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TRADE-UNION ARTICLE HYPOCRITICAL

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Your June 12 My View article by Mark Braithwaite of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) asks, "Are building trade unions hypocrites . . . ?" and about union corporate campaigns, "Is this not a form of extortion?"

Braithwaite refers to the 1986 Kentucky campaign which persuaded Toyota to abandon the ABC's slickly named "merit-shop" system of low-wage, low-benefit construction labor. He fabricates information to suit his argument, a common ABC tactic.Braithwaite says of Toyota, "The surrounding area was 90 percent open shop . . . " He doesn't mention that the area surrounding Toyota was mostly cow pastures in 1985, that no major industrial work had ever been done in the area, and that no auto plant has ever been built nonunion in Kentucky, which has the GM Corvette plant and major Ford truck and auto plants, all built union.

He says, "The unions immediately began picketing the Japanese embassy and consulates." The truth is that eight months after our campaign began, there was one demonstration at the Japanese embassy in D.C., no picketing of any consulate to my knowledge, and we never "threatened to stage large-profile demonstrations . . ." on Pearl Harbor Day. When this rumor surfaced, we went to Washington to explain why that was not appropriate, a judgement shared by national officers.

Braithwaite says the nonunion start of the Toyota job was "on time and under budget" and "the remainder, built union-only, cost an estimated $22 million more for labor alone . . . " This is wishful thinking by Braithwaite, or just more ABC fact-fabricating. Union labor costs include uniform health care and pension benefits, and union pay is about twice what was being paid before the agreement.

Given the project's complexity and constant engineering changes, it is inconceivable that Braithwaite could possibly know actual project costs or that he has access to Toyota's numbers. He should ask Toyota how the union agreement has worked.

Since the Toyota labor agreement was signed in 1986, unions have referred thousands of workers to both union and nonunion contractors and have delivered quality work efficiently and on schedule. As the largest auto plant in North America, the Toyota project has become the national benchmark for auto plant construction.

Union workers have completed not only the first Toyota plant but have since doubled the plant and added three engine/drive train plants. There are now over 200 acres under roof at Toyota, work is of high quality, demanding schedules are met and Toyota-union relations are excellent.

Toyota's vice president for construction recently advised BMW that they should build their new American plant under the same type of union labor contract as Toyota has.

Our unions' success with Toyota is a sore subject with the ABC as they not only lost the project but also lost their subsequent lawsuit to have the Toyota union contract declared invalid. Under the union agreement, local contractors now work at Toyota, local workers are paid union wages with health care and pension security, and work progresses smoothly and efficiently. As Toyota says, "Who could ask for anything more?"

Jerry Hammond, president

Central Kentucky Building Trades Council

Versailles, Ky.