Chao Says Administration Won't Support Project Labor Pacts


By Sherie Winston




New Labor Secretary Elaine Chao told union leaders she would have an open door to listen to their concerns, but also said the Bush administration opposed project labor agreements.


Just eight days into her new job, Chao met with the AFL-CIO Executive Council on Feb. 14 at its annual winter meeting in Los Angeles. Organized labor strongly supported Vice-President Al Gore in the presidential campaign and union leaders were anxious to hear Chao discuss the administration's agenda.


They particularly wanted to learn whether Bush's team will seek to undo the ergonomics standard the Clinton administration issued recently. Union officials also were concerned about drafts they have seen of a possible Bush executive order banning use of labor pacts on federally funded projects.


Chao's meeting with the union chiefs was closed to the press, but, according to those who attended the session, she promised to be accessible and listen to labor's concerns. She also pledged to serve as a liaison between the unions and the White House.


But she also said the Bush team would have differences with the unions on PLAs. "I believe project labor agreements are a place where the administration is going to disagree with labor," Chao reportedly told the union leaders.


On the ergonomics, the administration is considering what action, if any, to take to try and reverse or delay the final ergonomics standard issued just days before the end of the Clinton administration.


Despite Chao's comments on the project labor pacts, union officials said the meeting "was very positive" and had a cordial tone. Chao emphasized that she wanted a dialogue with labor, said one meeting participant.


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