By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer
Washington (PAI) — Leaders of the AFL-CIO, North America’s Building Trades Unions and other unions, hailed congressional passage of the five-year $1.2 trillion “hard” infrastructure bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which Democratic President Joe Biden signed on Nov. 15.
“Victories like this are why we campaigned so hard for President Biden,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said. “Finally, at long last, Infrastructure Week is really here.”
“This $1 trillion investment in roads, bridges, transit, rail, climate change mitigation, electric vehicles, clean drinking water, high-speed Internet, resilient transmission lines and more is centered around the creation of good union jobs,” Shuler said.
The bill includes funding to rebuild or replace the nation’s crumbling roads, deteriorating bridges, creaky subways, diesel-exhaust buses and lead-lined water pipes, as well as $65 billion to extend broadband nationwide.
“America’s infrastructure used to be the envy of the world,” the strongly pro-worker senator from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said. “But after years of neglect, we see it crumbling all around us – at our airports, on bridges and roads. We have lead in too many pipes, transit systems in need of upgrades, and too many communities still without broadband.
“Plenty of politicians have talked about fixing this infrastructure, but it’s all been empty talk – until now,” Brown said. “Now, under President Biden, we are finally getting this done, with the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”
“This legislation ushers in a new era of worker-centric prosperity – one characterized by good, union jobs that will put millions to work modernizing our electric grid, repairing and expanding the vital transportation services we all rely on, and creating the reduced-carbon energy solutions that will power our economy well into the 21st century and beyond,” said IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson. “We commend President Biden’s leadership in addressing the climate crisis and encourage the Biden administration to continue supporting carbon-free nuclear energy. IBEW members also applaud the strong Labor protections found in this legislation and will always push for the strongest labor standards possible across all infrastructure investments, including in the critical area of broadband expansion.”
WORK IN EVERY COMMUNITY
Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) said the bill’s “investment will put Laborers to work in every community, revitalize our nation’s economy, and open doors to the middle-class for hundreds of thousands of working men and women.”
O’Sullivan lauded “the grassroots support and extraordinary activism of LIUNA members who took up the fight to pass the bill, barraging members of Congress with tens of thousands of emails and calls and attending more than one hundred townhall events, parades, rallies, and press events.
BUILD BACK BETTER
“Yet there is still more work to be done,” Shuler warned. “The Build Back Better Act will knock down the barriers that have prevented so many workers, especially women and people of color, from finding high-quality sustainable jobs. It will make quality child care and elder care available to relieve the burden families face in getting back to work.
“Investments in good, clean union energy jobs will help us fight climate change and protect our communities. Improvements to our immigration system will ease the burden for those who want to call America home. Wealthy individuals and corporations finally will pay their fair share in taxes,” Shuler said.
“And for the first time, employers will be hit with real financial penalties for union-busting, making this the most significant advancement for the right to organize since passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.
“President Biden promised to be the most pro-union president in history — and today is another down payment on that promise.”
‘READY TO WORK’
“The proud men and women of North America’s Building Trades Unions are ready to go to work,” said Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions. “After decades of delay and decay, we applaud last night’s passage of the historic Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act by a bipartisan majority,” McGarvey said.
McGarvey commended “committed leaders and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who negotiated in good faith and delivered for the American people,” especially “Republicans who put the country first and joined with their colleagues in resisting threats and politics as usual” by voting yes.
FIX LABOR LAWS
Painters President Jimmy Williams Jr. declared Painters “are ready to go to work on the projects that will be funded through the bi-partisan infrastructure bill.” He thanked lawmakers “of both parties who put workers first and voted for the bill.
“But in order to truly move America forward, however, we need the additional investments of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill which will make progress toward fixing labor laws that are rigged against workers, invest in our care economy and make real inroads to tackle the climate crisis. We urge the House and Senate to immediately get to work to pass this historic investment in working people.”
MODERNIZE ESSENTIAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS
“Previously, elected officials have only talked about infrastructure investment but done little about it. But now the traveling public as well as those do the work to keep the nation’s roads, rails and bridges up-and-running have reason for hope,” Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said.
“This bill will modernize essential transportation systems–all critical parts of America’s supply chain. Teamsters work each day in every part of this supply chain and know firsthand that our transportation infrastructure has been neglected for too long.”
The bill includes $39 billion for public transit plus the five-year Surface Transportation bill, which is attached to the Infrastructure bill, resulting in a massive 63 percent increase for public transit
Amalgamated Transit Union President John Costa called that “a game changer for public transit, workers, riders, and our country. It’s a down payment on our future.”