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He also noted that the economic recession has left few large-scale construction jobs other than federal projects, and that most construction workers are not union members. As a result, he said, the PLA forces nonunion workers desperate for jobs to choose between joining the union or forfeiting any payments to the unions.

Tom Owens, spokesman for the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, said the money paid into union pension funds can be used only to benefit workers. He also said pension contributions do not come out of workers’ paychecks.

“It comes from the contractor,” he said.

He said Miller & Long is the perfect example of why PLAs are necessary. He said the company has a history of assembling the most inexpensive work force it can find, relying mostly on illegal immigrants - a practice, he said, that had suppressed wages and forced black workers out of the construction industry.

Mr. McMahon called the union’s accusations a “tired old refrain” that has no bearing on the PLA issue.

“You don’t stay in business 60 years by doing that,” he said.

He also challenged the AFL-CIO’s characterization of the pension contribution, saying that payment into the union fund is calculated as part of a worker’s total compensation package.

About 16 percent of the country’s construction trades workers were union members or covered by union contracts in 2008, despite union workers generally receiving higher pay and better benefits than their nonunion counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In New Hampshire, just 8.7 percent of construction workers are unionized.