NABTU’s Sean McGarvey shares vision of boosting Middle Class with new jobs created by the Infrastructure Act

Missouri Correspondent

MEETING THE CHALLENGE: North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey speaks about how the organization is working with state, local and national leaders to train workers from under-represented communities to meet the growing needs of the building trades industry after the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. – Labor Tribune photo

North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey stopped in St. Louis last week to share how the organization is working with local and state building trades leaders, community groups and government officials to help boost the middle-class and create good-paying jobs after passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The event, hosted by the Missouri Works Initiative, Missouri AFL-CIO and St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, was a part of NABTU’s national multi-city road tour to demonstrate how union-trained workers are prepared to meet the moment. The event was held at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 union hall in St. Louis and included a tour of the union’s state-of-the-art training center.

“There’s over 250,000 people in our training programs and we can ramp that up to one million,” Garvey said. “With the investments made by the Biden-Harris Administration and members of Congress, we’re going to start filling those numbers up and growing these training programs through our apprentice-ready programs like BUD and creating pathways to the middle-class for everyone who wants an opportunity.”

The St. Louis Building Union Diversity (BUD) program is a six-week program created in 2014 by the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council as a recruitment tool to encourage more minorities and women to get into the union building trades. Today, the award-winning program is run by the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative and boasts a 92 percent graduation rate. Additionally, 83 percent of the program participants are minorities and 29 percent are women.

Missouri Sen. Doug Beck (D-Affton), a 37-year member of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562, president of the Missouri Building & Construction Trades Council, said he often meets with union leaders in the field across the state and they all tell him they need more people at the jobsites.

“Other skilled tradespeople are retiring and with President Biden’s $4.1 billion in infrastructure investments specifically earmarked for Missouri, we will need more workers to keep up with the new projects,” Beck said. “As a result of these investments, construction jobs are expected to increase nine percent over the next 10 years.”

Missouri AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel, a member of IBEW Local 1, said the Missouri Works Initiative recently expanded the St. Louis BUD program into the Kansas City and Springfield, Mo. markets and plans to open it up in other areas of the state. Between the BUD program and the programs in Kansas City and Springfield, he said 243 individuals have entered union apprenticeships across the state.

“The Missouri Works Initiative has one goal and that’s to eliminate barriers to economic opportunities by connecting Missourians to resources to build life-sustaining careers,” Hummel said. “We make sure we follow the students through their registered apprenticeship program and continue mentoring them through their apprenticeships.”

About 20 BUD students joined the speakers on stage at the end of the program, many sharing how the program has changed their lives for the better. Kiera Krentz, a Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 apprentice, was one of the speakers.

“Through the BUD program, I was able to see firsthand what each trade does by visiting their training schools,” Krentz said. “That helped me fast-track my decision to join the Sheet Metal Workers. I’m now a BUD graduate and a first-time home buyer.”

Sampson Tatum, who graduated from the 27th BUD cohort, is now an IBEW Local 1 apprentice.

“Now that I’ve been working and understanding more and more about the union, I know that getting into a trade will give me the opportunity to work and build a foundation and help my family.”

For more information on the BUD program and the Missouri Works Initiative, visit

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