With the 2016 campaign season in full swing, members of the construction industry have valuable opportunities to communicate with their lawmakers, both in Washington, D.C., and their home states.

During the next six months, candidates will campaign in a total of 469 congressional races, including races for 34 U.S. Senate seats and all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This means incumbent members of Congress, as well as incoming candidates, will spend a large portion of their time connecting with voters and listening to concerns. Construction employers and employees should take advantage of this opportunity to educate the candidates and elected officials on issues affecting the industry in their respective state.

While Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) maintains a government affairs team tasked with promoting policies benefitting the construction industry through meetings on Capitol Hill, letters to government and private stakeholders, grassroots advocacy and political engagement, these efforts require involvement from business owners and employees to be truly successful. 

Participating in grassroots advocacy is easier than ever before with the use of the ABC Action App, which allows ABC members to respond to action alerts on smartphones or tablets and also share the campaign with colleagues and friends. In recent months, ABC members sent more than 800 letters to the Hill requesting that members of Congress cosponsor the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (S. 71/H.R. 1671). The legislation will help small businesses grow by creating a level playing field in the procurement of government construction contracts, increasing competition, curbing construction costs and allowing the job creating benefits of federally funded contracts to spread throughout the entire construction industry. As a result of grassroots advocacy efforts, H.R. 1671 has garnered 104 cosponsors and S. 71 has 11 cosponsors. 

The ABC Action App also can be used to file comments with various regulatory agencies. For example, in August 2015, the Department of Labor solicited comments on the proposed change to the exemption standards for overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). After receiving an action alert, 908 ABC members filed comments on the proposed rule citing major negative repercussions to the construction industry. 

While action alerts are an important tool to voice concerns about issues related to the construction industry, businesses have other avenues for getting involved in the political process. Following are six ways to interact with candidates and elected officials during this election season.
  • Stay informed. Download the ABC Action App and review the “Issues” tab for the rundown on several key issues affecting the construction industry, such as Right to Work legislation, project labor agreements on state and local projects, and state and local prevailing wage laws. Read about project labor agreements at thetruthaboutPLAs.com, learn about intrusive government regulation at halttheassault.com, follow important election dates at abcvotes.com and get real-time updates by following ABC Government Affairs on Twitter (@ABCGovAffairs).   
  • Know the facts about ABC PAC. In the last election cycle, ABC PAC supported 261 pro-merit shop candidates running for the U.S. House and Senate, 89 percent of whom were successfully elected to Congress. The bottom line: ABC PAC money does not go to waste. After maintaining a majority in the House and reclaiming control of the upper chamber in the 2014 mid-term elections, Republicans now must defend 25 Senate seats and several swing districts in the House. It is more important than ever for ABC to defend its allies and cultivate a merit shop majority in Washington, D.C. 
  • Talk to employees and coworkers. As the campaign season continues and people begin to feel overwhelmed by the political ads and attacks in mainstream media, it is important for ABC members to take time to speak with others about why they need to participate in the political process. Explain how specific regulations affect the construction industry, and encourage them to learn more about the policies and be engaged in grassroots advocacy. 
  • Plan a jobsite visit. Invite local lawmakers or candidates to visit a jobsite in the area. Elected officials of all parties enjoy returning home to their districts and visiting jobsites or training facilities. This is a great way to build lasting relationships with lawmakers and discuss how their work on Capitol Hill directly affects the construction business. The ABC Government Affairs team is available to help coordinate and promote jobsite visits by emailing action@abc.org
  • Attend ABC’s Legislative Week. Come to Washington, D.C., June 20-24 to hear from lawmakers and political pundits and visit Congressional offices. Visit legweek.abc.org to register.  
  • Get involved in state and local politics through a local ABC chapter or independently. Get to know local elected officials and learn about state regulations that affect the construction industry. Visit meritshopscorecard.org to see how states rank on key issues that impact the construction economy and jobs in the industry. 
The election season is an exciting time of year with many possibilities for interactions with federal, state and local elected officials. It is vital for employers and employees to take advantage of this opportunity for political engagement and help serve as the voice of the merit shop before the general election takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 8.  


Ashleigh Davenport is grassroots coordinator for Associated Builders and Contractors. For more information, email davenport@abc.org.