PHOENIX -- Specifically citing GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's anti-union stands, the nation's top anti-worker construction group, the Associated Builders and Contractors, have endorsed his candidacy - and not just for the GOP nomination, but for the Oval Office.
The group's board, meeting here Feb. 23, specifically praised Romney's opposition to project labor agreements, his backing of so-called right-to-work laws and his denunciation of President Obama's recess appointments - done after the Senate refused to act - to the National Labor Relations Board.
Romney addressed the ABC board, thanking them for their backing. His opposition to project labor agreements won him a standing ovation - which surprised him-from the anti-worker, anti-union group.
"The election of Mitt Romney as president is a top priority for the commercial and industrial construction industry and the millions of Americans it employs," said 2012 ABC Chairman Eric Regelin, an Ellicott City, Md., contractor. "He has articulated a clear position on issues important to ABC members, including opposing federally mandated project labor agreements, returning the National Labor Relations Board to a neutral arbiter of labor disputes and supporting the free-market, merit shop philosophy."
ABC is known for its vicious opposition to workers and unions. It opposes project labor agreements on federal construction contracts, hates the union shop, tries to tear down union-run apprenticeship programs in favor of its own - often mismanaged according to the feds - and has members who routinely break labor law.
In his speech to ABC, Romney pledged, among other things, "If I become president of the U.S., I will curb the practice we have in this country of giving union bosses an unfair advantage in contracting. One of the first things I will do-actually on day one-is I will end the government's favoritism towards unions in contracting on federal projects and end project labor agreements."
Besides repeating standard GOP rhetoric denouncing unions and their leaders, Romney's reference was to an Obama administration directive strongly encouraging, but not ordering, federal construction contracts to be carried out with contractors who sign project labor agreements. For workers, the agreements set specific work rules for projects and set wages and benefits. The taxpayers get a guaranteed set price and on-time completion.
"I also will make sure workers in America have the right to a secret ballot and I will fight for right to work laws," Romney told ABC. ABC is one of many right-wing groups now challenging the National Labor Relations Board's proposed rule that would remove some of the legalistic hurdles businesses use to delay and deny union representation elections. He added Obama appoints "labor stooges" to the NLRB.
Several of those groups, though not ABC, are also suing to overturn Obama's recess appointments to the board as illegal. Without Obama's three recess appointees, the NLRB lacks a quorum and can't act on labor-management issues.
And so-called right to work laws, a key cause of the radical Right and its business backers, ban unions inserting contract provisions saying they can collect dues, or equivalent payments, from workers they represent. That provision, while still leaving unions with the representation responsibility, strips them of funds to do so.
The ABC's endorsement came on the eve of the Feb. 28 primaries in Michigan and Arizona, and the day after Romney ripped into his now-main rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, at a GOP hopefuls' debate in Phoenix. Speaking to the contractors, Romney again criticized Santorum for the Pennsylvanian's occasional agreement with labor during Santorum's congressional career.
And the former GOP Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist again defended his call to let the Detroit Three auto companies go bankrupt when the economy collapsed in 2008. He denounced their rescue, through federal loans, as another case where Obama "bows to special interests, in this case, union interests."
Romney's latest federal campaign finance report shows contractors as a group had given his campaign $483,100 out of the $62 million he had raised as of Jan. 31. That sum does not include money given to the "Campaign for a Working America," the Romney-affiliated SuperPAC, which legally keeps its contributors hidden.
Photo: "GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has the support of a major anti-union contractor." Gerald Herbert/AP