[As posted by editors of the Press Associates Union News Service]
WASHINGTON (PAI)—Two AFL-CIO departments, three construction unions and the St. Louis council of one of them, the Carpenters, are part of a bipartisan push urging lawmakers to approve a new waterways projects bill.
In doing so, the federation’s Building Trades and Transportation Trades Departments, the Operating Engineers, the Plumbers and Pipefitters, the Carpenters and their St. Louis affiliate are allied with some odd bedfellows: Farm lobbies, led by the notoriously conservative Farm Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce.
But in a way, that’s no surprise: The Chamber, in particular, has joined the Building Trades in the past to lobby lawmakers for mass transit-highway construction bills. Those bills, like the waterways bill, concern U.S. infrastructure. But foes, including Tea Partyites who control the House GOP, deride infrastructure bills as “pork.”
The coalition sang the infrastructure-jobs tune in full-page ads in Politico, a D.C. publication aimed at policymakers, as well as in TTD’s statement for the legislation.
“Our nation’s waterways provide sustainable jobs for American workers, support competition and increased exports and reduce highway traffic,” the ad says…HR1149 recognizes the critical need for infrastructure modernization. Passage will be a win for American agriculture, American jobs and American business.”
“A critical, bipartisan water infrastructure bill will boost American competitiveness and create middle-class jobs,” Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind wrote lawmakers before a key House panel unanimously passed the bill on Sept. 19.
The waterways bill “contains needed and long overdue reforms to harbor maintenance funding that will result in a substantial increase in investments in our nation’s ports and harbors. If approved, it will then be up to the House leadership to bring this jobs creating bill to the floor for a vote and closer to final legislation that meet’s the nation’s needs. Passage of this bill cannot come soon enough,” he added.
Wytkind explained the U.S. faces a $2.2 billion backlog in harbor maintenance, as money collected from shippers for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is diverted to other uses. The new legislation, he added, would order that by 2020, 80% of the fund’s money must actually go to maintain – repair, dredge and upgrade – harbors.
“The result will be much needed investment in a maritime industry that supports 500,000 jobs, plays a critical role in expanding U.S. exports and is the gateway to international trade and humanitarian aid. These investments will have the added benefits of creating thousands of good paying construction jobs, addressing a serious unemployment problem in that industry,” he said.