Who is winning this year’s fight over the U.S. military budget?
Or Congress, where members work hard to defend constituents and contributors at familiar factories run by Boeing and other industrial employers?
There’s money for both. Even though the $732 billion National Defense Authorization Act that sailed through the House Armed Services Committee with a bipartisan 56-0 vote late Wednesday is only about as big as last year’s budget (the Pentagon wanted $800 billion).
As U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D., N.J.), who heads the committee’s Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, said Thursday, the bill would keep some of the Philadelphia area’s biggest employers rolling through the coronavirus recession.
The bill, which differs modestly from a Senate version, includes:
Construction labor unions see pension plans for other union workers as friendly investors in building projects that typically use union contractors.
One of the biggest, the $240 billion-asset California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), is extra sensitive that its taxpayer-funded investments aren’t used to undercut union labor. Its policy calls for considering “prevailing wages” — typically union wages — and promises to pay “fair wages” through “responsible contractors” using competitive bidding.
But the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council complained to CalSTRS last month that the system’s near-wholly owned affiliate, LCOR, based in Berwyn, has been cutting union contractors out of recent jobs, such as a new apartment complex in Conshohocken. Union employers were not “even invited to bid on the job,” says council spokesman Frank Keel.
Among the subcontractors for the site is Florida-based Power Design Inc. The union noted that last winter, Power agreed to pay $2.75 million to the District of Columbia to settle what prosecutors called a “wage theft” complaint for failing to document minimum wages for workers wrongly classified as independent contractors or to pay required unemployment insurance. The company did not admit to wrongdoing, as part of the settlement.
Keel said the union is giving CalSTRS “the benefit of the doubt” that it didn’t check too closely whom LCOR was hiring. But it has also put the pension plan on notice that its labor policies are being watched.
“We did receive the complaint, and we are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the information,” CalSTRS spokesman Thomas Lawrence told me.
TE Connectivity, a Berwyn-based maker of electronic connectors and digital sensors with nearly 100 factories worldwide, had its Pennsylvania plants make anti-coronavirus face shields to donate to medical staff.