an alarming proposed rule from OHSA that drastically lowers the Permissible Exposure Limit for respirable crystalline silica to a level not technologically or economically feasible for the construction industry. Another proposed rule from OHSA would require employers to electronically submit injury and illness records (300A, 300 and 301), which would be made publicly available through a searchable online database with the potential for confidential business details to be disclosed to competitors and anyone aiming to threaten or disrupt the security and overall operations ofa business. Employers also would be required to submit sensitive personal information about their employees.

These regulations are just a small sample of the onslaught of attacks that have occurred during the past few years. Without a demand for change from those most affected by these onerous, business-crushing rules, uninformed elected officials and regulators will continue unabated. Lawmakers also need to know how the health care law, tax proposals, immigration reform and project labor agreements will impact construction businesses and their employees.

Now is the time for action and education. Following are five things companies can do to make an impact this year.
  • Stay informed. Download the ABC Action app (available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices)and respond to action alerts, learn about elected officials’ voting records and get detailed briefs on important ABC issues.
  • Support ABC PAC. Contributions are combined with others to jointly support candidates, providing a unified and powerful voice for the merit shop agenda. It is also an opportunity to participate in one of the largest pro-business PACs in the nation.
  • Talk to employees. Employees trust their boss’ opinion more than any political ad on television. Communicate to them how specific policies are making it harder for them to find work, why their health insurance costs are rising and which fringe benefits the company is providing them.
  • Plan an office tour or schedule a site visit. Invite a legislator to see the industry at work and meet employees. This is a great way to show elected officials how their actions impact businesses and employees directly. Use this as an opportunity to develop or reinforce a relationship with the elected official and discuss relevant issues. Keep in mind: It is not necessary to be a member of the same political party as a legislator, or to agree with him or her on every issue. If legislators learn to trust and respect someone’s views, that person will become  a valuable resource to them on all construction and business-related issues. For more information on how to conduct a successful site visit, visit www.abc.org/ga.
  • Host an event. Inviting a legislator to meet with a group of ABC member companies is an easy way to create a lasting impression and relationship. Though it may sound intimidating at first, organizing a meeting is very simple and can be done in a variety of settings (e.g., luncheons, dinners or informal coffee hours).
This year, elections for all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 36 U.S. Senate seats, 36 governorships, and numerous state legislative and local government offices will take place Nov. 4. The incumbents and challengers are campaigning and want to learn as much about their constituents as possible. Take advantage of this opportunity to elevate the voice of the merit shop construction industry and directly advocate for the needs of businesses and employees.


Chris Carroll is director of grassroots for Associated Builders and Contractors. For more information, email carroll@abc.org.