Brent Booker, secretary-treasurer of North America’s Building Trade Unions (NABTU), addressed attendees at a Union Contractors Committee-sponsored session during AGC of America’s Annual Convention in New Orleans, LA, on Feb. 26. He talked about NABTU’s current priorities and key activities, including the Capital Strategies program, craft training, infrastructure funding legislation, multiemployer pension plans, and owner community engagement.
NABTU’s Capital Strategies program seeks to ensure that building trade pension funds are invested in a manner consistent with the trades’ long-term interests. It is an effort to leverage the assets of such funds to benefit unions and union contractors, Booker explained. To provide greater leverage, NABTU has developed a database that shows how much the funds have invested in particular owners’ portfolios, he said. Booker reported that NABTU has negotiated a deal with Blackstone under which Blackstone agreed to adopt a responsible contractor policy that will establish standards for safety, health care benefits, training, and more for construction workers on Blackstone infrastructure projects. A similar deal has been reached with Carlyle Group, he said.
Booker also spoke about the Apprenticeship Readiness programs that NABTU has begun to put in place around the country. These pre-apprenticeship programs focus on “underserved communities,” Booker explained, quickly giving individuals the basic skills they need in a short timeframe to provide a pathway to a career in the building trades. He described examples of such programs in Los Angeles, Chicago, and at Plant Vogtle, and how the programs vary in features and focus.
On multiemployer pensions, Booker echoed sentiments and information expressed earlier in the meeting by Denise Gold, AGC’s associate general counsel, about the importance of composite plan legislation and about the effectiveness of NABTU and AGC’s cooperation on pension legislation advocacy. He also advised that NABTU opposes any increase in Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation premiums, at least as a starting point for discussion.
In response to a question from the audience, Booker spoke about NABTU’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis and to help abusers become “clean” and return to work. He noted that NABTU recently established an Opioid Task Force that met for the first time on Jan. 3 and is currently in a fact-finding phase to collect information about the various programs already in place. Booker extended an invitation for AGC to join the task force, which AGC promptly accepted.
The Union Contractors Committee also held an open steering committee meeting during the convention. The meeting featured a roundtable discussion of such topics as a growing problem with project labor agreements that have regressive jurisdictional terms, the pros and cons of using professional trustees for benefit fund boards, the Operating Engineers’ new international training center and request for national training fund contributions, paid sick leave mandates, and recently adopted hybrid multiemployer pension plans.
AGC members and chapter staff interested in continuing the discussion beyond the convention can do so via the Union Contractors eForum (an email-based discussion group like a Listserv) and via quarterly conference calls. Conference calls are scheduled for the following dates in 2018, beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time: June 7, September 13, and December 13. Registration information will be provided via the eForum closer to the dates.