Biden picks up key endorsement from Pa. Building Trades Council, which has opposed Wolf, Dems on fracking issues

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Dunmore, Pa., on Thursday, 7/9/20 (Screen Capture)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has netted the endorsement of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, picking off the support of an organized labor constituency whose members have been friendly to Republicans and President Donald Trump in the past.

Union leaders delivered the news to the former vice president’s campaign Thursday, with council president Frank A. Sirianni writing that Biden’s “support for the construction workers and their issues has distinguished you among your colleagues, and has benefited countless hardworking Pennsylvanians.”

In a statement released to the Capital-Star Friday, Sirianni said trade workers will “have an ally in the White House who is committed to unions, protecting and supporting workers, and families across the nation.”

Biden, who has promised on his campaign website to create “more well-paying union jobs,” will “[shift] power back towards working people,” Sirianni said.

While Democrats enjoy broad support among most sectors of organized labor, Republicans have been working since at least the Nixon years to win over Americans who work in construction, carpentry and other so-called “hard-hat” trades, the progressive publication Jacobin reported.

Disaffected blue-collar workers, who were formerly Democrats, made up a key part of Trump’s 2016 coalition.

Pennsylvania Republicans, for instance, tried to court the building trades as they built support to a package of bills intended to shore up the state’s natural gas industry. Gov. Tom Wolf later vetoed one of the key components of that package.

Last December, Sirianni’s union voted to support legislation that would have barred Wolf from entering Pennsylvania into a multi-state effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This week, Wolf similarly vetoed the bill.

Progressive organizers have been working steadily to try to reverse that trend.

As Politico reports, that has been an uphill effort, with Biden and Trump running in a dead heat, 48-47 percent, in six swing states, according to internal polling by North America’s Building Trades Unions that was shared with the digital news site.

“We haven’t moved the needle here,” Mike Knisley, executive secretary-treasurer with the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, told Politico for that Sept. 22 story. The labor leader said that about half of his membership voted for Trump four years ago, and were likely to do so again in 2020.

“Even if given all the information that’s been put out there, all the facts — just pick an issue that the president has had his hands in — it doesn’t make a difference.”

In Pennsylvania, labor leaders have said they’re hopeful that Biden’s long history with the labor movement will make a difference in a must-win battleground state. Biden was in a statistical dead heat with Trump among likely voters in a Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday.

“Joe Biden has been a friend to organized labor for decades,” Frank Snyder, the secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, told the Capital-Star in a Labor Day weekend interview. “It’s relatively easy to make a comparison, [our members] remember when Joe did this or that.”

Philadelphia’s building trades council backed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, Billy Penn reported.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press