North America's Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey celebrated recent economic and political successes in his speech to the 40th International Convention and challenged attendees to spread the word to the membership.

While many are forecasting economic and political headwinds, North America's Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey took an opportunity to celebrate.

Speaking to the IBEW’s 40th International Convention on Wednesday, McGarvey recited an emphatic list of victories, hard work that paid off in jobs and market share, and predicted bright prospects for the North American trades worker.

McGarvey began by noting that the darkness of the past few years is part of what throws workers’ recent successes into such sharp relief.

“Our members, your families, and our country have survived so much since your last convention: the pandemic, shutdowns, civil unrest, the most significant election in our lifetime, and the continuing coup attempt,” he said.

Within all that tragedy, trades workers showed their true value each day and the rest of North America finally began to fully see it, he said.

McGarvey lauded unprecedented successes signing agreements: $80 billion with Amtrak, $30 billion in Small Modular reactors, $20 billion for carbon capture storage, and a first of its kind, $40 billion national offshore wind agreement.

The result, he said, is a generational opportunity to organize, including in communities that had been historically excluded from the trades.

“Because of your hard work at the grassroots level, we have registered an average of 75,000 new apprentices annually in the last five years – and that is just in the United States,” he said. “Our Apprenticeship Readiness Programs have placed over 25,000 participants into a Registered Apprenticeship in just the last five years, with 80% being people of color and 25% being women.”

The upshot is that trades workers now control enormous financial power including $800 billion in pension fund assets alone.

McGarvey said that much of the good news has been the result of changes implemented by the Biden Administration.

From the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; the Butch Lewis act that rescued endangered pension plans; firing Peter Robb, the union-buster Trump appointee as the NLRB’s General Counsel, to his executive order reinstating PLAs and the rulemaking that returned the Davis-Bacon act to full strength after decades of weakening. McGarvey said Biden is on his way to being the most pro-union president in American history.

“It is hard to believe what Joe Biden and his administration have done for us and all working people in 16 short months. In my opinion, he is already the greatest president in my lifetime,” he said.

But McGarvey said it isn’t enough to win.

“We have to get our members the facts. We need you, here in this audience, to keep communicating what is being done through legislation and policy for our industry and what is being done for the working-class, the middle-class, the IBEW and all building trades members.”

It’s an opportunity that may not last.

“We can and must seize this moment,” he closed.