Paul Ryan’s Secret, Forbidden, And Requited Love For Local Building Trades Unions And Davis-Bacon

Suzy Khimm reports on the curious fact that some labor unions in Paul Ryan’s home district think conservatism’s new golden boy is just fine:

“We don’t agree with him on all issues…but we have a working relationship on the primary issue of importance to us,” says Mark Reihl, executive director of the Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters. “He’s supported us on every Davis-Bacon vote that’s been held out there.” The Carpenters and Joiners Union, as a result, has consistently been one of Ryan’s top 20 contributors over the years; Ryan has received a total of $47,500 from members of the union since taking office.

Similarly, the Operating Engineers—an AFL-CIO affiliate closely tied to the home and road construction industries—has also been a regular Ryan donor, with $38,500 in total contributions. The Laborers Union also contributed to Ryan’s campaign early on, though support has dropped off since then. “That is one thing that we can thank Paul Ryan for is the support of the prevailing wage and putting work back into the roads and highways here,” says Anthony Neira, business manager of the Laborers’ Local 113.

What gives? Well, construction workers unions strongly favor Davis-Bacon regulations that make it difficult for non-union construction firms to underbid unionized ones on government contracts. What gives? Well, obviously the union financial support for Ryan doesn’t hurt their cause in his eyes, but if cutting random members of congress a check was good enough to secure their support on labor issues we’d have a very different country. Instead the issue seems to be that Ryan’s family owns a firm that benefits from Davis-Bacon:

Both Ryan’s supporters and detractors point to his family ties to the construction industry to make sense of his position. His great-grandfather established Ryan Incorporated Central in 1884, and the company is currently run by his cousins. Ryan Inc. Central—which has been a signatory to the International Union of Operating Engineers since 1966—once employed Ryan as a consultant. Like other companies using unionized labor to carry out public projects, his family firm would suffer a big blow if Davis-Bacon were repealed, as federal contractors could drastically underbid the firm.

Goes to show that even in this polarized age, politics still contains multitudes.