President McGarvey April 17, 2016 Keynote Address to 2016 Legislative Conference

Values. Issues. Opportunities. Brothers and Sisters... Ladies and Gentlemen... Distinguished Guests... Welcome to the 2016 Legislative Conference for North America's Building Trades Unions. I am proud to say that, because of the good work of all of you in this room...  as well as the vision and dedication of the leaders who join me on this stage here today... we have reason to be more hopeful and excited than ever before about the future economic prospects of the members and families of North America’s Building Trades Unions.

We are on a continued upward growth trajectory…
 
that has remained fairly consistent since the onslaught of the economic catastrophe of 2008.
 
Today, all across the board…
 
our workhours are up, and our membership numbers are steadily increasing.
 
And all across America… in markets large and small… we are progressively chipping away at market share.
 
Obviously, 2016 is a presidential election year.
 
So, I’m sure that the subject of politics is on everyone's mind.
 
But, before we get into that discussion...
 
I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and thank United States Representative John Lewis for that inspirational and moving invocation.
 
John Lewis is not only a member of Congress...
 
He is also one of America's great civil rights champions.
 
He is, indeed, a national treasure.
 
In addition to the inspiring words that were delivered by Congressman Lewis…
 
We were also treated to the invocation given by Monsignor John J. Gilchrest at our convention in August of last year.
 
I requested that it be shown here today...
 
because I think it's very important for all of us to be reminded of the virtues and values that stand at the core of our great institutions.
 
And what is remarkable when you think about it...
 
is those virtues and values have not changed in over 125 years.
 
And that we, as leaders of North America’s Building Trades Unions, will always be committed to those values and virtues that lead to a better life for our members and their families... and all Americans.
 
Like the Monsignor said...
 
first and foremost we can, AND WE SHOULD, take great pride and solace in the fact that WE BUILT AMERICA.
 
Equally important is that, collectively, our unions possess and maintain a set of fundamental values...
 
that not only bind all of us together as the world's finest skilled craft professionals...
 
but which also serve to define what we believe in.
 
We are duty-bound to a sense of pride, performance and our professionalism.
 
We are connected generation to generation by a profound sense of patriotism and love for this country.
 
And we share a deep and unshakable concentration on creating WORK
that is connected with a fierce advocacy for wage and benefit standards that properly reward work…
 
And which ultimately builds stronger communities and a healthier nation…
while also being the deciding factor on whether or not the families of our existing and future members… are able to enjoy a stable, comfortable and secure life... or to simply put food on the table.
 
The Building Trades are, and always have been, willing and active participants in the American system of democracy.
 
However, the oath we took as leaders within the building trades…
 
As well as the way in which our unions and our industry operate…
 
Virtually mandates an almost singular focus on securing work opportunities for the men and women we have sworn to represent.
 
So, while there are those who may not quite fully understand the devotion that we have for the interests of our members and their families…
 
it is probably because they do not fully grasp how our industry actually works;
 
They don't understand that the only guarantee in our industry are the first 8 hours on the job that we get to prove our worth.
 
So, yes, we devote a significant amount of time and resources in the quest of work opportunities…
 
That enable our members and their families…
 
As well as our future members and their families…
 
to enjoy a stable and secure middle class American life.
 
This is OUR PURPOSE, brothers and sisters.
 
To create work opportunities that are vast in number…
 
And which are accompanied by ample wage and benefit standards that eventually become the norm…
 
and not the exception…
 
for skilled craft construction occupations in this country.
 
Find ways to create the work.
 
Fight for acceptable standards.
 
And create opportunities and pathways for the next generation that, in turn, strengthen our communities and build a stronger nation.
 
That’s who we are, brothers and sisters.
 
As Monsignor Gilchrest said...
 
"ALL WE DO IS BUILD... AND BUILD IS ALL WE DO."
 
It’s who we are.
 
It’s in our hearts.
 
And it’s in our souls.
 
But, it's also more than just the building that occurs on the jobsite.
 
Every day, we are constantly being reminded of the economic and social ills that are devastating communities in every part of our country.
 
The building trades does not claim to hold the solutions to all of these problems.
 
But, I will say this…
 
Because of our dogged pursuit of work opportunities and economic development…
 
And because of our fierce advocacy for strong community wage and benefit standards…
 
And because of our firm commitment to building pathways of opportunity through apprenticeship education and training…
 
We are having an impact.
 
Today, North America’s Building Trades Unions are fast developing a reputation as a valuable and reliable partner in helping to re-build lives and strengthen whole communities.
 
All of which contributes to a stronger United States of America.
 
Tomorrow, we will examine more fully how we are having success at the local community level…
 
when we present the 2nd annual Mark Ayers Community Achievement Award…
 
to the Los Angeles and Orange County Building Trades Council…
 
for the fantastic work they are doing to not only change lives and strengthen communities…
 
but to create a new identity for the building trades, and a new understanding of exactly who we are and what we are about.
 
There are other ways, too, in which our unions are building that go beyond the jobsite.
 
Such as building a new labor-management paradigm in the United States...
 
through formal partnerships with entire industries and individual companies.
 
Or the building of a new approach to politics...
 
one that seeks to break through the unproductive and polarizing assumptions of a bygone era...
 
in order to craft a new approach that will free us from various political attacks that are not of our own making.
 
Brothers and Sisters, I'm going to get right to the point today...
 
because 2016 is a presidential election year.
 
And presidential election years are a big deal.
 
But being politically active is not the be-all, end-all for our unions.
 
Put it this way, we collectively invest, on an annual basis, 25 dollars in apprenticeship training for every dollar we spend on political action.
 
But, politics is, obviously, important.
 
Because when over $300 billion is invested annually in publicly-funded construction projects...
 
and when policymakers at all levels of government are responsible for laws and regulations...
 
that directly affect the ability of our members to ply their crafts and enjoy a middle class life...
 
then politics does, indeed, become a necessity.
 
And the Building Trades will always play a role in the political process by providing information and education to our members and their families.
 
It’s how we play that role that is becoming so critical to our success.
 
Brothers and Sisters, when it comes to politics and public policy…
 
Our priorities are rather straightforward.
 
Jobs.
 
Public Infrastructure Investments.
 
Energy Infrastructure.
 
And Community Standards like prevailing wage laws, project labor agreements, and fair workforce policies.
 
These are the issues that, for the most part, reflect our bedrock values and our focus on the WORK opportunities that enable our members and their families to enjoy a happy and secure life…
 
And to enable a new generation to have the ability and the wherewithal to grasp those same opportunities.
 
And believe it or not, brothers and sisters, these issues can, and do, resonate with lawmakers from both parties and at all levels of government across this nation.
 
Our job is to make sure that we are strategic enough...
 
and committed enough…
 
to take the time to educate and engage lawmakers on both sides of the aisle so that they understand our values and our business model.
 
We can't continue to find ourselves caught up in political fights...
 
that are not of our own making.
 
If there are only two things that you take away from my remarks here this morning...
 
I hope they are these:
 
Number one, politics for the Building Trades must always be viewed as a strategic business endeavor;
 
And, number two, our primary political objective should always be focused upon the construction of "Building Trades Majorities" at all levels of government.
 
As the great statesman Winston Churchill once said, “It’s not enough that we do our best.”
 
 “Sometimes we have to do what’s required.”
 
And brothers and sisters, for us to continue on a trajectory of growth and success for our members and their families…
 
constructing Building Trades Majorities at all levels of government is absolutely required!!
 
To illustrate this, let’s examine what our Canadian brothers and sisters are doing.
 
In short, they have successfully and effectively moved beyond the Left/Right and Liberal/Conservative divide.
 
Instead, they are reaching out and working with all the major political parties in Canada.
 
And that activity is being driven by a small set of common-sense issues revolving around work opportunities and standards that are reflective of our core values.
 
Today, all major decisions by the Building Trades in Canada regarding political support at the national, provincial and local levels…
 
are predicated upon the levels of support received in turn for those core issues of work opportunities and standards.
 
It's as simple as that.
 
Brothers and Sisters, the idea of creating “Building Trades Majorities” is fairly straightforward.
 
It's simply a matter of rejecting old, preconceived "political" thinking with regard to which party was... or is... better for working people…
 
And instead, working to create strong bases of support on both sides of the aisle.
 
Where we have done this, the results have been encouraging.
 
We've adopted this approach with the U.S. Congress...
 
and today we enjoy unprecedented support for the Davis-Bacon Act in the House of Representatives...
 
and which has also led to the creation of a bi-partisan Congressional Building Trades Caucus...
 
co-chaired by Congressman Donald Norcross, a Democrat and IBEW member from New Jersey...
 
and Congressman David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia.
 
Congressman Norcross will talk more about the Building Trades Caucus
later today.
 
 So, while more and more state and local building trades councils are adopting a bi-partisan approach to politics in their states...
 
The bottom line is that it is not happening in enough areas.
 
Today, we are still finding ourselves involved in political battles involving prevailing wage laws and PLAs...
 
Primarily because we continue to fall prey to the outdated notion that there is ONLY ONE political party capable of providing understanding and support for the issues that affect our members, their families, and the communities in which we all live and work.
 
We can no longer kid ourselves, brothers and sisters.
 
The United States of America is a 50/50 nation when it comes to politics.
 
And guess what?
 
IT'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE ANY TIME SOON!
 
But there is also good news out there.
 
And that good news is this:
 
For years, the building trades
has been talking about issues like:
 
Wage inequality...
 
Lack of upward economic mobility...
 
Health care coverage and retirement security...
 
And the erosion of the great Middle Class.
 
Well, if you've been following the presidential campaign this year...
 
you know that the chickens are now coming home to roost.
 
Politicians on both sides of the political divide are now taking these issues very seriously.
 
They acknowledge and appreciate the fact that there is a strong undercurrent of anger permeating among the American electorate...
 
AND, QUITE FRANKLY, IT'S SCARING THE HELL OUT OF THEM!
 
AND IT SHOULD!
 
What the political elites are discovering…
 
is an anger.
 
And it’s an anger that is being fueled by a firm belief that American political elites...
 
FROM BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES...
 
have, for years, enacted policies...
 
or in some cases failed to enact policies...
 
which have vastly diminished the wages and bargaining power for millions of middle class working Americans.
 
Today, Americans understand all too well that real, median household income peaked at $58,000 in 1999...
 
and that it has been sliding ever since.
 
Today, it's only $53,000.
 
Cheap labor...
 
and the unfettered ability to exploit that labor without consequence...
 
is eroding the economic and social fabric of America.
 
What we see going on all around us today reminds me of the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson during the birth of our nation, and I quote:
 
“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another…
 
shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement…
 
and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
 
Unquote.
 
Brothers and Sisters…
 
The sleeping giant has awakened.
 
MIDDLE CLASS AMERICANS ARE TIRED OF DIMINISHED WAGES.
 
THEY WANT THEIR ECONOMIC SECURITY BACK…
 
AND THEY WANT IT BACK NOW!
 
But unfortunately, that message – while resonating at the national presidential level…
 
continues to be lost on a large segment of state lawmakers.
 
We continue to see state lawmakers mount political attacks on prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements.
 
In many instances, we have not done nearly enough to build the necessary bi-partisan support to prevent these proposals from ever taking root.
 
And that, brothers and sisters has to change.
 
So, my message to you today is this:
 
Our political engagement is not just one that occurs every 2 or 4 years.
 
We are on the front lines… every day.
 
And it’s on those front lines where we lead the fight for jobs, work opportunities and strong wage and benefit standards that contribute to stronger communities and a healthier nation.
 
And we succeed in those fights when we are more strategic about how we conduct our politics.
 
Fortunately for us, we couldn't ask for a better opportunity than this year’s elections to showcase our values, our issues and our business model.
 
Brothers and Sisters… We have a lot of weapons in our arsenal that we can, and do, deploy, in our efforts to become a central part of the political narrative happening right now…
 
and chief among them is our unparalleled apprenticeship training infrastructure.
 
Ask any state or local building trades leader who has had success in constructing "Building Trades Majorities" in their areas...
 
and you will find that it is our training infrastructure that has captured people’s imaginations.
 
This is becoming especially true with respect to apprenticeship-readiness programs…
 
where we now have over 100 such programs operating across the nation...
 
and where over 75% of the graduates are minorities and women.
 
Our world-class training infrastructure is not the only effective weapon we have in building broad, bi-partisan political support.
 
You will note that this year, as in past years, we are being joined by guests who are not politicians or policymakers.
 
But they are an equally important component to constructing "Building Trades Majorities."
 
Joining us this week will be Jack Gerard, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Petroleum Institute...
 
and Chris Crane, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Exelon.
 
These two gentlemen, and the organizations that they lead, provide vast sums of work opportunities for our members.
 
I spoke earlier about public construction totaling roughly $300 billion a year.
 
Well, privately-funded construction amounts to an $800 billion a year industry.
 
And Jack Gerard and Chris Crane lead organizations that are some of the top investors in capital construction spending in the country.
 
Which is why we have worked hard to establish such positive relationships with them…
 
And which are rooted in a VALUE PROPOSITION that has measurable results for their bottom lines.
 
In Exelon, Chris Crane leads one of America's leading energy providers...
 
a company with operations in 48 states and the District of Columbia...
 
and which has recently announced a 5-year, $25 billion capital investment program.
 
In the case of the American Petroleum Institute, we are talking about a national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.
 
And for many years now...
 
our unions have worked in partnership with Jack and his member companies through the Oil and Natural Gas Labor-Management Committee...
 
to raise standards when it comes to the safe exploration, extraction, production and maintenance activities in the oil and gas industry...
 
and to create increased opportunities for our members to go to work in those industries.
 
These types of formal partnerships are extremely important to us.
 
In addition to oil and gas, today we enjoy such partnerships with the nuclear industry…
 
The chemical industry…
 
And the power generation industry.
 
And I'm happy to report that since last year's Conference,
our collective advocacy and education efforts have resulted in new federal rules regarding pension investments that have gotten the attention of... and given direction to... the consultant community.
 
With these new rules in place, the ground is being laid for the creation of a construction financing organization that will enable us to increase our influence on projects in many markets.
 
The purpose of this organization will be for the Building Trades to sit in a room with everyone who is involved in construction financing... from Wall Street to Main Street...
 
And to make sure that those who are involved in construction financing in the United States...
in many cases using our pension dollars...
understand that standards for wages and safety have to be met...
which should open up many new work opportunities for our members.
 
Building such trusted partnerships is an important cog in our strategic approach.
 
So, I trust that you will provide Jack and Chris with the warm and receptive welcome that a Building Trades partner and ally so richly deserves.
 
So, we've talked about our strategic approach.
 
We've talked about the need to build greater bi-partisan political support at all levels of government.
 
We've talked about the mood of the electorate...
 
and the opportunities being presented for us to showcase our business model in the communities in which we live and work.
 
And we've talked about our strategic alliances with business and whole industries.
 
So, let's now talk about the 2016 election.
 
At the presidential level, there are some candidates that are good on issues important to our industries...
 
but they are not so good on standards such as prevailing wages and PLAs that benefit the communities in which we live and work.
 
Others are good on standards, but oppose critical policies that would enable continued growth and opportunities for industries that put our members to work.
 
As I've said, our approach to politics is simple --
 
we will support those candidates that are committed to creating work opportunities; protecting standards for those jobs; and support for the types of investments our unions are making in communities across the United States.
 
Which gets us to where we are today in terms of the presidential election.
 
There is only one candidate who is firm and strong in support of the policies that will lead to growth opportunities in the industries where our members work...
 
who possesses a true understanding of the opportunities we offer to women, communities of color and military veterans through our apprenticeship-readiness model…
 
while also standing strong for the standards that, in turn, ensure that those work opportunities are beneficial and fruitful for the economic trajectory of our members and their families.
 
And let me be clear when it comes to the democratic candidates for president...
 
Two of the three had unrealistic, destructive and disruptive energy policies that would devastate work opportunities for hundreds of thousands of our members who work in the energy industry every day.
 
That made the choice a little easier...
 
And if you recall what I said earlier... job number one for us is to CREATE work opportunities for our members... not destroy them.
 
There is only one candidate who has taken the time to understand us...
and our values...
and not just in 2016...
but for decades.
 
And that candidate is Hillary Clinton.
 
Every candidate for president may think they know
the building trades...
 
But only one candidate has shown respect for Building Trades members, their jobs, and their families...
 
And that's Hillary Clinton.
 
And when our unions formally engaged with our collective membership, there was abundant support for only one candidate...
 
Hillary Clinton.
 
Now, people will say that this 2016 election is the most important election of our lifetimes.
 
But, wasn’t the 2011 Scott Walker recall election in Wisconsin the most important election of our lifetime?
 
And what about the 2014 election...
 
where numerous state legislatures...
 
THAT DID NOT HAVE BUILDING TRADES MAJORITIES...
 
flipped to total Republican control.
 
Wasn't THAT the most important election of our lifetime?
 
Brothers and Sisters, let’s be clear:
 
Having President Obama in the White House did not alter one bit what transpired in those states during those election years.
 
Here's my point:
 
We won't ever have to find ourselves speaking in drastic terms about this election or that election being the most important of our lifetimes...
 
if we simply start acting more strategically... and construct “Building Trades Majorities.”
 
Rest assured brothers and sisters, from now until November... we will deploy our
"Hard Hats for Hillary" all across the nation to engage and educate our members and the voting public on the importance of issues like jobs, wages, infrastructure and a sound and sensible energy policy.
 
But as hard as we will fight to get Hillary Clinton elected president...
 
Let me be absolutely clear about two things:
 
Hillary Clinton will not be our business agent... 
 
And Hillary Clinton cannot do our jobs for us.
 
Only we can!
 
So, in closing…
 
Our values... our commitment to opportunity, hope and security for our members and their families…
 
As well as communities all across America...
 
Make it clear that we have too much to do, and too much to offer, to simply sit on the sidelines.
 
I know that every single one of you is talented, and that all of you are driven.
 
I also know that none of us can do this alone…
 
TOGETHER… we can accomplish anything.
 
We live in a time of rapid change.
 
And, in many instances, that change can, and does, lead to a better life.
 
We must think strategically.
 
And act strategically.
 
Not simply for today.
 
But for the tomorrows…
 
So that they are more rewarding for our members and their families…
 
more fulfilling for the communities in which we live and work…
 
and more compelling for our great nation.
 
The ground has never been as fertile for us as it is today.
 
We’ve planted the seeds, brothers and sisters.
 
Now all we have to do is tend the fields…
 
AND REAP THE HARVEST!
 
Thank you…
 
And may God Bless North America’s Building Trades Unions!

Contact:
Tom Owens
202-251-1081
towens@bctd.org