Pittsburgh (PAI) — Rolling through the nation from northwest Indiana to Tidewater Virginia and Wilmington, N.C., the Steelworkers’ “We Supply America” bus tour brought home the need to revitalize U.S. infrastructure — including its supply chain of materials like steel and cement—using U.S. union labor.
The objective: To get workers, their allies and community residents to call, e-mail to urge their lawmakers, of both parties, to vote for the $978 billion five-year infrastructure bill now pending on Capitol Hill.
“This is not a sure thing,” Steelworkers Vice President Fred Redmond warned at one stop. “We need you to press your legislators to move this bill. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue; this is an American issue. We have an opportunity to make this happen, all we have to do is roll up our sleeves and get to work!”
Joined by leaders of Steelworkers locals, union President Tom Conway, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh — a member of Laborers Local 223 — and several U.S. House members, the bus riders and their allies hammered home the message that the nation’s crumbling roads, creaky bridges, aging subways, airports and more than century-old-plus railroads must be rebuilt now. The “hard” infrastructure bill also would expand broadband coverage and make it affordable.
‘NEGLECTED FOR TOO LONG’
“Our infrastructure has been neglected for too long. We need major national investment to rebuild the infrastructure here in northwest Indiana and across the country. And we need to call on our elected leaders in Congress to make that happen,” Steelworkers Local 6787 President Pete Trinidad said at the bus’s first stop, near the steel plants of Chesterton, Ind.
“I just joined the @steelworkers on the first stop of their We Supply America bus tour,” Labor Secretary Walsh tweeted between stops. “Through @POTUS’s once-in-a-generation infrastructure bill, we will invest in American manufacturing and build 21st century infrastructure through good-paying union jobs.
“We have an opportunity in this country to Buy American and build American right now. We want to win the future for the U.S.,” added Walsh, who then took a side trip to a brand-new union-built high school — with union-provided materials — and met teachers union leaders there.
It’s not just the “hard” infrastructure bill that’s pending in Congress.
Biden and the House Democratic leaders, along with Organized Labor, are also pushing a $3.5 trillion bill that includes expanding child care, raising the pay of those workers, making paid family and sick leave permanent, increasing taxes on the rich and vastly increasing fines for Labor-law breaking, among other goals.
“We don’t only need roads and bridges,” said Roxanne Brown, USW’s vice president-at-large and legislative director. “We need the infrastructure of the people of this country. It’s not just the building of things, it’s the parts that go into building things. You, your families, our communities are infrastructure.”
UNION-BUILT SUPPLY CHAIN
Conway in particular stressed the importance not just of building and buying American but of building out the union-built made-in-America supply chain. The coronavirus pandemic exposed U.S. dependence on supplies from abroad — a supply chain that can be abruptly interrupted by a global crisis like a pandemic or politically manipulated by foreign governments. That’s something Biden and Organized Labor want to change.
“We need a national infrastructure that keeps us safe, that is modern, that keeps our supply chains stocked with the materials we need, and that keeps the country moving in the right direction,” said Conway, whose home Local was 6787 in Chesterton. “As a union, we have the skilled work force to accomplish all these goals.
“This is about so much more than fixing roads and bridges. We need an ambitious overhaul of our entire critical infrastructure from modern schools and health care facilities to state-of-the-art communications networks. Everything that USW members make and everything that we do contributes in some way to this vital project.”
A TOUR OF UNION LOCALS AND SHOPS
The We Build America bus traveled from Local 6787 in Chesterton to Local 525 in Newark, Ohio, where members of Locals 9118 and 1237 spoke., then proceeded to Weirton, W. Va., home of Weirton Steel and Locals 2911 and 419M.
From Weirton, the bus traveled to the Goodyear tire plant in Danville, Va., represented by Local 831L, then on to the unionized U.S. Navy shipyard in Newport News, Va., represented by Local 8888.
The bus’s southernmost stop was at a Corning plant, manned by members of Local 1025, in Wilmington, N.C., before the bus headed back to USW headquarters in Pittsburgh on Aug. 20.
SIGN THE PETITION
The Steelworkers also launched an electronic petition campaign and urged members to mass-mail postcards to lawmakers demanding they approve the two pieces of legislation.
You can sign the petition at https://actionnetwork.org/forms/sign-if-you-agree-infrastructure-investment-should-be-steelworker-made.
The union posted videos of all the stops on the bus tour on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/steelworkers.