At a time when bipartisanship can seem as ancient and lost as a relic from centuries past, two representatives – one a Democrat and one a Republican – are joining together for a common cause. And one of them is an IBEW member. 

Reps. Donald Norcross of New Jersey and David McKinley of West Virginia know the value of the building trades. They also know that the “D” or “R” next to someone’s name shouldn’t be a roadblock to creating jobs or improving the nation’s infrastructure. So they came together to create the Congressional Building Trades Caucus.

Norcross is a Democrat representing New Jersey’s 1st District. McKinley, a Republican, represents West Virginia’s 1st District. Norcross is a journeyman wireman and member of Folsom, N.J., Local 351. McKinley is an engineer and owner of an architectural and engineering company. They both know how to build things. Now they are building a caucus to bring attention to the country’s neglected roads, bridges and power plants, casualties of Washington dysfunction.

“The 6.6 million Americans across our nation who work in construction need strong partners who are working on their behalf,” they said in an op-ed in The Hill, a publication focusing on Capitol Hill. “In Congress, as we follow this new and united blueprint for the future, we’re also tearing something down: the traditional labels associated with labor and business. Neither should be claimed as a value solely of the Republican or Democratic parties. These are core American issues.”

A congressional caucus is a group of members from the House or Senate that meet around a shared legislative objective. Also referred to as a coalition, they can be formed by party, identity, interest or ideology. More popular caucuses include the Blue Dog Coalition and the Congressional Black Caucus, the latter of which includes members of both chambers.

The building trades caucus will focus on educating congressional members about the ins and outs of the industry, including issues like the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires a prevailing wage on federal construction projects, project labor agreements and the value of apprenticeships. The co-chairs also want to push back on the myth of labor as a monolithic, anti-business movement.

“These issues are not blue or red issues. They’re jobs issues,” Norcross said. “We want to make sure that our fellow members know how the building trades work and how they impact their constituents and local economies.”

“The work of the building trades touches the lives of every American. We build and maintain the highways, erect the skyscrapers and power the country,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “These working men and women deserve a dedicated voice in Congress, and who better than the members who know the trade.”

Besides, there are valuable lessons in the building trades that could also apply to governing.

 “As any construction worker will tell you, on a worksite everyone needs to show up and focus on the task at hand to get the job done, on time and hopefully under budget. Reps. Norcross and McKinley get that, and now they can lead the way for others,” Stephenson said.

Homepage  Photo credit: Flickr user Ron Cogswell