As Election Day draws nearer, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) have weighed in with their endorsement of President Joe Biden to be re-elected. The official announcement came on April 24 at the group's legislative conference in Washington, D.C., where union officials also touted the administration record on job creation and launched a push to mobilize nearly 3 million union members to get out the vote, especially in such battleground states as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Spread the word in your community,” NABTU President Sean McGarvey told attendees. “Get the word out about what’s at stake in this 2024 election and how President Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris have formed the greatest administration for working people." McGarvey said. "He delivered for us, now let’s deliver for him.”

NABTU leadership plans an eight-figure organizing campaign in battleground states, according to media reports. 

McGarvey said construction unions played a large role in delivering critical states for Biden in 2020 and predicted the same result for this election cycle. “If you look at the numbers, just our membership alone makes the difference in the battleground states,” McGarvey said. “It'll be the difference again, but this time I just think the margins are going to be wider.”

The unions' support was not lost on Biden, who addressed the audience—many of whom wore “Joe For Jobs” T-shirts and banged thunder sticks emblazoned with Biden-Harris logos. 

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

Underscoring Legislative Record

Labor leaders plan to push key legislative accomplishments of Biden’s first term that benefit unions, such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Speakers also noted administration regulatory policies on Davis-Bacon prevailing-wage requirements and the independent contractor rule regarding worker classification. 

Speakers at the two-day conference also praised provisions in the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act that prevented pension benefit cuts in multiemployer pension plans that would have affected thousands of retired construction union workers.

In a prepared video shown to attendees, McGarvey claimed that then-President Trump had broken a promise to address the pension issue. “I can tell you that he personally committed to me that he was going to get our pensions fixed … he assured me,” the union leader said. “That was wasted breath.”

For most union members, however, the resonating message is job creation, said Mark McManus, general president of the United Association (UA)–the union for plumbers and pipefitters, “I think the message within the UA rank and file is ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs,’” he said. "That's what we're about–the infrastructure package, Inflation Reduction Act and particularly the CHIPS and Science Act, which is right up the UA's alley, being in the piping industry."

McManus said the November election offers a unique opportunity to weigh the presidential records of both candidates. “You can make a real comparison there,” he said. “When we lay it out like that, the polling among our members moves heavily in the … direction for President Biden.”

Infrastructure Investment

Eric Dean, general president of the ironworkers' union, agreed that messaging about jobs registers with his members, especially in the wake of the infrastructure funding law, which benefits many union ironworkers. “For 40 years, the ironworkers have been looking for real infrastructure investment,” he said. Now, it has become a reality, Dean said. 

Dean said he recognizes that a portion of his union's members support many Trump policies. “While we don’t tell members who to vote for, we tell them what’s been accomplished and what’s at stake,” he said. 

James Callahan, general president of the Operating Engineers, said many union members see that the Biden administration has “given us a fighting chance to even the playing field to go to work and train our people."  

He added: "If he gets another four years, I would say that that there's a glide path for probably the next 15 years of union construction. This could be a generational change."