President rolls back policies favored by organized labor

Saturday, February 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) _ President Bush on Saturday rolled back government policies favored by organized labor in a move the White House said would create ``fair and open'' competition for government contracts.

Bush issued four executive orders on separate aspects of labor policy, including one to make it easier for union workers to stop their dues from being used to pay for political activities. The others deal with union-management relations on government contracts and in the government's own workplace.

Union officials, informed of Bush's intentions days ago at the AFL-CIO meeting in Los Angeles said the orders were needlessly antagonistic. Edward C. Sullivan, president of the AFL-CIO's building and construction trades department, said Friday his union would seek relief in federal courts.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush's actions would make for easier competition between unionized and nonunion contractors seeking federal projects, a change that could save taxpayers money.

``Government contracting decisions should be neutral, neither requiring nor prohibiting project labor agreements,'' Fleischer said. ``Government contracting should also be fair and open to ensure that all workers can compete for jobs on a level playing field as well as contractors, particularly small, minority or women-owned businesses.''

Specifically, Bush's orders:

_Require federal contractors to post a notice telling workers they have a right under a 1988 Supreme Court ruling not to pay portions of their dues that sponsor political activities. Unions are a prime source of money and grass-roots organizing for Democrats.

_Revoke the ``project labor agreement,'' which requires contractors in many federally financed projects to be unionized. The provision, employed at the discretion of states, is an issue in an expensive proposal to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on heavily traveled Interstate 95 between Virginia and Maryland.

_Dissolve the National Partnership Council, a Clinton organization that sought to get government agencies and unions to resolve their differences.

_Revoke a Clinton policy of job protection for employees of contractors at federal buildings when the project is awarded to another contractor.