An excerpt from The Business Roundtable and American Labor
By J. C. Turner, General President International Union of
Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO May 1979.
I believe we must know the enemy first, while we fight the "Open Shop" and other means to destroy our way of life as Union Proud,Carpenters, in 2017.
It's worth a read. Just one man's perspective.
Business Roundtable, with one subcommittee
concentrating on construction and another subcommittee focusing on labor law. But most
importantly, by 1978, this new federation boasted of almost two hundred corporate members
and let me tell you there’s only one membership qualification: you’ve got to be big.
In fact, a professor up at Rutgers University, Dr. Phillip Burch, has just completed a report on
the Roundtable membership. He found that Roundtable members were almost all members of
the Fortune 500 and that almost all of them are drawn from the top ranks of this elite group. In
fact, the total sales of Business Roundtable members last year was over ¾ of a trillion dollars.
That’s more than the total GNP of every man, woman and child in Germany, Belgium, The
Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Burch came up with another interesting discovery. Ninety-one percent of Roundtable members
are drawn from heavy industrials and utilities. He also established that there are overwhelming
ties between the governing body of the Roundtable and the large financial institutions of this
country with nearly 70 percent of the Roundtable’s governing board tied to these institutions.
And how is the Roundtable governed? Burch established that the Roundtable as a whole meets
only once a year. Its governing power rests in the Policy Committee which meets every two
weeks and believe me you don’t see any small businessmen on that committee. In fact, only
the chief executive officer of a company can be represented on the Policy Committee.
The Policy Committee members include A.T.&T., ALCOA, Chrysler, du Pont, G.E., Union
Carbide, U.S. Steel, Sears and Roebuck, Exxon, Goodyear, Hewlett-Packard, Continental
Corporation, B.F. Goodrich, Bethlehem Steel, National Steel, Milliken and Company, Kennecott
Copper, and IBM – to name a prominent few.
Since 1975, the Roundtable has started 17 national task forces on virtually every aspect of the
American economy including those dealing with anti-trust, energy, the environment, foreign
investment, international trade, government regulation, taxation, wage price controls, labor
legislation, and corporate organization. The Roundtable also has a standing Economic
Research Committee of top flight economists. This committee commissioned the widely
publicized study produce by the Wharton School on why Davis-Bacon should be repealed. It
has also placed several articles about economics and inflation in the Reader’s Digest, a
magazine that goes into homes of one out of every four American families.
Finally, the Roundtable has a Government Relations Committee which maintains close ties with
every major government official through the chief executive officers. It’s been involved in
fighting every major piece of labor and progressive legislation in the last ten years including
Equal Treatment for Construction Workers, Consumer Protection, and Labor Law Reform. They
are now leading the fight for the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.
I would now like to turn away from the history and structure of the Business Roundtable and
focus on the present. When I began this speech, I mentioned to you the four strategic areas
where the Roundtable is focusing its enormous economic resources to literally attempt the total annihilation of the organized construction industry. These four areas are (1) the sabotage of established local bargaining patterns through intervention in the collective bargaining processes
by the local construction user groups, (2)the establishment of the open shop sector and in
particular, the ABC, to use it as a wedge between the building trade and union contractors, (3)
the funding and support of litigation aimed at destroying the legal protections afforded
construction workers, and (4) the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act. Let me now turn to a closer
examination of each of these areas.
First, what has been the role of the national and local user groups in local bargaining? They
have brought extensive pressure to bear on local contractors to form local or regional bargaining
units. This was a necessary concession in particular to the specialty contractors who had been
seeking the strength of numbers for years. Regional or area multi-craft bargaining was the only
Also, the large industrial users were to be admitted to membership in these regional groups as
“associate” members. Here they would direct or “coordinate”, as the Roundtable puts it, the
labor relations policy of the local user groups as well as the local contractors. In effect, the
individual local contractor chapters traded control over their long-range policy for a stronger
hand at the bargaining table.
Moreover, the National Roundtable through the local user groups worked hard to enhance the
position of local and regional contractors at the bargaining table by introducing to them contract
clauses drafted at Roundtable Headquarters. In 1974 the Roundtable published the first in a
series of pamphlets called Coming to Grips with Some Major Problems in the Construction
Industry which contained sample contract clauses to be used to eliminate scheduled overtime
As to hiring halls, contractors were told that the union hiring hall gives unions too much power
over the personnel function and, therefore, recommended creation of management operated
data banks or referral systems, possibly with the help of federal funds, to establish a national
Indeed, through the two volumes of Coming to Grips with Some Major Problems in the
Construction Industry, the Roundtable provided local contractors with advice and contract
clauses in the areas of scheduled overtime, hiring halls, jurisdictional disputes, restoration of the
management role, wage settlements, restrictive work practices, prefabrication and strikes. Just
to give one example of how the relationship between users and contractors work – The National
Roundtable was active in designing bid specifications to be utilized by the construction users
which would require greater use of prefabrication. In turn, the National Roundtable and the local
users pressured the contractors and their bargaining associations to push for collective
bargaining language during negotiations favorable to greater use of prefabricated materials.
Needless to say, the contractors were provided with the appropriate contract clauses on
prefabrication by the Roundtable. And the Roundtable went down the line in all of the areas I
just enumerated to cajole, pressure and indeed coerce contractors to tow the Roundtable line
during bargaining – a line which has led to the steady erosion of many bargaining patterns and
practices which we had long fought for and naively believed to be sacrosanct. And the
enforcement mechanism used by the Roundtable was the threat of its enormous purchasing
power which it held continually, though usually silently, over the heads of the contractors.
The Roundtable has established a presence in collective bargaining in every major municipality
in America. Go to St. Louis, Detroit, Los Angeles, or anywhere else you like and the major
industrial clients have formed a local user’s group. For example, in 1976 there was an Illinois
based group called the Illowa Construction Users Council. Their membership included ALCOA,
J.I. Case, Caterpillar Tractor, Commonwealth Edison, Deer & Co., DuPont, Interstate Power,
Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric, Monsanto and Ralston-Purina. The Council has a policy
committee and it speaks as a single voice for users in the area. And one of the prime groups it
speaks to are the local contractors. The contractors themselves form an advisory committee as
part of the local Roundtable which is an action oriented coordinating committee which oversees
a group of local task forces. The task forces include those on work practices, legislation,
research and statistics, project agreements, labor relations, manpower, overtime, industry funds
and public relations,.
But I should make it clear that the National Roundtable leaves nothing to chance with these
local groups. They have commissioned in-depth studies on all construction industry problems
and they’ve given local groups a very clear message about how and when different parts of the industry are going to change. And let me assure you we have only started to see the results of these studies. The Director of the Roundtable’s Construction Committee tours the country
talking to local groups instructing them on how to adhere to the latest phase of the Roundtable’s
program. So this is precisely where the erosion of many of our local bargaining practices and
patterns has been coming from.
Now let me turn to the second area where the Roundtable has concentrated its enormous
economic clout – it is the support, and its sometime even the creation, of the open shop sector.
Why? The answer is simple. Faced with the growth of the open shop industry, union
contractors and the building trades have been figuratively if not literally blackmailed into lower
wage settlements and the giving up of many protections which have long appeared in our
collective bargaining agreements.
What has been the role of the Roundtable in the open shop sector? In the mid-60’s the ABC
was still a local trade association operating around Baltimore, and Brown and Root was the
largest non-union national contractor. The Roundtable realized that the growth of these two
groups would seriously hurt organized labor and so through its members, it began funneling to
Brown and Root and the ABC contractors more business. The Roundtable even urged Brown
and Root to join the ABC giving it an enormous credibility boost and financial shot in the arm.
I say to you that the Business Roundtable has been the prime force in the open shop
construction movement in this country. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of an
AGC attorney at its first conference on open shop construction:
Then there was the Roger Blough Construction Roundtable. It was established for the purpose of doing away with these inflationary pressures . . . The Roger Blough Roundtables today are talking about open shop construction. They are talking open shop construction to the biggest owners and users of construction in the United States today . . .
But why was the AGC sponsoring an open shop conference? Because the Business
Roundtable urged it to do so and made the AGC realize that non-union contractors would not
suddenly fall from the sky. And again at the urging of the Roundtable, the AGC lawyers were
sent across the country showing AGC contractors how to go double-breasted.
FRIENDS, THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT THE LARGE INDUSTRIAL CONCERNS
THROUGH THEIR CONTROL OVER NEW CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS SPAWNED THE
OPEN SHOP MOVEMENT AND MADE THE ABC INTO THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION IT
Bill, I'm glad that you've discovered that the business roundtable is on the side of business not labor, and that the ABC was created by corporations to circumvent the requirements for apprenticeship training. Also, be advised that the ABC certifies class participation without verification of neither hours nor content actually provided. Agencies like NYS Dept of Labor (who certifies appenticeships) don't have the staffing or funds to investigate complaints. This has been discussed in the past.
Have you considered having one of your committees starting a well planned letter writing campaign?
By the way - spam and virus postings are being sent with your web heading - Please run cleaning software.
In reply to this post by Bill Walsh
This imformation of open shop should get into the news.it is alarming and the higher ups are reaping control over everything.They are exploiting and breaking labor laws everyday as we speak.They are public trying to take over the city.Once that happens,more construction related accidents will occur,more ohsa violations will happen.more needs to be done.all the trades and union friendly politicians need to be aware of abc construction contractors,in which big money from wealthy people will not put a big blow to labor.We will not tolireate.every union member has to put up a big fight with every tool in its box to get the word out union labor is hear to stay.we will get stronger and be a force to be stable and move forward and make it better for all working men and women who belong to the union trades.good luck to al,stay strong,vigalient,and focused.Again,be smart,take alot of classes,learn as much on jobs,teach and empower the apprentices.Learn state laws on labor ,learn city labor laws,and learn federal labor laws too.The more we know,the better advantage we will have in all fields when it comes down to crunch time.Stay focused,go to union meetings,go to delegate meeings,join union clubs,stay involved.Remember ,it is your union,you and everybody has made it ,we could make it better and stronger,we,as union members have to get involved,we are the forefront to the future.Power is in numbers and we all will succeed.
OK Bill, what do you propose can be done about it? Form another committee? Spend endless meetings discussing writing a letter to someone who won't read it? Buy business cards and tee shirts? Create a website with old pictures and no new information? Change requires action. What actions do you recommend? Who will be taking those actions? How will active participants be recruited? Will your efforts be solely within the carpenters, or will you be reaching out to community groups and other unions?
Merry Christmas Norman.
In reply to this post by Bill Walsh
The message of owners trying to go to nonunion is a big blow to unions.We need to get more laws on our side.we have to ramp up our forces in every possible way to show union labor will win.We will get the job under budget.it will get done with no accidents.ohsa labor laws benefit union labor.it is there to protect the working man and women in the trades.We have the most up to date techology and have the best craftsmen and best craftswomen to lead us into the future.We have proved over and over,union labor is the best you could ask for.better production,safety oriented courses on the job and offered in the trade schools.the list goes on.we proudly also get in volved in the community.it is a win,win for our members when we help and teach and mentor young people.knowledge is power,being a good influenes with good ideas does have its advantages to pass on our history and knowledge to our younger generation.it will keep us strong.we are passing the torch to our younger members to lead us into the future.our brtherhood is comprimised to pass our heritage with our knowledge and wisdom to our members.it will keep our union strong and brighter.Learn as much as possible,learn labor laws,learn state laws,learn federal laws.take classes at cornell or whereever the opportunity may arise.Help each other out,look out for each other.all members should stick togerther on the job to,because sometimes labor issues arise and by sticking togerther,we are as 1,we are also a stronger force to deal with.stay active,go to community board mettings,go to union meetings,go to delegate meetings,speak up when you feel everyday topics which affect members working in the field.we are all a important part to the puzzle.our members are good problem solvers,remember,we all coul reach our comman objective,we just have to all do our part.good luck to to union labor,we all could use it.
In reply to this post by N
We all,as members got to reach out to community groups,We have to educate the public.They have to know union labor is a great benefit putting jobs back into your lcal community.It is a good tax give back.Jobs will get done safer,faster and better with highly trainable union personal who will get the job done,under budget and safe tax payers money.it is good all the way around.unions keep the middle class strong.unions provide good pay,good benefits and put back time into your local community.
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|