As the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign intensifies, construction groups and unions are beginning to devote time and energy to identifying candidates whom they can support.
Some construction unions, including the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia (UA), already have endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Other organizations, including the Associated Builders and Contractors, are taking a wait-and-see approach to the crowded field to determine their favorite candidate.
ABC’s board of directors will vote to endorse a candidate “who will provide the best opportunity for economic growth and a fair and level playing field” for merit-shop contractors, says President and CEO Mike Bellaman. “Our industry faces a long list of challenges, including the highest effective tax rate of any industry, a burdensome regulatory environment, a shortage of appropriately skilled workers and the constant challenge of obtaining affordable health-care coverage,” he adds. Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen Sandherr says AGC does not get involved as an association in endorsing presidential candidates. But he adds, “Many of our members are looking for candidates who understand that our tax code is broken, that we need to have a simpler and better system that would promote economic growth.”
A coalition of business groups—ABC, AGC, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business, among them—on Nov. 4 held the first of a planned series of conference calls with presidential candidates. GOP candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) emphasized his support for construction training and apprenticeship programs as well as tax relief for small businesses.
The coalition has invited other Republican and Democratic candidates to speak to the groups’ members during future conference calls, an ABC spokesman said.
For the pipefitters union, the big issues center around jobs, says Rick Terven, UA executive vice president. “We are focused on critically needed investments in infrastructure, particularly water and energy systems,” he says. UA endorsed Clinton because she “gets it” regarding labor issues, including the need for rebuilding the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure, Terven says.
Although Clinton has said she does not support construction of the controversial Keystone pipeline—a project that the building trades supported—Terven notes, “We find our interests and views very closely aligned on virtually everything else.” The Obama administration on Nov. 6 denied the permit application to build the project (see p. 14).