President Clinton’s Executive Order Would Reward Unions At the Expense of Minority Workers – April 1997

For Immediate Release: April 25, 1997

Contact: Arturo Silva 202/543-4110 or [email protected]

An impending Executive Order by President Clinton will exclude many black Americans from competing equally for contracts or subcontracts on federal construction projects, say members of the African-American leadership group Project 21.

“The Executive Order will make it extraordinarily difficult for smaller non-union firms to get federal contracts,” says Project 21 member Peter Kirsanow, Labor Counsel for the Cleveland law firm of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff. “It is akin to a Davis Bacon Act on steroids, effectively barring black-owned firms, the majority of which are non-union, from government work, while creating a huge, expensive set-aside program for unions.” The Davis-Bacon Act requires that union wages be paid to workers on federal construction projects valued at more than $2,000.

“The Employment Policy Foundation estimates that President Clinton’s Executive Order would cost the government an additional $4.8 billion in federal construction spending, or a 30% decline in the level of federal construction, said Project 21 member Horace Cooper, Legislative Counsel to Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX). “In addition, since 80% of construction workers are not represented by a union, the Clinton Administration would be limiting bidding on federal construction projects to a select group of contractors. This proposed Executive Order is another attempt by Clinton to grant yet another special preference to yet another group. As often happens with group preferences, one group will benefit at the expense of another. Minorities, in particular, will be hurt by Clinton’s payback to the unions for their support in last year’s elections. Minority construction workers tend not to have union representation, and minority contractors can’t afford to employ a unionized workforce.”

The Executive Order by President Clinton would require any contracts or subcontracts on federal construction projects to be awarded only to contractors who have a unionized workforce, who hire workers from union employment centers, who pay union wages and benefits, who obey union work rules, job classifications and arbitration procedures. Many minority workers are expected to bear the brunt of the Executive Order since they tend not to be unionized and are not as skilled, at least on paper. Minority bidders are also expected to have problems obtaining government contracts since their businesses tend to be smaller, preventing them from using union employees whose wages, benefits and work conditions are often exorbitant.

“Bill Clinton finally has delivered for his union paymasters,” said Project 21 member Deroy Murdock, an MSNBC political commentator. “His proposed Executive Order will violate free association rights of contractors across America. At the same time, minorities (who tend to be less represented in unions) and people leaving welfare rolls for the workforce will find it harder than ever to make a living. Meanwhile, taxpayers will be stuck with costlier bills for federal construction. Is this what Bill Clinton means by reinventing government?”

For an interview, the Employment Policy Foundation study, or other information, contact Arturo Silva at 202/543-4110 or [email protected].


Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.