When officials from an Associated General Contractors chapter approached a local lawmaker for support on a state-wide highway funding initiative, chapter members instead received a lesson in the importance of voting. The lawmaker had done his homework and knew only a small percentage of chapter members were registered voters. Stephen E. Sandherr, AGCs chief executive officer, says the lawmaker questioned why he should use his influence to aid the chapter when the majority of its members did not participate in the political process. "If AGC and the construction industry want more influence, we have to get our people interested enough to register and vote," says Sandherr. Click here to view map>>
While AGC does not endorse a presidential candidate, its member firms have raised large sums for President Bushs re-election bid. The group also contributes heavily to candidates from both parties in numerous House and Senate races. Industry groups focus on reaching their member firms which they hope, in turn, will reach out to their employees by sponsoring nonpartisan voter registration drives and distributing educational materials that show where the candidates stand on specific issues. Workers see their employer as a credible source of political information, says Jeff Shoaf, AGCs senior executive director for government affairs.
The Associated Builders and Contractors formed its Free Enterprise Alliance to educate members and their employees on the issues. Trade groups can only advocate the election or defeat of a candidate to senior managers and firm executives, says Ned Monroe, ABCs political director.
Through its Frontline program, the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Dept. is focusing on eight House races. Frontline is also weighing in on three Senate contests, supporting its GOP friend Arlen Specter (Pa.) in his re-election bid. For the seat being vacated by Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), Frontline is supporting Rep. Chris John (D). The group is backing Barack Obamas (D) bid to win the open Illinois Senate seat. "We targeted races where we could make a difference," says John Laughlin, BCTD political director.
Unions also make a difference through volunteer hours. On Sept. 2 union members will take to the streets for a Labor Walk in key electoral states on the day Bush accepts the GOP nomination.
Building Trade Unions Political Action Committee Contributions
Election Cycle 2004, as of July 5, 2004
|Electrical workers union||$1,716,770||97%||3%|
|Sheet metal workers union||$1,094,700||97%||2%|
|Operating engineers union||$990,744||76%||24%|
|Asbestos workers union||$17,500||86%||14%|
Source: Center for Responsive Politics