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Unions Criticize Bush's Labor Policy Changes

Government: Among 4 orders is one making it easier for workers to withhold dues used for political activities.


WASHINGTON — President Bush's decision to roll back several government policies supported by organized labor--including one concerning union dues and politics--drew swift criticism on Friday from union officials.

Bush is preparing 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.

"I am appalled and outraged at President Bush's decision to issue four mean-spirited, anti-worker executive orders sought by his corporate contributors and by right-wing ideologues," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said.

A White House official who briefed reporters aboard Air Force One said two of the orders restored rules that were put in place during the administration of Bush's father and revoked by President Clinton. Bush was in Mexico for a one-day meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox.

The official said the orders would:

* Require federal contractors to post a notice telling workers they have a right under a 1988 U.S. 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.

* Dissolve the National Partnership Council, an 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.

The White House official said Bush believes unionized and nonunion contractors should compete for federal projects and that the change could save taxpayers money.

Edward C. Sullivan, president of the AFL-CIO's building and construction trades department, said Bush's action banning project labor agreements is illegal.

"We will be filing suit in federal District Court to have it overturned," he said.

Sullivan called project agreements "proven tools for helping managers control costs and timetables on large, complex projects."

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