Since the 2020 election, there’s been a seismic shift in the federal government. Regardless of what party you identify with, we can all agree that the landscape has dramatically improved for unions and the building trades. Anti-union, anti-worker representatives have been replaced in every department with folks who have our interests at heart. And legislative policies that directly benefit the building trades and our members – like the American Jobs Plan– are working their way through Congress.
The Senate confirmed Marty Walsh to lead the Department of Labor by 68-29, with both Democratic and Republican support. Walsh was president of Laborers’ Union Local 223 and head of the Boston Building Trades.
“I spent my entire career fighting for working people, and I’m eager to continue that fight in Washington,” said Walsh, a champion of worker organizing. “If you look at the decline of the middle class, and you look at the decline of the labor movement, there’s a correlation...When you see more people joining unions, you’ll see more people in the middle class.”
Walsh and other cabinet members, like Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy, and Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, will be part of implementing the Biden/Harris American Jobs Plan if it passes. Both parties in Congress are working to come to a compromise on the bill, and it promises to be the largest investment in our country’s infrastructure in decades. That means billions of dollars for construction.
The plan calls for all work to be done through PLAs that require union contractors. The building trades will reap the benefits with thousands of new, good-paying union jobs. In fact, President Biden gave IBEW a shout out in his first address to the joint session of Congress about the plan when he spoke about how the plan will include “electrical workers--IBEW members--installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways.”
Other American Jobs Plan components include funds to:
- Build and retrofit more than two million homes and commercial buildings, modernize our nation’s schools and child care facilities, and upgrade veterans’ hospitals and federal buildings
- Renew the electric grid and deliver high-speed broadband to all Americans
- Fix highways, rebuild bridges, and upgrade ports, airports, and transit systems
- Create good jobs that pay prevailing wages in safe worksplaces including jobs for IBEW members
- Ensure workers can freely join unions and bargain collectively with employers
In addition to advancing unions and the building trades in the American Jobs Plan, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary Walsh will head up a union task force. They will make recommendations within six month about potential changes to policies, practices, and programs that will promote worker organizing, strengthen collective bargaining in both the public and private sectors, and increase union membership.
The federal change in the guard as well as policy initiatives to strengthen worker power and the labor movements will create enormous opportunities for Local 332 members in the years to come. Stay tuned!
Let’s pass the PRO Act! (The Protect the Right to Organize Act)
The PRO Act makes it easier for workers to join unions, strengthens existing unions, and levels the playing field which is unfairly tilted toward big business and management, making union organizing drives unreasonably difficult. Democrats passed the bill in the House of Representatives with some Republican support, but it faces steep Republican opposition in the Senate. The PRO Act:
- Empowers working people to organize unions and strengthens existing unions.
- Makes employer interference and influence in union elections illegal.
- Fines corporations for union-busting and makes corporate directors liable.
- Prevents employers from using immigration status against workers.
- Repeals “right to work” laws, which weaken the ability to have union shops.
“It’s a game changer,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “If you really want to correct inequality in this country — wages and wealth inequality, opportunity and inequality of power — passing the PRO Act is absolutely essential to doing that.”
Biden Has IBEW Members' Backs
“It is nothing less than transformational change that President Biden is trying to achieve,” said IBEW President Stephenson on an exclusive White House Zoom call for IBEW members. “Big change like this will mean big opportunities – but it also means there has to be true focus on rebuilding damaged communities with federal investments and good union jobs.”
In a letter to IBEW members, Stephenson continued, “President Biden recognizes the primacy of American workers, collective bargaining, and the labor movement. Whether he is expressing his support for an historic organizing campaign or appointing union members as key personnel in his administration, never before has a president been so public in their support of the values that the IBEW holds dear.”