History of the Heavy & Highway Program - Over 50 years of Success

Formation & Early Years


In 1954, the General Presidents of the laborers', Operating Engineers, Carpenters and Teamsters, reacting to the recently passed Highway Act of 1954 signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, met repeatedly in order to discuss ways to obtain the work that they knew this funding bill would generate.  These meetings eventually led to the formation of the National Joint Heavy and Highway Construction Committee (NJHHCC).  It was formed in order to organize this upcoming work and to competitively assist contractors bidding on the expansion of the new interstate highway system just then beginning to stretch to all corners of the country.


A written "Declaration of Policy" was formally adopted and signed on September 17, 1954, by the following General Presidents - Joseph Moreschi, LIUNA; William Maloney, IUOE; M.A. Hutcheson, UBC and Dave Beck, IBT.  The original one-page, six paragraph "Declaration of Trust" stated in the very first sentence, "The purpose of this Declaration is to express the thinking and desire of the said Organizations to coordinate their activities on Heavy and Highway construction work to the end that such work might be thoroughly organized."


With that simple statement the predecessor to today's National Heavy & Highway Alliance was born.  An office with a Director and a secretary was established in Washington, D.C.  Their initial task was to identify upcoming interstate highway projects, and other public works projects (heavy), and then attempt to interest union contractors in bidding on those projects.  The NJHHCC immediately benefited when the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 was signed into law by President Eisenhower.  This piece of legislation pumped even more money into the fledgling interstate highway system


One of its first official acts was lobbying Congress to insure that Davis-Bacon was applied to all federally-funded highway projects, which was a successful effort and which is still government policy today.  The NJHHCC also established the National Education and Information Bureau, a program to track upcoming projects and to notify contractors of a project's existence.  Then, in 1964 it invited the Plasterers' & Cement Masons' International Association and the Bricklayers International Union to be the fifth and sixth member unions of the NJHHCC.  The projects it obtained during these early were usually worked under project agreements based loosely on local agreements in the area of the project, and were administered through the NJH-HCC office.  There was no so-called Heavy/Highway Agreement in place during these early years.


Development of the Heavy/Highway Agreement


It was not until 1972 that the forerunner to what is now the Heavy and Highway Construction Project Agreement was negotiated.  This 1972 heavy and highway agreement was actually negotiated to cover the Tennessee - Tombigbee Waterway project in the state of Mississippi, which at that time was the largest earth-moving project in the history of the world, even surpassing the Panama and Suez Canals.  This new agreement provided instant success, as under its terms and conditions nine of the first ten locks and dams on the Tenn-Tom Waterway were constructed.  The contractors on these nine massive projects working under the newly adopted Heavy/Highway Agreement were S.J. Groves, Minnesota;  Kiewit Construction, Nebraska;  Morrison-Knudsen, Idaho;  and Martin K. Eby, Kansas.


In 1978, the General President of the NJHHCC invited ten national heavy and highway contractors to Washington, D.C. in order to update and competitively improve the original 1972 agreement.  These contractors were Kiewit Construction, NE;  Morrison-Knudsen, ID;  Guy F. Atkinson Construction, CA;  J.A. Jones Construction Company, NC;  S.J. Groves, MN;  Gust K. Newberg, IL;  Stone & Webster, MA;  Dillingham Construction, CA;  Perini Corporation, MA and Dick Corporation, PA.  The negotiations were successful and a more competitive Heavy/Highway Agreement was the result.


From 1978 to 1982 this new project agreement, named the Heavy and Highway Construction Project Agreement, was mostly applied in those states below the Mason-Dixon Line.  Then, in 1982, the General Presidents, at the urging of contractors who were losing work to the open-shop bidder in other areas of the country, unanimously agreed to allow its application into those area, regions, and states where there was major non-union competition for a project.  This policy is still followed today.


Adjusting & Expanding to Beat the Competition


In 1987, to meet the demands of an ever-changing industry, the NJHHCC began expanding its operations in many different ways.  First, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers became the seventh member union of the NJHHCC.  Second, the Construction Industry Labor-Management Trust (CILMT) was formed, a labor-management committee consisting of representatives from seven of the largest infrastructure contractors in the country and the seven General Presidents of the NJHHCC.  Third, since over 90 percent of the projects the NJHHCC gets involved in are public works projects, which contain Federal and/or State prevailing wages in the job specifications, the Davis-Bacon Coordinating Group was established.  This committee consists of the seven prevailing wage specialists from each affiliated union.


As the NJHHCC expanded so did its ability to obtain work and provide jobs.  In 1984 it obtained $360 million worth of work by beating the non-union competition.  In 1987 it topped the $1 billion worth of work mark for the first time in its history, $1.2 billion to be exact.  Then in 1995 the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades became the 8th member organization of the NJHHCC.


In 1995, when Congress attempted to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, the Committee took the lead on Capitol Hill and was instrumental in stopping that action.  It formed the Contractors Coalition for Davis-Bacon, a group of 21,000 contractors supporting prevailing wage laws, which is still in existence today and now has 24,000 member contractors.


In 1997 a major event occurred when the NJHHCC General Presidents voted to merge the heavy/highway program into the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, where it became the Heavy and Highway Division of that organization.  Subsequently, due to a myriad of reasons, the NJHHCC General Presidents, in late 2001, agreed that the NJHHCC should become, once again, an independent organization.  It was re-named the National Heavy & Highway Alliance (NHHA) and its offices were relocated to its present location. 

Independent and On-Track


Once it was independent again, the NHHA and its General Presidents rededicated the National Alliance to competitively face the realities of the 21st Century heavy and highway industry, including a still-shrinking union market share.  It continued its number one objective of obtaining work by partnering with contractors in beating the non-union competition, it continued to be the directly involved in all aspects of the Davis-Bacon Act and state prevailing wage laws, it continued to foster and promote strong labor-management committee (the CILMT), and it continued to monitor market share on a nationwide, state-by-state basis.


It also became involved in and joined numerous coalitions and organizations to help produce more and better work opportunities for union members, groups such as WIN, the Water Infrastructure Network;  MARC 2000, the Midwest Area River Coalition;  TCC, the Transportation Construction Coalition;  and ATM, Americans for Transportation Mobility.


Furthermore, it became directly involved in national legislation effecting the heavy and highway industry.  The Alliance's Executive Director began testifying before numerous Senate and House Subcommittees on such topics as a fully-funded highway transportation bill, preserving and strengthening the Davis-Bacon Act, and advocating more funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding much-needed waterway projects.


Two Groups - Same Objective


On May 1, 2008, the General Presidents of the NCA decided to split that organization into two groups, the National Heavy and Highway Coalition and the National Construction Alliance II.  For heavy and highway work the two groups have continued to work together, always fully understanding that the Heavy & Highway program is a valuable asset to both Labor and Management that should never be discontinued.


Although the reasons for this split are numerous (as is usually the case in our Nation's Capital), the fact remains that the crafts of the national Coalition (Laborers, Ironworkers, Cement Masons, Teamsters, Painters and Bricklayers) and the crafts of the NCA II (Operating Engineers and Carpenters) continue to work together under the Heavy & Highway Agreement in order to provide work opportunities for its members and projects for the contractor.


Today, the National Heavy & Highway Coalition looks forward to 54 more years of continuing success by treating contractors as partners and working together to beat the non-union competition.