Founded on the merit shop philosophy, which seeks protection for contractors to operate on a level playing field in a free market, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national trade association representing 24,000 merit shop contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers and construction-related professionals in 79 chapters across the United States, including San Diego County.
Until the late 1970s, mechanical and electrical contractors were forced to join a union if they wanted to train their employees in a skilled trades apprenticeship program. A small but dedicated group of merit shop contractors who wanted the freedom to choose an alternative with high training standards founded ABC San Diego in 1976.
The chapter’s first apprenticeship program standards were submitted to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations/Division of Apprenticeship Standards for approval several years later and ABC began training apprentice electricians. Plumbing and pipefitting programs were added, followed by the chapter’s sheet metal program.
In 2005, the first class of Electronic Systems Technicians graduated from the ABC San Diego training program.
In June 2010, the most recent class of 107 graduates received their ABC journeyman certificates after completing a rigorous four-year program. A number of these individuals completed additional required courses through San Diego City College to earn an Associate of Science degree in their trade.
In 1970, just 30 percent of the nation's construction was performed by merit shops, and six of the top 400 construction firms were ABC members. Four decades later, merit shops account for more than 80 percent of all construction across the country and ABC's membership has grown to include more than half of the top 400 construction companies in the United States.
ABC's merit shop philosophy is founded on the shared belief that construction projects should be awarded based on merit, to the most qualified and responsible low bidders, regardless of labor affiliation.