04.30.2010 0

Cash for Caulkers: The True Beneficiaries

  • On: 05/11/2010 22:54:12
  • In: Economy
  • By Rebekah Rast

    On May 6th, the House of Representatives approved a $6 billion measure that will provide homeowners with rebates for investing in “energy-efficient” home improvements.

    How this bill works is it would fund rebates of as much as 50%, up to $3,000, for home weatherization efforts such as insulation improvements and the replacement of windows, doors, heating and cooling systems.

    It is speculated this new legislation, also called “Cash for Caulkers,” will create about 168,000 jobs in manufacturing, construction and retail, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). On the surface, this bill may sound like a good idea to many Americans. Homeowners will be able to update their homes for less cost, saving them in the long run, while putting more Americans to work.

    What Pelosi failed to mention is a provision in the bill which limits job creation in the construction industry. In the bill, H.R. 5019, only certified workforce can make the improvements to the eligible homes. All construction workforces performing installation work must be approved and trained in the job skills under the Home Builders Institute or a third party, which would be established by Building Performance Institute (BPI), North American Technical Excellence or the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

    These limitations exclude most non-union training providers from participating in this program. So who is this “job creation” really helping?

    In a letter written to the U.S. House of Representatives, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Vice President of Federal Affairs, Geoff Burr, expressed his concern about this issue. “As it is currently written, the bill exclusively names union-only training providers and the Home Builders Institute (HBI) as the only approved training providers, excluding most non-union training providers. ABC believes that language permitting any national accredited training provider to train workers participating in this program would be in the best interests of the entire construction and would create significantly more jobs via this program.”

    With an Administration that is fixed on the idea of creating new jobs, it does not make sense to cut out the 85 percent of eligible construction workers on the basis that they are not unionized.

    “It is hard to imagine why those who drafted this bill would limit the scope of people who could potentially work on the weatherization of homes,” says Burr in an exclusive interview with this reporter. “It is not complicated work to weatherize a home, so why limit the workers?”

    Another downfall to limiting the workforce is projects will take longer to complete. With only 15 percent of construction workers being union members, as efficient as this program might be, a backlog could easily be created once this program is started. Playing off the name “Cash for Clunkers,” which was big hit in 2009, supporters of this legislation are expecting this program to be as equally well-received.

    “This program is going to be popular,” Burr says. “People are going to find themselves in a place where availability becomes limited.”

    Union workers will be booming with business while homeowners wait for their rebates and other construction workers just as qualified to do the job are not able to work.

    To further discriminate towards non-unions, Obama signed an executive order in April encouraging federal agencies to adopt “project labor agreements” (PLAs) on large-scale federal construction projects. Some typical situations demanded by unions in PLAs include monopoly bargaining, forced dues and fees for all their workers and exclusive union hiring.

    “The effect you get from implementing a PLA is reduced competition,” says Burr. “You end up getting four hospital buildings for the price of five.”

    By favoring labor organizations that are the major source of campaign cash for Reid and Pelosi’s congressional majority, competition is taken out of the marketplace and people are left unemployed.

    “In an industry experiencing 25 percent unemployment, now is not the time to discriminate,” says Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “Every American worker deserves the right to work.”

    Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to ALG News Bureau.

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