Workers will win with Build Back Better plan

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By TIM ROWDEN
Managing Editor

HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) talks to reporters last week about plans to pass the Build Back Better Act and its potential impact on working families. – John Scott Applewhite/AP photo

Washington – Less than a week after President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law, House Democrats pushed the expansive $1.75 trillion social policy and climate change bill, the Build Back Better Act, through a sharply divided House on Nov. 19, sending the measure to a Senate.

The bill, in its current form, includes far-reaching changes in taxation, health care, energy, climate change, family services, education and housing.

The economic investments proposed in the bill could prove transformative for U.S. workers and their families. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the legislation, as approved in the House:

  • Supports 2.3 million jobs annually for the first five years.
  • Makes critical investments to establish universal pre-K, combat climate change, build affordable housing, expand access to health care and provide paid family and medical leave.
  • Reduces exorbitant child care and home care costs for families.
  • Provides additional opportunities for care workers.

In addition, the bill provides provisions to protect workers’ rights and boost worker power.

  • Establishes substantial civil penalties for employers that violate workers’ right to a union and collective bargaining –– which occurs in at least 41.5 percent of all union election campaigns.
  • Increases penalties for employers who commit minimum wage and health and safety violations.
  • Provides a temporary status for roughly two-thirds of the unauthorized immigrant population, protecting those who qualify from deportation and allowing them to work lawfully.

IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE
“For generations, IBEW members have joined our working sisters and brothers across the economy in calling for the kind of basic protections and services found in the Build Back Better Act,” IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson said in a statement. “This historic legislation will improve quality of life for millions.

“Should this legislation become law, for the first time in the history of our nation, all working people would have access to affordable childcare, early childhood education programs, tax fairness and critical homecare services for the oldest among us.”

LIFT THE BURDEN ON WORKING PEOPLE
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the Build Back Better Act’s investment in jobs and human infrastructure will lift the burden on working people, lower the costs of prescription drugs, child care and senior care, expand healthcare access and help put college in reach for millions of families

“For too many families in America, life has been an endless cycle of barely making ends meet and gut-wrenching decisions—piecing together jobs, child and elder care, school, housing, prescription costs, healthcare and transportation, while living with the constant fear of a medical emergency or other unplanned expense. And the pandemic has only exacerbated these fears,” Weingarten said.

“We hear this all the time from our members — nurses, bus drivers, public employees, teachers — many of whom are parents and had hoped their jobs would land them in the middle class. The truth is, our economy has very few systems to address these kitchen-table issues to help systemically advantage regular working people, and the Trump administration only made it worse when it took away the state and local tax deduction, double taxing many in the middle class.

“Thankfully, this bill begins to change that, with historic down payments on the very things working families rely on most.”

HUGE OPPORTUNITY FOR VETERANS
Will Attig, executive Director of the Union Veterans Council, said the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act combined with the Build Back Better Act’s investments in training, jobs, and lowering costs for working families represent a huge opportunity for the country’s veterans, their families and communities.

“This is our generation’s opportunity to set the course of our country for a lifetime. To make it more fair and just for working families to make more money, take care of their families and have the right to bargain collectively,” Attig said. “Over one million union veterans and their families now turn their eyes to the Senate, and we expect them to deliver.”

GAME-CHANGING FOR CARE WORKERS
Greg Kelley president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, called the legislation game-changing for care workers and working families.

“With Build Back Better, we have a unique opportunity to right the historic wrongs that have excluded people of color, and Black women in particular, from the types of investments that have benefited other industries,” Kelley said. “We cannot have an equitable recovery unless we fix our broken care economy so home care workers can earn a living wage, seniors can age with dignity in their homes and parents don’t have to choose between child care and a paycheck.”

Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and Caring Across Generations, said House passage of the act “brings us one step closer to realizing a future where America’s home care workers, the majority of whom are women of color, receive a family-sustaining wage and those who need care –– veterans, older people and people with disabilities — will be able to receive quality, affordable care services at home.”

For home care providers and domestic workers the Build Back Better investments will:

  • Raise wages and provide more training for the country’s 2.4 million home care workers, the majority of whom are women of color who haven’t seen a pay raise in decades, earning an average of $20,000 a year with little or no benefits.
  • Clear Medicaid waitlists so more older adults, veterans and people with disabilities can access high quality home care to transition from nursing institutions back home, or to stay in their homes and communities longer.
  • Expand resources and paid leave available to family caregivers. The bill includes funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program, an Older Americans Act program which provides grants to states and territories to provide services for family caregivers caring for older adults.

‘WILL BE FELT FOR GENERATIONS’
“The Build Back Better Act, along with the already passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, delivers historic investments in our economy and our nation’s families that will be felt for generations,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley.

Among its many initiatives, the Build Back Better Act for the first time guarantees all U.S. workers four weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for themselves or their family members. 

“Ensuring all workers have at least four weeks of paid family leave to tend to a new child, a sick family member or issues stemming from military deployments would be a monumental accomplishment that begins to put the U.S. on equal footing with most other countries,” Kelley said.

“The family and health care benefits paid for through the Build Back Better Act – along with the major investments in our nation’s transportation systems, broadband access, and health of our communities through the bipartisan infrastructure agreement – address needs that have persisted for years, if not decades,” Kelley said.

“I applaud President Biden and everyone in Congress who worked tirelessly to achieve passage of these historic bills. We urge the Senate to take up this measure immediately and send it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.”



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