DemDaily: Building Trades Back Biden

May 6, 2024

North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), the powerful coalition of 14 national and international unions, has thrown their full support behind President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' reelection campaign.

Collectively, NABTU and its affiliates represent over three million union members in more than 200 construction industries.

Biden, the self-proclaimed "most pro-labor president in history," became the first sitting president to join a union picket line when he stood with United Auto Workers (UAW) members in Detroit last September.

“No elected official has shown our members and their families more respect than President Joe Biden. Through his policies and his personnel, President Biden has demonstrated his laser-like focus on not only rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and manufacturing sector but rebuilding the American middle class itself." - NABTU President Sean McGarvey

NABTU President Sean McGarvey announced the endorsement at the organization's annual national legislative conference, with Biden and a host of national labor leaders on stage.

McGarvey praised Biden’s record, citing the "life-changing" benefits to his members through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Chips and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

The support of labor -- the backbone of electoral organizing -- is crucial to Biden's reelection. In addition to turning out hundreds of thousands of their members, the endorsement comes with significant financial resources. In 2020 labor unions contributed over $1 million to the Biden-Harris campaign directly and invested over $26.2 million in outside organizations supporting their election.

Labor's largest umbrella organization, the American Federal of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which represents 60 national and international labor unions comprising 12.5 million members -- including NABTU members -- endorsed Biden last June.

“You had my back in 2020 and because of that, I’m standing here as President of the United States of America. And because of you, in 2024 we’re going to make President Trump a loser again.” - President Joe Biden

In announcing the endorsement -- the earliest of a presidential candidate in the organization's history -- AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said, "The largest labor mobilization in history begins today, supercharged by the excitement and enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of union volunteers who will work tirelessly to reelect a president they know will always fight for us."

Union members are heavily concentrated in crucial Midwest and Rust Belt swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin -- the latter three of which Biden narrowly won in 2020.

Construction unions, says McGarvey, played a large role in delivering those critical "blue wall" battleground states for Biden in 2020. They are now the target of an unprecedented eight-figure organizing campaign by NABTU.

Despite the unrelenting assaults on labor under the Trump administration -- from trade, pensions and infrastructure, to healthcare, deregulation and attacks on collective bargaining rights -- half of NABTU's membership supported Trump in 2020.

Educating their members on Trump's record, and more prominently on Biden's historical accomplishments on behalf of labor, remains a challenge for some labor leaders -- particularly among the more conservative building trades.

United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) General President Mark McManus, whose union has benefited significantly from Biden's policies, said the resonating message is ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.’

The UA, which represents 376,000 members, launched a member-to-member ad campaign praising Biden. "[When you] weigh the presidential records of both candidates," said McManus, "the polling among our members moves heavily in the…direction for President Biden.”

“When they know what he’s done for them, everything points to moving the needle dramatically,” said Laborers International President Brent Booker at the conference.

Although the AFL-CIO and a majority of national labor unions endorsed Biden in 2020, Donald Trump, who once campaigned as a champion of workers, still secured 40% of the vote in union households compared to Biden's 56%. In 2016, Trump garnered 42% of union households compared to 51% who voted for Hillary Clinton.

As for Trump, the union leaders welcome pushback from the former president. Dismissing the potential of an angry response on Trump's Truth Social, McGarvey said, “I really don’t give a f**k if he’s pissed.”

In addition to the AFL-CIO and NABTU, other unions endorsing Biden include the Actors' Equity Association (AEA); Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU); American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), Communications Workers of America (CWA); Int'l Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE); Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); Int'l Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE); Int'l Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC); Int'l Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE); Int'l Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers; Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA); National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA); National Association of Government Employees (NAGE); National Education Association (NEA); National Nurses United (NNU); Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART);Transport Workers Union (TWU); United Auto Workers (UAW); United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); United Steelworkers (USW); United Farm Workers (UFW) and UNITE HERE.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a member union of NABTU, but not of the AFL-CIO, abstained from the board's endorsement vote and will reportedly endorse after the Republican and Democratic conventions. IBT represents 1.3 million members with significant numbers in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

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Sources: NABTU, AFL-CIO, AP, Biden Harris Campaign, CNN, NY1, CBS, Washington Post

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