For those who do not know or who have not been asked to accept an award from them in the recent months, The Associated Builders and Contractors of New Jersey (ABCNJ) is an association of open shop contracting firms. These firms focus on a race to the bottom where they look to undercut bids by cutting their costs. This results in lower wages, less training, and a lower quality project that ends up costing taxpayers billions of dollars because the ABCNJ subsidize the poor wages of workers. A recent study by the University of California Berkeley reveals that 39% of construction workers are forced to enroll in one or more safety net programs to make ends meet, these programs cost the taxpayer $28 billion annually. The ABC’s goal is to make open shop models THE model for the state of New Jersey. They do this by pushing anti-worker legislation and ordinances. For example, the ABCNJ lobbied in Parsippany last year against a Project Labor Agreement requiring 20% of the workforce hours to be local residents.
ABCNJ is moving to garner more political support by granting awards to local politicians who may or may not know that the ABCNJ political goals are at odds with their constituents. The ABC awards are meant to build bridges with local politicians while building walls between lawmakers and local workers. Politicians who are offered these awards should understand the policies of the organization in which they are being honored. Oftentimes, these awards are given to lawmakers that haven’t even passed legislation related to the construction industry.
It’s a practice the ABCNJ uses: Giving sham construction-related awards to politicians. They believe that this will create an opportunity to allow them to get their political agenda pushed in hopes of capturing votes on anti-worker legislation. ABCNJ is underestimating local politicians by thinking they will fall into this trap.
“This is a common ploy, and organizations use it to gain media attention and hype the importance of the politicians,” said public relations expert Tom Peric. “Some so-called awards have no substance behind them that might demonstrate action or positive effort. Instead, organizations use these types of awards to give themselves a reason for a press release and potential media coverage. When that press release goes out, the politician accepting the award shows a public endorsement of the ABCNJ’s anti-working-class aspirations.”
When politicians accept awards from the ABCNJ, it sends a message to the working people of their district that the legislator they voted for supports an organization that works tirelessly against the working class.
Once you scratch the surface of these awards, you’ll note that they are always about politics and not about creating jobs, offering skilled apprenticeship programs, or keeping workers near their homes and supporting the local economy. It’s never about the working class but instead favors big profits from contractors while exploiting the pay of workers. It is clear to see these awards are not about helping the community but garnering political favors. The award stands against local jobs, skilled workers and a fair market.
The sooner our legislators recognize the real meaning behind these phony awards, the better it will be for New Jersey taxpayers. This is a fitting moment to remind all New Jersey legislators that they derive their actual award from being elected by their constituents and not accepting meaningless honors that hurt their voter base. They can instead focus on keeping New Jersey the best state to work and live by opposing legislation that hurts local workers and supporting legislation that benefits working class New Jersey residents.
Frank Mahoney is the Communication Director for the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.