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Aug. 29, 2017

Labor Day: American workers’ real Independence Day

Americans sometimes hear criticism about our national “obsession” with work. It is a value embedded in the fabric of our country.

Americans sometimes hear criticism about our national “obsession” with work. It is a value embedded in the fabric of our country. When the Puritans emigrated to New England, they brought with them to the New World the work ethic which helped define their faith. It created the culture of what eventually became the United States of America.

German sociologist and economist Max Weber coined the phrase “Protestant work ethic” which eventually came to be known as the “Puritan work ethic” in his 1905 book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber credited this value as an important force behind the emergence of modern capitalism, which flourished in the United States.

Americans value our legacy and the benefits we derive from hard work. It is an outlook truly unique to this country. To many of us, the right to work and make our own fortunes is the ultimate expression of freedom and liberty.

This rich history makes Labor Day a uniquely American holiday. Labor Day became an official federal holiday in the United States thanks to approval by Congress in 1894. The only other nation who now joins the U.S. in recognizing Labor Day is Canada, a nation with a similar philosophy and pride in the value of a day’s work.

As a representative via this column of the merit shop construction industry, we value a true culture of competition. Competition fosters excellence in our system, and may the best company win. What we don’t want is battling through artificial barriers for the ability to work. Complicated tax codes, set-asides, bureaucratic loopholes, and other anti-competitive practices do not benefit our nation in the long run.

We applaud President Trump’s recent executive order to eliminate and streamline some permitting regulations and to speed construction of roads, bridges and pipelines to fix our nation’s “badly broken” infrastructure system in America.

Today, the construction industry needs to hire a staggering 500,000 workers just to fill a backlog of existing jobs. The Associated Builders and Contractors believes this number could jump to 1 million jobs once America’s infrastructure rebuilding initiative is fully underway.

President Trump’s executive order to expand apprenticeship opportunities will help stem the skills gap and meet the nation’s high demand for skilled labor.

The next important step is to ensure government-financed rebuilding projects are awarded fairly through open competition, giving all American workers the equal opportunity to work on them.

We need to eliminate regulations that restrict competition for government contracts and exclude the 86 percent of the U.S. construction workforce that chooses not to join a union from rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

When governments mandate project labor agreements on publicly funded projects, it effectively stifles fair and open competition, chills job creation and prevents taxpayers from getting the best return on investment for our roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.

We do not apologize for being strongly pro-competition. We oppose discrimination and favoritism in all aspects of construction, from the employment of workers to the award of construction contracts. We believe the merit shop movement is a movement that celebrates the freedom of the individual worker, not just on Labor Day, but every day. It is a movement that celebrates the American system of free enterprise.

Two dozen states have already acted to ensure that all firms and workers can compete for government contracts, regardless of union affiliation, saving an estimated 12 to 18 percent in construction costs (source: thetruthaboutplas.com). Governor Jerry Brown should join them and make sure California’s taxpayers get the same value for their money.

The vast majority of construction workers – nearly 87 percent – do not to belong to a labor organization. Instead, they have made the decision to apply their professional craft skills in a free-enterprise, open-competition environment.

ABC is in no way anti-union. Throughout American history, the labor movement can take credit for making workplaces safer and holding employers to fair standards. Unions should continue to support worker choice and a level playing field for business competition.

Constructions professionals whether merit-shop or union-affiliated take pride in our work. We want all employees to come home safely at night to their families. We take enormous pleasure in pointing to a new school, hospital or hotel and saying to our kids, “I helped build that.”

The contributions of the construction industry are vitally important to a healthy American economy. What better time to celebrate the sweat, hard work and dedication of the American construction craft professional.

On behalf of all ABC San Diego members, we wish you and your family a happy Labor Day.

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