BY LISA KOPOCHINSKI
The construction industry and the millions of workers it employs have much at stake in this upcoming presidential election—one that is featuring two nominees that just might be the two most unpopular of all time.
Few will argue that this year’s presidential election is both more exciting and nerve-wracking than many past elections. And it is one that has also defied all conventional wisdom — thus far — in many ways.
“Looking back in 2015, who would have thought we’d be at a place where Donald Trump vanquished 16 Republican leaders, including governors and former governors and U.S. senators,” says David Ashinoff, AGC’s director of political affairs. “And that Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 74-year old socialist would have won 20 Democratic contests over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”
At a time when the construction industry is rebounding from the longest and deepest slump of any sector, it is especially important to elect leaders willing to work for common-sense solutions to the challenges facing the construction industry and its workforce.
Between now and Nov. 8, AGC members have an opportunity to cast their vote in the primary and general elections taking place across the U.S. and help elect 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 34 members of the U.S. Senate, 11 governors, and countless local and state officials. And while no one knows who’ll win the presidential race, if the ride up to now is any indication, the next few months will be interesting, if not nail-biting. This is also why voter turnout is more crucial than ever.
“In 2014, only 36 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot making it one of the lowest turnouts since 1942,” says Ashinoff. “Forty-seven million voters did not cast a ballot after having done so just two years’ prior in the 2012 presidential election.”
He says expectations are that turnout will revert back to similar patterns seen in 2012 making this year’s electorate larger, younger, less white, and more Democratic.
“Such a turnout forecast will be beneficial to Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. However, it remains unknown if Hillary Clinton will successfully replicate the winning coalition twice formed by President Obama. Anything could happen this November with the two most disliked presidential nominees in at least 30 years atop the ticket. That’s why it’s imperative that those who make a living in the construction industry vote on Election Day.”
Ashinoff says we are also a very divided country, with more people than ever identifying as Independent, rather than Democrat or Republican.
“When you look at polls, you have a little less than one-third who identify as Democrats, and even less so as Republicans. We have about 42 percent identifying as independents. I think that is primarily because of the gridlock we see in DC and the frustration that average Americans are having over it. You look at the Gallup poll about the biggest problems facing the country and the number one problem is not the economy, jobs, terrorism or debt. It’s dissatisfaction with government, and I think that’s why you are seeing a more divided country.”
WHAT MEMBERS ARE SAYING
Several AGC members weighed in on who they will be voting for on Nov. 8 and why.
Carole Bionda, vice president of Nova Group Inc. — a Napa, California-based general engineering contractor and AGC of California member — identifies as a fiscal conservative “just slightly to the right of Attila the Hun,” she jokes. “As such, I vote for candidates whom I consider to be fiscally responsible conservative candidates.”
Industry issues she is most concerned about include the reliability of infrastructure funding by government — national, state and local.
“Much of our infrastructure — bridges, roads, water treatment plants — is in a pathetic state and need rebuilding, repair and retrofitting. Unlike much of the world, on the whole we have clean water. Cholera and typhoid do not exist in this country. Why? Because we have functioning wastewater treatment plants.”
Bionda says the proliferation of questionable government regulation — often based on questionable science or facts — is severely increasing the cost of doing business, not just for construction.
“[There is] the proliferation of presidential executive orders, usurping the legislative function, and destroying the separation of powers envisioned by the Constitution. Government-mandated project labor agreements unnecessarily increase the cost of public projects while only serving the political goals of organized labor.”
Over the next four years, she would like to see changes to some of the regulations.
SPREAD THE WORD
The construction industry and the millions of workers it employs have much at stake in this election. At a time when the industry is rebounding from the longest and deepest slump of any sector, the AGC of America stresses the importance for members to elect leaders willing to work for common-sense solutions to the challenges facing the construction industry and its workforce.
Between now and Nov. 8, join voters across the country elect 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 34 members of the U.S. Senate, 11 governors, and countless local and state officials.
A small margin of votes may decide an election, so it is important that those who are eligible to vote do so. Don’t be silent, be a part of our democracy and make your voice heard. There are still millions of Americans, however, who choose not to have their voices heard on Election Day. Help us change that statistic by making sure your colleagues, family members and friends are registered and vote on Nov. 8, 2016.
“Increasing government regulations are making it harder and harder to do business,” she stresses. “We have higher costs of doing business, which impede the growth of companies and, therefore, the economy. Over the years, the construction industry has positively contributed to the growth of the economy and put countless people to work. Without having to react to questionable regulation after regulation, I think the construction industry will continue to positively contribute to the gross domestic product and have the resources to become more productive.”
Eddie Stewart is president and CEO of Caddell Construction, an Alabama AGC member and highly respected general contracting firm located in Montgomery. Founded in 1983, the company has more than $8.3 billion in current and completed projects and multiple national awards from construction industry peers.
Calling this one of the most interesting and unusual campaigns in both parties that he can remember, he admits that he is not fully happy with either candidate.
“Yet I am definitely voting for Donald Trump. As a businessman and not a career politician, he better understands what is good for our economy and necessary to spur real growth,” says Stewart. “For our industry in particular, I believe he understands construction issues — including the numerous regulatory roadblocks we encounter every day in trying to do our jobs. I am certain his opponent doesn’t have a clue about the problems facing our industry and, in fact, has an agenda which will severely hurt construction.”
Stewart believes that the top industry concerns impacted by this election will be immigration reform and the passage of a Federal budget, which includes investment in our crumbling infrastructure.
“Immigration reform has been not only a partisan issue, but one in which factions within each party cannot agree,” he says. “This president must be a tough negotiator (which I believe Donald Trump is) yet at the same time bring all parties together to get a solution that everyone can live with.”
Likewise, Stewart adds that the inability of the government to reach consensus on and pass a Federal budget has been a major concern for both the construction industry (as well as the country) for the past eight years.
“We desperately need to be investing in our roads, infrastructure, and military, which I believe would be supported by a Trump administration, while the Clinton administration would push ‘freebies’ at the taxpayer’s expense, while increasing environmental regulations which hurt our industry.”
Dan Fordice, vice president, secretary and treasurer of Fordice Construction Company in Vickburg, Mississippi, a member of multiple AGC chapters and a contracting firm founded nearly 70 years ago that provides a wide array of construction services from pile driving to concrete work to commercial building, agrees. Overburdening regulations are greatly reducing profit margins, he says, especially on the smaller end of the spectrum.
“Larger companies have more resources to devote to compliance enforcement and management than smaller companies, and often times assist smaller subcontractors. Therefore, competing on the smaller scale — while trying to be in compliance with all the latest rules and regulations — is getting tougher and tougher.”
For this reason, Fordice will be voting for Trump in November, “because I don’t think the industry can stand much more of the overburdensome regulations every recent Democratic administration has increased on us.”
Tom Foss will also be voting for Trump. As CEO of The Griffith Company, which has four locations in Southern California and is a member of the San Diego Chapter, he says, “I think Hillary will continue the anti-business attitude and Trump will help spur our economy through his tax plan. There are other reasons I’m going to vote for him as well. I think he will help us become energy independent and move us away from Obamacare and help us do some kind of health saving account. I think that will really help my employees as well.”
The industry issues Foss says he is most concerned with are related to regulations and regulatory agencies that he must deal with at all levels of government.
“A lot of the regulations we’re seeing are damaging to the industry and the economy. Many of the labor rules and regulations are continuously trying to tell me how many paid days off I need to give, for example. They’re regulating breaks and lunches and family medical leave and expanding the overtime rules. They’re just trying to control everything that we do in business.”
He adds that for all the good the Department of Labor is trying to accomplish, they’re going about it wrong.
“I think it’s hurting my company and the industry overall.”
AGC PAC CONTRIBUTIONS
Although the AGC of America does not endorse federal candidates, its political action committee, AGC PAC, does contribute to congressional campaigns. Here are some of the top races where AGC PAC has contributed to candidates largely based on their pro-construction, pro-business stance.
Florida – Sen. Marco Rubio (R) vs. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D)
Illinois – Sen. Mark Kirk (R) vs. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D)
Pennsylvania – Sen. Pat Toomey (R) vs. Kate McGinty (D)
Nevada– Rep. Joe Heck (R) vs. former NV Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto (D)
Wisconsin – Sen. Ron Johnson (R) vs. former Sen. Russ Feingold (D)
California 10 – Rep. Denham (R) vs. Michael Eggman (D)
Colorado 6 – Rep. Mike Coffman (R) vs. St. Sen. Morgan Carroll (D)
Iowa 3 – Rep. David Young (R) vs. Jim Mowrer (D)
Maryland 6 – Rep. Delaney (D) vs. Amie Hoeber (R)
Michigan 7 – Rep. Tim Walberg (R) vs. St. Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D)
Nevada 4 – Rep. Cresent Hardy (R) vs. St. Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D)
New York 24 – Rep. John Katko (R) vs. Colleen Deacon (D)
Virginia 10 – Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) vs. Lu Ann Bennett (D)
ISSUES IMPORTANT TO AGC
Ashinoff says AGC works with the Legislative Action Committee to set the legislative agenda every two years, to coincide with the start of each new Congressional session.
“Issues are added or removed from the legislative agenda based on three factors: the top issues of importance for a majority of AGC members, the timeliness of each individual issue, and the achievability of success.”
Once the legislative agenda is set, AGC’s government affairs subject matter experts create one-pagers to provide talking points for issues currently moving through the legislative or regulatory process. Subject matter experts focus on issue areas such as infrastructure funding, labor, tax, federal procurement, environment and safety.
The top policy priorities for the 114th Congress are as follows:
Federal Contracting Issues
• Oppose the Blacklisting Executive Order
• Support Civilian “BRAC”
• Support Procurement Reform
• Oppose Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements
• Support the Composite Plan Design for
Multiemployer Pension Plans
• Oppose Executive Order on Paid Sick Leave
• Oppose Rule on Crystalline Silica
• Support Comprehensive Tax Reform
• Support the Water Resources Development Act
• Support Repeal of the Prior Authorization Requirement for Trade Association PACs
More details can be found at www.agc.org/agcs-policy-priorities. Ashinoff says it’s also vital that AGC members talk to their employees about the candidates and issues at stake in this election. Some employers may be skeptical of talking about such matters, but research confirms employees want to hear it.
According to survey research from the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, “Employees want to hear from their employer or a representative of their employer about political and public policy issues that would affect their job, company and industry.”
In fact, Ashinoff says, “Employers were found to be the most trusted source for such information beating out the internet, media/news, labor unions and political parties. I think it’s difficult for some employers to engage employees about politics, elections and candidates because it tends to be one of those topics you keep out of the workplace.”
To help facilitate this valuable dialogue, AGC maintains ConstructionVotes.com. It is a one-stop-shop website for voters and employers. Voters can register to vote, view state and federal candidates, find a polling place, learn about early and absentee voting as well as key issues. In addition to these resources, employers can download a legally approved “Do’s & Don’ts” guide to help get out the vote, host jobsite tours or company meet and greets with candidates or members of Congress.