Members of building trades unions—including carpenters, laborers, electricians and iron workers—tend to be more conservative politically than most other union members. They often side with business over environmental groups and find common ground with Republicans on infrastructure projects.While persistently high unemployment among construction workers has their unions frantic (reasonably enough) to find jobs anywhere possible, this is some extremely short-term thinking. Kasich hasn't gone after unions since the epic defeat of SB 5, the bill he pushed attacking public sector workers. But that doesn't mean his longer-term goal doesn't remain damaging to the union movement. And while building trades unions might be temporarily strengthened by an infusion of infrastructure spending in Ohio, they'd be weakened in the longer run by strengthening politicians who would like to attack them. Right to work might be off the immediate agenda in Ohio, but that doesn't mean it's off the Republican long-term wish list.
"We're pragmatic with our politics. Jobs are our currency," said Sean McGarvey, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department at the AFL-CIO in Washington.
In Ohio, union leaders caution that the courtship between Mr. Kasich and the building trades is relatively new. Still, the political-action committee of the state's trades unions gave his campaign the maximum contribution, and it is "very possible" the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, whose member unions represent 90,000 hard hats, will endorse the governor, said Dennis Duffey, secretary-treasurer of the group.
Ohio building trades unions should take a look at what happened in New Jersey last fall. After building trades unions there endorsed Gov. Chris Christie for re-election because he was supposedly going to create jobs for them—never mind that he had begun his first term by canceling a massive infrastructure project—Christie went right ahead and weakened prevailing wage requirements on businesses receiving tax credits, a direct strike against construction workers.
Additionally, at the national level, Republican politicians are choking infrastructure investment of the sort that would create construction jobs. Republicans and trades unions might be on the same page in wanting Keystone XL approval, but for basically every other infrastructure project you can name—mass transit, roads, bridges, schools—Republicans are standing squarely in the way of the investments that would create construction jobs.