"We’re working like we’re one vote behind," says Sean Mitchell, business manager of ironworkers’ union Local 402 in West Palm Beach and leader of his local’s get-out-the-vote campaign. He and most Local 402 members support the Kerry ticket. "There are 1 million U.S. construction workers who are organized. They have spouses and children. They can have a huge impact, especially here, where the difference in 2000 was 600 votes," he says.

Local 402 gets a printout from the international union as to how many members are registered Republicans, Democrats and those who are considered swing voters. "I don’t know how they get this information, but they do, says Mitchell. About 85 to 90% support Kerry-Edwards. "Though I disagree with [Bush supporters], they’re still brothers," he says. Mitchell says the big issues for him are illegal immigration, pensions, health care and safety enforcement.

MITCHELL Coordinates union BAILEY Retirement worries. SMITH Wants less spending.
(Photos left and middle by David Kohn for ENR)

Social Security reform is the hot button for union ironworker foreman Jeff Bailey. "This is my biggest issue. It needs to be fixed. People are expecting something to be there and it is not," says Bailey. He believes that he and his union are in alignment when it comes to Democratic support. "To me, there is one party that says if you are in a union, you are bad," says Bailey. "They stereotype us....I think they’re scared they’ll have to pay us more."


Presidential Race Has Unions Flexing Their Muscles

Construction Groups Woo Members to Make Every Vote Count
Conservatism Is Strong in South
Illinois Workers Want Lagging Public-Works Projects Bolstered
Unions See Iraq, Health Care and Jobs as the Main Issues
Industry Texans Support Native Son But Some Go To Dems
Ohio Workers See Power in Numbers
Nevada Building Trades Increase Voter Registration, Push Kerry
New York Workers Say They Have Had Enough Of Bush

Dan Shaw, executive vice president of the Florida East Coast chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, thinks his nonunion group can make a difference for the Bush-Cheney ticket. "We involve our employers, who involve their employees in getting out the vote." His chapter has a picnic for workers of affiliated firms. At the last one, 3,400 workers showed up and voter registration vans were on hand to help them sign up. "We [also] spare employees to stand on street corners and hold signs, mostly for local elections, but...we have 4,000 yard signs" for Bush, Shaw says.

Republican John Smith, ABC’s national president in 1991 and president of Eustis-based Lake Mechanical Contractors Inc., is running for a seat in the state legislature for the 25th District because he thinks he can make a difference instead of complaining about the actions of others.

Smith is against big government and bureaucracy, as he believes many open shop workers are. "I have a great deal of zeal about how money is spent," says Smith. But he believes education needs help. Only 64% of students graduate from high school in his county. "We need to do better," he says.

he heat is on in Florida, the epicenter of political controversy during the last presidential election in which the national winner was determined by a handful of votes in the state.