North America’s Building Trades Unions have become the “vaunted protector of the American middle class,” said NABTU President McGarvey during his keynote address at NABTU’s 2017 Legislative Conference April 3-4 in Washington, DC..
Noting that America’s manufacturing unions have become a “shadow” of their former selves, and that American public sector unions are “under assault from every quarter,” McGarvey noted the parallels to the situation in the 1920s when the Republican Party controlled all branches of the federal government, and it was the building trades unions who stepped up to not only save the American labor movement from a concerted effort to destroy it, but to also advance the interests of the American middle class.
NABTU “always will be a vigorously small-‘d’ democratic institution” that will promote its members’ economic interests, McGarvey said. As such, The organization will go “everywhere and anywhere” to advance those interests without being beholden to any particular political party, he said.
Conversations held by NABTU leaders and members with President Trump, as well as the President’s appearance at the 2017 Legislative Conference, have drawn criticisms from some quarters on the far left of the political spectrum. To McGarvey, those commentators are misguided.
“This ill-informed reaction is the byproduct of a narrative that has been advanced over several decades and would suggest that the American labor movement is and always should be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, and that rank-and-file union members are simply pawns to be marched and used to further a political and policy agenda that has many times proven, especially in recent years, to run directly counter to their economic interests,” McGarvey said.
In fact, McGarvey said, NABTU leaders have consistently been “quite forceful” with the Administration regarding NABTU’s stated concerns that any major infrastructure program be closely tied to the Davis-Bacon Act’s “strong community wage and benefit standards.”