Who should be the next President, and what should that President be doing?

Robbie Hunter, President, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California

By Robbie Hunter, President, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

Many labor unions in California and around the country, both in the Building Trades and other fields, have begun endorsing candidates for President of the United States.

As of this writing, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, as a whole, has not made an endorsement for President, although some candidates have approached us seeking our endorsement.

We will have a lot to say about this election between now and November, of course. Eventually we will do our best to determine which candidate is the most committed to policies that will improve the quality of life for Building Trades workers and their families, and we will express support for that candidate; we will use every fiber in our bodies to get that candidate elected.

Too often, presidential candidates pay lip service to working people to win their support, but upon taking office, are drawn to bury themselves in foreign policy rather than making things better here at home. Fighting and winning wars and pulling third world countries out of poverty generate better headlines, and seem to become more important than the plight of American workers.

If you want to help a downtrodden population, help the working families of America, because they are on the edge of living, being treated, and being paid like they are living in the third world.

Of course we understand that foreign policy is important and requires considerable attention. But working people are hurting here at home, and we must have a President that devotes ample time and energy not just to foreign policy ventures, but to improving the quality of life for workers here, for the American middle class.

Although the election remains many months away, it appears one party’s nominee will be billionaire Donald Trump, and there is absolutely nothing in his record or policy statements that indicates he could be an acceptable President when it comes to workers’ interests. He is anti- union through and through, and has endorsed right-to-work, which would take away the ability of any construction worker in the United States to earn a decent living. It would put us back to 1900, when we lined up at job sites, to be picked by the day, by an employer, only to be cheated on the barely livable wage that would be paid without the prevailing wage statutes of the federal and state governments.

Instead, we need a President who will commit to investing heavily in public works and infrastructure projects that the country desperately needs, while creating good jobs for the people who will build those projects. It means a firm commitment to workers’ rights to form a union, to decent wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and mandated quality health care and pension plans for all workers. These are the basic successful building blocks that nations are built upon, and that make economies strong for all to prosper.

That means rebuilding the battered middle class in this country, which for far too long has been asked to sacrifice and pay the price for ever increasing wealth and power for the rich, privileged few.

We want to see a detailed plan to put Americans to work building and manufacturing. We shouldn’t be importing cars from other countries that do not pay fair wages to workers. Cars sold in America should be built in America. If you want to sell a refrigerator in America, you should build it here, paying decent wages to American workers, and not send those jobs off to a third world country where starving people can be cheaply exploited.

Let us see an expanded commitment to protecting and expanding apprenticeships, so that our next generation of workers can gain the skills to allow them the option of transitioning to a good job upon graduating from school.

Let’s see more mandates for a skilled and trained work force so that communities are assured that difficult jobs at industrial facilities are performed competently and safely, to the great benefit of employers and the surrounding communities where workers and their families live.

When candidates come to the State Building Trades seeking our endorsement, these are the kinds of priorities we will outline and the detailed commitments we will tell them we need.

The candidate who best understands and who is the most deeply and sincerely committed to these values, so vital to American working people, will have the best chance to earn our support. Then it will be up to us to do everything we can to help that candidate win the office of President of the United States.

We will definitely have much more to say about this between now and the November election.