Speakers address key issues, changing political landscape
IN THE RUN-UP to the November general elections, Boilermaker delegates had plenty to take in as they gathered for the LEAP conference at the Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. May 16-18.
Major issues like climate change, trade and jobs were discussed in detail, but the changing political environment also captured attention.
In his opening address, International President Newton B. Jones told delegates, “It has been one incredibly unique presidential election year.”
“As labor lobbyists, you represent the single strongest voice for the middle class to stand up to the rich and the powerful.”
— IP Newton B. Jones
Referring to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, he noted, “It is not far-fetched to think that we could have a super-capitalist billionaire squaring off against an avowed socialist in November.”
He called the election cycle “nasty and unpredictable,” and said “people are tired of business as usual in Washington.”
IP Jones discussed each major issue developed by the Government Affairs Department that delegates would discuss when meeting on Capitol Hill with their elected representatives. He told delegates, “As labor lobbyists, you represent the single strongest voice for the middle class to stand up to the rich and the powerful.”
Cook examines shifting political winds
“I think we’re seeing both of our political parties becoming much, much more ideological.”
— Charlie Cook, political analyst
RENOWNED POLITICAL ANALYST Charlie Cook explained to LEAP delegates why he believes politics has become so unusual and polarized in recent years and offered insights into the possible outcome of the general election in November.
“I think we’re seeing both of our political parties becoming much, much more ideological and [they] are just behaving a lot differently than they used to.”
Cook said what has happened is “ideological sorting,” where both parties are moving away from the center to their extremes.
Cook said the electorate is experiencing economic anxiety due to globalization and advances in technology, and they don’t believe their children will have the same opportunities the parents had.
“That’s led to a rise in populism,” he observed.
He added that “While the United States has never been in control of everything going on around the world, we seem particularly impotent right now.”
Another factor contributing the growing populism, he said, is increasing disillusionment with the inability of Washington to get things done.
Cook projected that the composition of both the Senate and the House could tighten up with the elections, with the possibility that Democrats could gain control of the Senate.
He said neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is the ideal candidate from their party’s perspective but that national polls showed Hillary leading Trump in a head-to-head match-up.
McKinley blasts EPA rules, U.S. trade policies
“Rather than risking our economy and hurting people, we should be investing in research into clean coal…”
— U.S. Rep. David McKinley
REP. DAVID MCKINLEY (R-W.VA. 1st) spoke about U.S. environmental and trade policies that have cost millions of American jobs.
He observed that a paradigm shift has occurred in the U.S. energy industry. “In the past, what our utility companies could have done [in response to new EPA regulations] is make an adjustment . . . and just modernize their power plants. We upgraded. That created jobs, and that was okay, because the technology was available, and the investments that they were making made sense to do that.”
He said that now the technologies to meet extreme new EPA regulations do not exist, so upgrading their fossil plants does not make economic sense.
“Rather than risking our economy and hurting people, we should be investing in research into clean coal technology and using natural gas. “
McKinley addressed unfair trade policies that have cost millions of U.S. jobs, including Babcock & Wilcox moving some 200 Boilermaker jobs in West Point, Miss. to Mexico.
“The opposition to TPP [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] has to continue,” he stated. “I think you’ve all been very effective with it. We’ve got to get our country back again. We can only do it if we’re together, all of us.”
Garamendi calls for “making it in America”
“Were it not for the Jones Act, [the U.S. maritime industry] would literally disappear…”
— U.S. Rep. John Garamendi
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA 3rd) told LEAP participants that it is time to “make it in America once again.” He said to accomplish that, we need restructured public policy.
“Public policy can direct us towards more jobs, more opportunities, or it can go exactly the opposite direction.”
Garamendi, who serves as the ranking member on the House Coast Guard Maritime Committee, said he has witnessed “the continued decline of the Maritime Industry in the United States.” He said, “Were it not for the Jones Act, [the U.S. maritime industry] would literally disappear, except the United States Navy.”
The Jones Act, established in 1920, requires that commerce between U.S. ports be reserved for ships that are American built, owned, flagged and manned. Garamendi noted that 25 years ago there were 800 U.S. merchant ships covered by the Jones Act, but that number has dwindled to just 80 today.
Garamendi said he recognized the importance of shipbuilding to the Boilermakers and that the industry is just one of the sectors where the “Make it in America” strategy needs to apply.
Markell promotes nuclear, CCS
“[Carbon capture and storage is] “a must-have technology.”
— Brad Markell, AFL-CIO
BRAD MARKELL, DIRECTOR of the Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO, spoke about the energy sector and manufacturing in the United States.
He said carbon capture and storage “is something that those of us who work on energy in Washington are spending a lot of time on. It’s a must-have technology; it’s the way we are going to keep coal plants open in this country. It’s the way we’re going to take advantage of our hundreds of years of coal.
“What we want is demonstration projects; we want [the same kind of advantages given to] wind and solar, tax breaks and whatnot.”
Markell stressed that nuclear energy must become a big part of the U.S. energy mix, and noted that building the plants means many high-paying jobs. He said the industry needs to lower costs by standardization and using modular designs.
Markell noted that manufacturing jobs and energy jobs are interconnected, and that when manufacturing is shipped overseas, the demand for energy decreases, impacting jobs in the energy industry as well.