The American Society of Civil Engineers’ recent report card gave our nation’s crumbling infrastructure a grade of D-plus.
AMERICAN workers should have more to celebrate this Labor Day.
While the American economy has shown steady improvement since the 2008 recession, take-home pay for American workers has remained stagnant for 20 years. And more than 2 million Americans have been job hunting for more than six months.
Unemployment is especially frustrating in the construction industry, where infrastructure and training opportunities abound. Congress’ recent passage of a long-term highway bill is good news for job seekers. But despite willing workers, crumbling cities and shaky transportation systems, Congress has neglected our nation’s infrastructure.
American workers can’t wait any longer. They’re clamoring for a comprehensive infrastructure bill within the first 100 days of a new presidential administration — not platitudes or patchwork approaches, but a real, comprehensive plan. And if members of Congress care at all about physically and economically strengthening American cities and communities, they’ll deliver.
Current investments in infrastructure are dangerously inadequate. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ recent report card gave our nation a grade of D-plus. It’s no wonder why. Each day, millions of Americans take risky trips across bridges, one in nine of which are considered “structurally deficient.”
America’s skilled craft professionals are ready to tackle this infrastructure crisis, but they aren’t getting called on, and that’s a shame.
Consider every dollar invested in infrastructure generates up to $3 of economic activity, and investing $1 billion in transit and highways could create 13,000 jobs — the types of jobs that can train the next generation of skilled craft workers via apprenticeship programs.
The union construction industry invests more than $1 billion annually to fund and operate more than 1,600 apprenticeship training centers across the United States.
Apprenticeship programs enable hardworking Americans to “earn while they learn” on their way to annual salaries that in many cases approach or exceed $100,000 — without accruing a mountain of college debt.
Likewise, “apprenticeship-readiness” programs sponsored by local building trade unions help create pathways in communities where economic opportunities are in short supply. Last year, women and minorities comprised 75 percent of graduates.
Many municipalities are creating infrastructure job and career training opportunities on their own. Los Angeles Metro, for example, recently became the first transit agency nationwide to employ a joint labor agreement and local hiring requirement for a federally funded project. The initiative for LA Metro’s light-rail project incentivizes Metro construction projects to hire economically disadvantaged residents for construction employment and training opportunities.
Nationwide, localized infrastructure investment has fueled economic opportunities for displaced workers and allowed underserved communities to flourish. But cities can’t solve the infrastructure or unemployment crises on their own. Last year, Congress committed to fund just 8 percent of the $3.6 trillion America needs to bring its infrastructure up to a B grade, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
This is unacceptable. Rather than halfheartedly wishing each other a “happy Labor Day,” presidential candidates and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle should start planning substantial infrastructure investments for 2017 and beyond.