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Trump plays the Building Trades

Like a fiddle, Trump told these men what they wanted to hear, thankfully not everyone bought the con

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 04, 2017

In January, handpicked conservative leaders from some of the Building Trades Unions sat down with Trump. It was rumored that they discussed his $1 Trillion infrastructure plan. Months later, we still have no clue what that really means.

 Shortly after that meeting, the Building Trades provided Trump with a wish list of projects that they could use his help with to speed up the regulatory process or fund.  Today, Trump joined the Building Trades as a speaker at the North American Building Trades Union (NABTU) Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.

Trump came out to a lukewarm reception from the crowd, that included boos and a number of people standing up with “Resist” posters. He opened by joking “I know them well, I know them too well, they cost me a lot of money.” Trump couldn’t get through the speech without a dig at the fair wages that Building Trades members receive. Standing in front of a backdrop that touted protecting Davis-Bacon and Project Labor Agreements, Trump said it was finally time that we had a builder in the White House.

Outside of platitudes and shout outs, as usual Trump was light on the details because he doesn’t know himself.  Supposedly, Trump is planning a $1 trillion infrastructure spending project, but it was not included in the budget negotiations that are taking place. Under his incompetent leadership, the federal government will be shutting down at the end of the month so it’s almost stupid to think he actually has an infrastructure plan at all.

Instead of talking about specifics of how he was going to put the trades back to work, he spent most of the speech talking about his Electoral College victory.  Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, and that is not fake news. He even said that he had the support of almost everyone in the room, another orange-faced lie. Even though Sean McGarvey, the President of the NABTU clapped at every Trump comment like a drunken seal, it was obvious that the house was divided on the support for the most unpopular “President” in the history of the United States.

At one point when Trump touted that he increased immigrant deportations, some misguided “leaders” applauded. This sad display of hate and intolerance is a sentiment shared by only a select few in the building trades who are commonly labeled as a dying group of dinosaurs by their younger, more intelligent counterparts. In fact, Trump's immigrant deportation removal numbers aren't different than President Obama's. According to data provided by news agency Guardian, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement counted 35,604 removals in January and February 2017. Over that same period in 2016, the previous administration deported 35,255, a near identical total. Once again, McGarvey applauded. 

One of UCOMM’s sources that was inside the room said that Trump was also met with more boos than cheers.  One area where Trump did get into specifics was around regulations.  A site you just had to see to believe, Trump played the crowd like a fiddler on the roof as he brought out a chart to show how many different regulations it would take to get a road project approved.  He compared that with the building of the Empire State Building which was put up in only 13 months, claiming that it would take 10 years to get the road approved. Keep in mind, 5 people died building the Empire State Building, and no one lost their life building NYC’s Freedom Tower – a union job with many regulations in place.

Trump promised the trades that this sort of red tape would be cut under his “presidency.”  However, when Trump talks about ending regulations what does he really mean? Over the last 10 weeks, the regulations that he eased included making it easier for contractors with massive labor violations to get federal contracts. He also ended the Obama Overtime rule which would have served as a raise for millions of middle income workers who are being taken advantage of by their employers.

Since Trump didn’t talk policy, he tried to appeal to the workers about changing the economic system.  Even though his cabinet is full of billionaires who made their money on Wall Street and corrupted big business, Trump told the crowd that it was now time for you to share the wealth that Washington and Wall Street has made.  He also said that it is time to give the building trades the level playing field that they deserve. While his pandering unbelievable statement was popular, his record is the exact opposite. Clearly through plans like repealing the fiduciary rule, which required money managers to advise you on what is in your best interest and not theirs, the landscape is being leveled.

Text to UCOMM: The guy was full of hot air and lots of posturing but never said collective bargaining, PLA, or prevailing wage.

While he said he wanted to level the playing field, he didn’t say if this means that he’ll be opposed to the repeal of Davis Bacon and attacks on Project Labor Agreements. Trump’s top lobbyist, Associated Builders and Contractors Executive Brad Gertsman has repeatedly gone after Davis Bacon and PLA’s. Once again, McGarvey clapped. Trump also said that American Labor Leaders will always have an open door with Trump, but he has stated on the record many times that he would prefer Right-to-Work and has refused to come out against a National Right-to Work-Law that is currently making its way through Congress.  Later Trump said that wages have fallen 15% since the 1970’s but didn’t say that it was thanks to builders like himself not always using union labor on their projects.

 In fact, Trump didn’t even address the fact that he owes millions to members of some of the unions that were in the room, like the $2 Million that owes AES Electric, a NECA Contractor and IBEW signatory, for the work done on the Washington DC Trump Hotel. The IBEW was the least enthused group in the room and probably the most mindful of what was really taking place.

Traditionally the Building Trades can be a tough crowd for any speaker.  Unlike other unions, the trades differ across the political spectrum ranging from very conservative to very liberal and everything in between.  For Trump, getting booed wasn’t the worst reaction that a President got at a Building Trades Conference.  President Ronald Reagan, who was intricate to the decline in union membership especially in the building trades, was shot outside of the very same conference in 1981, so at least Trump didn’t get himself shot.

Brian Young contributed to this story. 

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