We know that elections have consequences. This was made abundantly clear over the last four years as working families were sidelined and silenced by our federal government. Despite a concerted, nationwide effort to stop or invalidate their votes, working people turned out in 2018 and 2020 to elect leaders who will once again put their needs front and center before corporate greed.
For transportation workers, especially, leadership from the highest levels of government cannot come soon enough. As a direct result of the previous administration’s abysmal response to the pandemic, tens of thousands of workers across our aviation, rail, transit, port, construction, and maritime sectors have been furloughed. Millions more continue to put their own health and wellbeing on the line to make sure goods and essential workers get to where they need to be. While COVID-19 and the stress it has placed on transportation workers is unique, this crisis has also exposed underlying problems that are a result of decades of underinvestment and regulatory malpractice: the stark reality that we are relying on a transportation network and infrastructure that has been grossly neglected and is in need of significant repair, modernization, and expansion.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, TTD and our unions have been calling for straightforward policies that will keep workers physically safe, financially secure, and able to restart our economy once this crisis is behind us. For months, many of these calls have been outright ignored. Until now.
Enter: President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Less than a week into the Biden-Harris administration, here are three ways transportation workers already have more visibility, safer workplaces, and a real voice under our new leadership.
1) The Trump Administration’s Disastrous COVID Response Is Over
After only two days in office, President Biden signed 12 initial executive orders, all part of his seven-point national strategy for COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness. Among other initiatives, he mandated masks in airports and on many planes, trains, ships, and intercity buses. He directed agencies to use wartime powers to require U.S. companies to make N95 masks, swabs, and other equipment.
2) From Biden to Buttigieg and Walsh, to the first slate of nominees at the Department of Transportation, we once again have leaders in Washington, D.C. with proven experience who will prioritize working people.
Just one day after President Biden took the oath of office, the president’s pick to lead the Department of Transportation, former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, went before the Senate Commerce Committee for his confirmation hearing. During that hearing, Buttigieg demonstrated the kind of big thinking and attention to detail frontline workers need from their government in order to keep this country moving.
Specifically, Buttigieg spoke of bold, long-term investments in our transportation system that will showcase American ingenuity, rebuild our middle class, and make our infrastructure the envy of the world. He promised to ensure America’s aviation system remains the safest in the world by implementing long-overdue Congressional mandates. He spoke of using tax-payer dollars to maximize U.S. job creation by promoting Buy America policies. He assured lawmakers that workers across all modes of transportation will be protected from COVID-19. And he made the direct and clear connection between smart, thoughtful transportation policies and union job creation.
3) After four years of unmet promises, we now have a real infrastructure plan that puts working people first
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden promised to invest in America’s transportation system and infrastructure. Unlike President Trump, President Biden has a real plan for doing so. The Build Back Better Plan is the Biden-Harris administration’s bold vision for using massive investments in our transportation infrastructure to transform our communities and put Americans back to work. Their proposal calls for a total investment of $2 trillion over four years and the creation of millions of jobs by building and upgrading a cleaner, safer, stronger infrastructure — including roads, water systems, municipal transit networks, airports, rail, ferries, and ports.
Most importantly, they know that investments in infrastructure are key to rebuilding the American middle class. Biden and Harris understand the essential role unions play in creating good jobs in infrastructure, which is why their plan ensures that every dollar that goes into these projects comes with a guarantee that workers have the right to join a union and collectively bargain, and that materials will be sourced in the U.S.
Read more about the Build Back Better plan here.
It is clear that recovering from COVID-19, healing the wounds from the last four years, and building back better will not be easy. Few periods in American history have required the kind of leadership that will be demanded of President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their administration, or the kind of sacrifice that has been made by transportation and other frontline workers as they see us through this crisis. Yet, as President Biden said during his inaugural address, “we look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.”
This country and its people have a virus to conquer. An economy to rebuild. Racial and gender gaps to close. And a network of critical transportation projects to complete. Moving forward starts with understanding the important role transportation workers play in making our country and economy function, and giving them the tools they need to be safe at work and perform their duties. With President Biden and Vice President Harris at the helm, America’s transportation workers and the unions that represent them are ready. We are ready to get America moving, to work with this administration to build back better, and to do our part in making this country the America that we know it can and must be.