2017 NABTU Legislative Conference a Rousing Success
By Sean McGarvey
From April 3-5, 2017, over 3,000 national, state and local building trades leaders assembled in Washington, DC for the 2017 Legislative Conference of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU).
Our theme for this year’s conference was WE BUILD – Opportunity. Partnerships. Pathways. And it was a theme that was incredibly relevant and appropriate given all the current work that NABTU, its affiliated unions, and its state and local councils are all undertaking on a daily basis all across the United States to protect and enhance the economic prospects of the men and women who labor in the U.S. construction industry.
And it was a fitting theme, as well, for the challenges and opportunities that our unions will tackle in 2017 and beyond.
This year’s conference was highlighted by an appearance by President Donald J. Trump. Of historical note, every sitting US President, with the exception of one, has appeared in person before our legislative conference since its inception in 1955.
In his remarks, which primarily focused upon the urgent need to re-build and repair our nation’s infrastructure, President Trump remarked that the Building Trades are “the backbone of America. With the talent in this room, we could build any city at any time, and we can build it better than anyone. But we’re going to do even better than that. Together, we are going to rebuild our nation. You’re the keepers of the great trades and traditions that built our country from the New York skyline to the Golden Gate Bridge. You represent the workers whose hands, skills, and dreams will build the great landmarks of our future. Every day, your members live out what I call the American Creed. They’re on the job before dawn and after dusk, and they never quit until that job is done. You know that.”
In addition to President Trump, the delegates to this year’s conference also heard from a wide array of business, industry and public policy leaders, including Nicholas Akins – CEO of American Electric Power; US Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA); Maria Korsnick – President & CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute; US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke; US Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY); US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH); US Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA); US Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; US Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY); Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R); US Rep. Peter King (R-NY); US Sen. Joseph Donnelly (D-IN); and Colonel David R. Sutherland – US Army, Retired.
In my opening keynote remarks, I emphasized to the assembled delegates the need for a continued embrace of a strategic approach centered upon five main areas: 1) the continued pursuit of partnerships and collaborations with individual businesses and whole industries that are built upon a wide range of value that our unions bring to the table, and which have direct bearing on the bottom-line financial concerns of businesses and industry; 2) the creation of strong community coalitions designed to construct solid pathways into career training opportunities, via apprenticeship-readiness programs and formal apprenticeship education and training; 3) directing increased amounts of building trades union pension assets into funds that invest in commercial, residential and infrastructure projects that, in turn, create a multitude of job opportunities for the men and women that we represent; 4) staying committed to a bi-partisan approach to politics and policymaking that accurately reflects the political leanings of our membership, and which is essential to constructing “Building Trades Majorities” at all levels of government in order to lessen, if not outright eliminate, attacks on prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements; and 5) the formulation of strategic, bottom-up organizing campaigns.
All of these strategic components are important to assist NABTU and its affiliated unions in navigating the challenges and opportunities that are certain to arise in America in 2017 and beyond.
In the near term, NABTU and its affiliated unions will turn its collective attention and efforts to advancing a comprehensive federal infrastructure investment package, which, as evidenced by the President’s appearance, was the subject of much discussion at the 2017 Legislative Conference.
NABTU has been engaged in substantive conversations with both the Trump Administration and congressional leaders from both parties on the subject of infrastructure, and in both instances, we have been firm in our unequivocal position that prevailing wage protections under the federal Davis-Bacon Act must be included in any infrastructure proposal that makes its way through Congress.
We are hopeful that our message falls on practical and pragmatic ears, given the fact that significant bi-partisan majorities in both the US House and the US Senate have expressed support for the Davis-Bacon Act.
No matter the issue or the venue, rest assured that NABTU and its affiliated unions intend to make our voices heard in 2017 and beyond on the critical issues affecting our members, our future members, our unions, the industries in which our members are employed, and the communities in which we all live and work.