Biden meets with Labor leaders to discuss infrastructure, apprenticeships and coronavirus relief

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN and Vice President Kamala Harris met with labor leaders Feb. 17 in the Oval Office. – Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images photo

Washington – President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and key Administration officials met with union leaders this week to discuss the challenges facing America, including issues of importance to the construction industry.


“President Biden ran on a promise to build back better,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “As we made clear in our meeting with him Wednesday, America can only build back better if unions are doing the building. If we make key structural changes to our economy, we can create a new generation of good-paying union jobs. That means delivering long-overdue COVID-19 relief to working families. It means passing urgently needed infrastructure spending. And, it means strengthening working people’s freedom to organize a union by passing the PRO Act. President Biden understands how urgent this is, and we’re looking forward to getting it done as quickly as possible.


Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), said: “NABTU leadership was pleased to offer our ongoing assistance with COVID relief measures, including vaccine distribution, that will help our nation regain its footing following the havoc wreaked on working families by this deadly and destructive virus.

“Additionally, NABTU leaders were able to raise important issues and share their unique perspective regarding retirement security, energy policy, infrastructure investments and pathways to the middle class,” McGarvey said. “We are highly encouraged by the dialogue and appreciate the opportunity to represent the men and women of the Building Trades to the highest levels of our government.

“We know that much work needs to be done to unite this country, and success will be measured by our collective ability to produce real results for hardworking Americans and, in so doing, restore faith for millions of families across this great nation, regardless of political affiliation,” McGarvey said. “NABTU proudly stands with this Administration as they undertake the important and necessary work to ‘Build Back Better’ and we are eager to do our part to ensure that America gets back on the path to growth and shared prosperity.”


Lonnie Stephenson, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) said the meeting was “enormously productive” in addressing how the Labor Movement can work with the administration in put tin Americans back to work and creating good-paying union jobs.

“Biden reaffirmed his commitment to a pro-union, worker-first agenda by reversing the previous administration’s executive order creating Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs. IRAPs undermined training and safety standards across multiple industries and encouraged employers to lower apprentices’ wages and benefits. They were a direct threat to world-class training programs like the IBEW’s and we applaud President Biden’s decision to rescind them.

“He also announced his support for Rep. Bobby Scott’s National Apprenticeship Act of 2011, which will expand apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.”


Biden announced that he would ask the Department of Labor to reinstate the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships.

“Building our economy back better requires unions, employers, educational and policy leaders to come together to expand apprenticeship opportunities for working Americans, and the committee is a vital forum for that,” Stephenson said. “High-quality union apprenticeship programs are crucial to not only training the next generation of skilled workers but helping rebuild America’s middle class.”


In addition, Stephenson said, Biden’s nomination of Communications Workers of America Special Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo to serve as National Labor Relations Board general counsel “is another step toward expanding workers’ rights and protecting collective bargaining. The IBEW looks forward to continuing to work with the administration as we open the doors of opportunity for all working people and build an economy that works for everyone.”


With Biden’s nomination of Abruzzo, James T. Callahan, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), said, made good on the promise of putting the American worker first.

“By recognizing the need to lift up proven training programs and by pulling the plug on an unaccountable corporate sop, we are better positioned to deliver the types of skill training required to rebuild this country,” Callahan said.

“The Operating Engineers believe that President Biden’s support of the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 will help move this legislation quickly towards final passage.  Once enacted, it will create new opportunities to expand the types of registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in which the IUOE has successfully trained generations of highly skilled operating and stationary engineers. Workers who complete an IUOE apprenticeship program on average earn $300,000 more over the course of their career. They are also less likely to be injured or lose their life on the job.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here