From the passage of the American Rescue Plan to the biggest investment in infrastructure in U.S. history, the first year of the Biden Administration has been a capstone year of legislative victories for transportation labor unions and working people. In celebration of this anniversary, let’s take a look back at some of our most notable victories together in 2021.
Welcoming A Pro-Union Administration
In his first year in office, President Biden has followed through on his promise to be “the most pro-union President leading the most pro-union administration in American history.” Under President Biden’s leadership, there has been a whole-of-government approach to ensure that unions have a seat at the table and that workers have a say in shaping the federal policies that affect them.
The president has proudly and forcefully put worker empowerment and union job creation at the forefront of his governing agenda.
He assembled a strong pro-union Administration with key officials like Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who spend their days trying to better the lives of working people.
He established the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment and has voiced unwavering support for legislation like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would help workers collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
In his first joint address to Congress, commemorating his first 100 days in office, he pointedly reminded everyone that the middle class built America and unions built the middle class.
When he hosted union officials at the White House for a Labor Day ceremony, President Biden declared: “When unions win, workers across the board win. That’s a fact. Families win, community wins, America wins.”
This year, union approval reached its highest point since 1965, with more than two-thirds of Americans expressing support for unions. We’re proud that the American people and this Administration recognize the fundamental importance of labor unions, and we look forward to continuing to work with this White House to build back better.
Passing The American Rescue Plan
Just months into his tenure, and one year after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) to deliver immediate relief to American workers. This historic economic rescue package prioritized the needs of working families and addressed the burdens placed on our transportation network during the worst public health and economic crisis in living memory. The ARP provided more than $49 billion in federal funding to keep America’s transportation systems operational and ensure its workforce is well-positioned to succeed.
We were especially pleased that the package included:
- $30.5 billion in emergency relief for transit agencies and their frontline workers
- $15 billion to extend the worker-first airline Payroll Support Program
- $1.7 billion for Amtrak and a requirement that the carrier restore full long-distance service within 90 days of enactment to pre-pandemic levels and recall employees furloughed on or after October 1, 2020
- $28 million for the Railroad Retirement Board, the governing body that oversees the distribution of benefits to our railroad workforce, to overhaul its vastly outdated IT system and hire staff to better assist the agency in the surge in unemployment and sickness applications and claims
Recognizing America’s Essential Transportation Workers
Millions of frontline transportation workers have disproportionately shouldered the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful to the Biden Administration for recognizing these essential workers for their heroic efforts during the pandemic.
Among other essential daily tasks, this frontline workforce transported healthcare and public safety workers to their jobs, delivered critical supplies to hospitals, ensured grocery store shelves were stocked and brought the COVID-19 vaccine to every corner of this country.
On Labor Day, we proudly partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to formally recognize frontline transportation workers for their essential service during this unprecedented public health crisis.
For their service and sacrifice, we once again say thank you. Transportation labor unions know that their members were essential before, are essential now, and will be essential always.
Watch the video to learn more about our #EssentialAlways campaign.
Implementing the Largest Investment in Transportation, Jobs in U.S. History
Just a few months ago, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the most significant investment in infrastructure and jobs in our nation’s history.
The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provides $550 billion in new across-the-board infrastructure spending over the next five years and reauthorizes our surface transportation programs for five years — shoring up the future of American roads, highways, and bridges.
The BIL also improves and expands transportation options for millions of Americans with the largest federal investment in public transit in U.S. history and the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.
These investments will create and support millions of good union jobs. The BIL also includes many other key provisions championed by labor unions, including local hiring preferences, Buy America provisions, and prevailing wage requirements.
In addition to creating millions of good union jobs, the law also improves worker safety across multiple modes of transportation. Notably, it protects and supports transit workers with new provisions to prevent transit operator assault and $300 million in grant funding to train transit workers on zero-emission vehicles, including through registered apprenticeships and other joint labor-management training programs.
In recent months, the Administration has announced more than $241 million in grants for America’s ports, $2.89 billion for America’s airports, and $27.5 billion for America’s bridges – the most significant investment in American bridges since the creation of the interstate highway system.
We proudly represent 36 unions whose members will be critical to building back better and supporting this historic expansion of America’s transportation and transit systems.
Thanks to President Biden, we have the funding. Now, let’s get to work.