January 20, 2019

MBI's Labor Philosophy

Basic craft negotiations are on the horizon and labor politics are front and center in the Iowa legislature.  Very few subjects in the business world, construction is no exception, evoke such passion as labor issues.  Constant conflict surrounds labor pursuits regardless of your choice to be union or non-union in some, or all, of your labor relationships.  There is conflict for union contractors during wage and contract negotiations with their labor counterparts.  The collective bargaining process is rarely easy, and more often very stressful, for both sides of the table.

There is conflict for both non-union and quasi-union contractors as building trades union’s organizing attempts to recapture market share and regain substantial losses in Iowa membership.  Organizing pressure by labor to achieve their aggressive agenda is accentuated in a down economy, where high unemployment and sharp competition intersect at the bargaining table, city councils, school boards, county boards and the Iowa legislature.  It can get, and does get, very ugly at times.

There is also conflict at the public policy making level from the local to the state legislative process.  Public owners struggle with the wage and fringe issues lobbied by labor and the impact of those policies on the free market building budgets.  The recent prevailing wage debate is an example of that conflict.  School board debates over Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) in Dubuque, Iowa City, Des Moines and Davenport are other examples.  MBI’s policy on these issues favors public owner and industry interests over the interests of union vs. non union or vice-versa.

So where does MBI stand?  Are we union or non-union?  The answer is we are both but not one or the other.  Sound like a Bill Clinton answer?  Let’s be clearer than Bill.  The MBI serves only its contractor members and not any particular labor philosophy.  We strive at all times to serve the needs of the industry and our labor relations services are rendered without regard to what the particular labor philosophy of our members happens to be . . .union, non-union, quasi-union or double-breasted.  MBI is fortunate to have many members, some of whom choose to execute collective bargaining agreements, some who do not, and even some who choose to do a little of both.  It may look like a confusing menu, but it really isn’t.  The make up of most Iowa construction firms reflects the reality of the industry in Iowa, and is that nearly all construction is built by both union and non union firms working together in the interest of the owner in any number of combinations.

Accordingly, you find MBI professionals and consultants representing management in union and non union situations alike.  Whether it be collective bargaining, employee benefit administration, establishing separate gates, organizing activity, grievance administration, strikes, work stoppages, NLRB charges, hiring and firing consultation or any number of HR and labor issues, you will find MBI supporting its members be they union, non-union, or more likely, everything in between.  You will find MBI representing the interest of the industry at city council, school boards, county boards and the Iowa Legislature, and even in the courts from time to time.

Our only special interest is the commercial construction industry that serves all contractors of differing political views and labor perspectives.  That is truly the spirit and strength of the MBI since its inception in 1912.

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