GOP’s Star Anti-Union Witness Exposed

Lindsay Beyerstein

The ranking Republican on the House Education Labor and Pensions committeee held a forum last month to draw attention to the Obama administration’s alleged favoritism towards unions.

One of the headliners was Stephen Worth, president and CEO of Worth & Co., Ltd, who spoke on behalf of Associated Builders and Contractors, a lobby group for non-union construction companies.

Worth runs a non-union construction company in Pipersville, Pa., a heavily unionized part of the country. He claimed that he and his employees had been discriminated against since 1976.

But Worth’s own history as a contractor is something of an object lesson on why unions are necessary.

Worth & Co. has been shut out of the bidding for contracts with the state of Pennsylvania until Nov 2010 for repeatedly violating the state’s prevailing wage law. Worth ultimately had to pay $138,525.10 to the underpaid employees.

Worth claimed that as young union member, he witnessed a rock-throwing incident on a picket line that forever changed his attitudes about unions:

When I got my union card, I was told to work a picket line at a local jobsite. I remember a man driving his truck through the picket line to get to work. He wasn’t much different than me. He probably had a young wife and children at home he needed to provide for, like me. He probably was just trying to make ends meet the only way he knew how. He crossed a picket line. Frozen in place, I watched as a rock was thrown through the man’s window and he was dragged out into the street and beaten. My feelings changed that day.”

We all love a good apostacy story, but Worth’s tale of moral awakening seems shoddily constructed.

Records from UA Local 690 show that Worth, now aged 53, didn’t become a member of the union until August of 1979 at the age of 22. So, he couldn’t have been a 19-year-old union member assigned to picket duty.

Besides which, according to a source familiar with UA 690 policies, members aren’t assigned to picket duty.

Worth told the forum that the alleged attack soured him on unions for life, but records show that he remained a UA member for 13 more years – until he got kicked out for not paying his dues.

Worth said that he’d been running his own open shop construction company for over 30 years. He complained that he and his employees had been discriminated against for their non-union ways since 1976. So, why then did he join the union himself in 1979? Was union membership good enough for him, but not for his employees?

Worth & Co. did not immediately respond to requests for comment. We’ll update this post if they get back to us.

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Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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