As we attempt to meet our transportation needs, we cannot ignore the fact that America today is at a crossroads. Unemployment is low, productivity is at an all-time high, and corporations are raking in profits like never before. Despite this, too many working families are struggling to reach and maintain a middle-class lifestyle. The introduction of new technologies, the gross misclassification of employees, and the emergence of the on-demand economy are changing the nature of work itself. Meanwhile, the most important tool working people have to get ahead – union membership – is being attacked and vilified.
The next president of the United States has two choices: a future for this country where powerful corporations and wealthy CEOs remain unchecked in their power. Or a future that puts working people first, where corporations are held accountable, finding a job that pays a living wage is not hard to do, and emerging technologies are used to enhance work and make workplaces safer.
The second option is possible, and the right investments in our transportation system and infrastructure are part of the path forward. Strong federal investments in these sectors create the kinds of good, middle-class jobs we can be proud of. By investing in our infrastructure, we have an opportunity to rebuild our country and breathe new life into the American middle class.
That’s because much of the transportation industry is heavily unionized, ensuring workers in these fields earn fair wages, are safe at work, and have a say in workplace policies and procedures. Unlike jobs in the growing on-demand economy — including those found in Amazon warehouses or through apps like Grubhub — positions found in transportation and infrastructure are more likely to pay living wages, come with benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, and be stable.
Furthermore, when strong labor protections are paired with infrastructure spending, we can ensure tax-payer dollars are used to support fair wages and safe working conditions for frontline workers. And, as we spend trillions rebuilding and repairing our crumbling infrastructure, ignoring adjacent opportunities to grow our manufacturing sector would be foolish. That’s why 2020 candidates must also commit to pair infrastructure funding with smart Buy America and procurement rules, which will ensure buses, trains, steel, and other materials used in transportation and infrastructure are manufactured in the U.S.
Finally, with as many as three million frontline transportation jobs on the line, the next president of the United States must make a commitment to ensure the introduction of new technologies is used to enhance work and improve safety, not steamroll the rights of working people and put the public at risk. This starts with ensuring workers, and the unions that represent them, have a say in how and when emerging technologies are deployed and used, and putting programs in place to help mitigate any job displacement that may occur.