Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council Endorses Mike DeWine for Governor

Wondolowski's group once again aligns with business interests

click to enlarge The Building and Construction Trades Council endorses Kelley on the steps of City Hall. - Courtesy Kevin Kelley for Cleveland
Courtesy Kevin Kelley for Cleveland
The Building and Construction Trades Council endorses Kelley on the steps of City Hall.

Governor Mike DeWine's camp announced Thursday morning that the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, the organization that represents upwards of 12,000 specialized construction workers in Northeast Ohio and is led by lightning rod Dave Wondolowski, has endorsed the Republican ticket,  (Mike DeWine and Jon Husted), in their re-election bid against Democratic challengers Nan Whaley and Cheryl Stephens.

“Governor DeWine has been a champion for developing and upskilling Ohio workers and winning historic investments, which has created tens of thousands of jobs for Ohio’s building and construction trades workers,” said Wondolowski, in a statement provided by DeWine.  “We are proud to support the DeWine-Husted team to lead the state of Ohio.”

Both DeWine and Husted offered standard statements expressing pride in the state's accomplishments and gratitude for the Cleveland group's endorsement.

"We are proud to be endorsed by the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council and look forward to working with them to create great career pathways in the construction trades while making Ohio the best place to work, live and grow a business," DeWine said.

The endorsement may seem somewhat surprising, given that organized labor has traditionally been associated with the U.S. Democratic party. But in Cleveland, it's representative of the trades' allegiance to corporate power. 

Wondolowski's group, and infamously, Wondo himself, were vocal supporters in 2021 of mayoral candidate Kevin Kelley, for example, (a Democrat only by Cleveland standards). And the council has been among the most faithful and outspoken proponents of recent development deals, including the enormous public subsidies for sports stadiums.

While these garish examples of corporate welfare are, as a rule, rotten deals for the public, the building and construction trades council supports them self-interestedly: When big construction projects are financed, the trades are the ones to build and plumb and wire them. The bigger the pie, the bigger their piece of it. Hence the council's endorsements of, and financial contributions to, candidates like Kelley and DeWine, who work to preserve what's called a "business-friendly" environment.

The recent insistence by County Executive Armond Budish to reinstall Wondolowski to the Port Authority Board of Directors, even though Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb appointed North Shore AFL-CIO Secretary Dan O'Malley in his place, may have been part of the same equation. The whole appointment saga was regarded as a mystery at the time. Was this just a petty clapback by a notoriously thin-skinned county executive? Perhaps a maneuver by Budish's Cheney-ish chief of staff, Bill Mason? Wasn't O'Malley a suitable labor representative on the board? Did Wondo have some sort of dirt on Budish?

Who knows. But the Port Authority is an issuer of public bonds and as such is a major financier for development projects in Northeast Ohio. It's reasonable to surmise that elected leaders like Budish, who serve the corporate community above all else, would prefer that their appointees not let ostensible support for labor get in the way of their support for business.

Democrat Nan Whaley, for her part, has secured a number of labor endorsements as well, including the Ohio AFL-CIO, the  Ohio Federation of Teachers, SEIU 1199, the United Auto Workers of Ohio, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Dayton, where Whaley served as mayor.

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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