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Leo W Gerard: Trump’s Infrastructure Con

The administration’s infrastructure proposal, released this week, is a shift from Donald Trump’s campaign pledges, a shirk of the fundingburden, and a stop to government construction projects serving the public good.

Candidate Trump boasted that he would double what his opponent Hillary Clinton said she’d spend on infrastructure. But the scheme released by the Trump administration this week not only fails to do that, it would rob vital and cherished social safety net programs to pay for a pittance of improvements.

It is nothing but a con.

During the campaign, in August 2016, candidate Trump said his infrastructure plan would be bigger and better than his opponent’s. “I would say at least double her numbers, and you’re going to really need a lot more than that,” Trump said in an interview on the Fox Business Network.

Clinton said she would increase federal spending on infrastructure by $275 billion. The Trump administration this week proposed $200 billion in federal spending on the likes of roads, bridges, water systems and airports over the next decade.

That’s $75 billion less than Clinton. And, Clinton said hers would be in addition to current spending. Trump slashes traditional infrastructure spending in his budget. He snatches $178 billion over a decade from existing transportation programs. The Center for American Progress calculated that altogether the Trump budget cuts $281 billion from traditional infrastructure programs over the decade.

That means the administration actually intends to spend $81 billion less on infrastructure than would otherwise be allocated. That’s not bigger and better. It’s smaller and worse.

Administration apologists contend that Trump’s 200 billion in federal infrastructure dollars will be matched by $1.3 trillion in private, state and local investment, for a grand total of $1.5 trillion. This would shift the burden from the feds to state and local governments and private investors.

The time-honored deal was 80 percent federal dollars matched by 20 percent local. The infrastructure con would flip that, forcing state and local governments to pony up 80 percent of the cost to win 20 percent from the feds.

This comes after Republicans passed a tax break for the rich and corporations that eliminates the deduction citizens previously received for their state and local taxes. That makes it harder for states and cities to raise taxes to pay for infrastructure.

In addition, it’s not like states and cities are swimming in cash. In many, state lawmakers quarrel for months over what to cut. In some, politicians who slashed essential programs like education faced citizen backlash.

This responsibility dodge was explained last month to the U.S. Conference of Mayors by D.J. Gribbin, Trump’s special assistant for infrastructure. He said, “What we really want to do is provide opportunities for state and local governments to receive federal funding when they’re doing what’s politically hard, and increasing investment in infrastructure.”

Of course, federal officials are ducking what’s politically hard by failing to increase investment in infrastructure. Instead, they’re telling mayors and governors to do it.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says that investment should be $4.59 trillion by 2025. Even if this con job managed to rustle up every cent of the demanded $1.3 trillion matching investment, the total would be $3 trillion less than the amount that the ASCE calculates is necessary to avert serious economic consequences, including $3.9 trillion in losses to GDP and 2.5 million lost jobs.

Not all of the matching money would have to come from cities and states under the infrastructure scam. Some of it could come from private investors who would then own what were once public assets, like airports.

This is a shift from federal investment for the public good to corporate investment for private profit.

For 200 years, economic development, national defense and public health have been the pillars supporting federal investment in infrastructure, not profit.

Under this new plan, the ability of a city or state to provide its own money or garner private investment accounts for 70 percent of the proposed formula for selecting projects. So, it’s not how important the construction would be to public health, like improving the Flint, Mich., water system or how crucial it would be to economic development in struggling states like West Virginia or whether the proposal would assist in transporting heavy military hardware.

No, the new criteria would be whether Wall Street would make sufficient return on investment. This infrastructure program would provide a path to filling corporate coffers with more billions to top off those that the GOP granted businesses and the wealthy in the recently passed Republican tax plan. Without that $1.4 trillion in tax handouts, the federal government could properly pay for infrastructure repairs.

Sadly, this proposal is an abandonment of Trump’s campaign pledge to honor the enduring covenant between the U.S. government and the American people. The covenant began in 1935 with the initiation of Social Security and expanded over the decades with the launch of Medicare and Medicaid.

It was an agreement that if Americans pay into the system their entire working lives, the government will ensure they won’t face destitution in their dotage, and that in the richest country in the world, the most vulnerable citizens will not be rendered homeless, hungry and terminally ill for lack of medical care.

The budget proposal that accompanied the infrastructure plan calls for $1.8 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, the SNAP benefit that feeds impoverished pregnant women and infants, and other programsthat Americans consider sacred.

Trump himself told the Wall Street Journal in January that he intended to take money from such programs to pay for the $200 billion in infrastructure spending.

Candidate Trump also told workers in Monessen, Pa., in June of 2016, “A Trump administration will also ensure that we start using American steel for American infrastructure . . . It will be American steel that will fortify America’s crumbling bridges . . . It will be American steel that rebuilds our inner cities . . .We are going to put American-produced steel back into the backbone of our country.”

But the administration’s proposal sidesteps that pledge, neglecting to close gaping loopholes in existing made-in-America requirements for federally-financed projects while at the same time specifically opening more yawning exemptions.

That doesn’t Make America Great Again. It Makes China Great Again.

The introduction to the infrastructure proposal says this: “Our nation’s infrastructure is in an unacceptable state of disrepair, which damages our country’s competitiveness and our citizens’ quality of life. For too long, lawmakers have invested in infrastructure inefficiently, ignored critical needs, and allowed it to deteriorate. As a result, the United States has fallen further and further behind other countries. It is time to give Americans the working, modern infrastructure they deserve.”

All of that is true. Unfortunately, the scam that follows that preface utterly fails to give Americans the working, modern infrastructure they deserve.

America Needs Real Federal Investment To Repair Our National Infrastructure

Today, President Trump announced his “Trillion dollar infrastructure plan” that many say, completely misses the mark.

ThinkProgress explains how the new program is going to work (in theory):

“The proposal aims to turn $200 billion in federal funds into a $1.5 trillion investment over the next ten years by placing most of the financial burden on states and cities, which will have to cover at least 80 percent of the cost of any infrastructure project in order to qualify for federal grants, likely through higher taxes, tolls, and other user fees. The $200 billion number is a dramatic reduction in federal cost-sharing from years past.

…According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) annual Infrastructure Report Card, the United States needs to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 in order to improve the country’s infrastructure — a figure three times larger than even the rosiest estimate in Trump’s proposal and more than 20 times larger than the $200 billion actually allocated.”

Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) said “plan undermine the diverse needs of our transportation network” in his statement:

“We have long called for America’s infrastructure crisis to be met with a massive infusion of new federal investment that will grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs. While we appreciate the spotlight President Trump has shined on the need to rebuild America, too many aspects of this plan undermine the diverse needs of our transportation network and the businesses, communities, and working families that depend on it.

“Robbing other federal priorities — including important transportation programs — to pay for infrastructure will only add to our growing problems. Furthermore, devolving the federal government’s funding responsibility to cash-strapped states and municipalities will leave too many projects and jobs behind.

“Congress now has an opportunity to craft a bipartisan proposal that will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, fuel a new wave of middle-class job creation, and bolster the American economy in a way that works for everyone. Getting there will require robust federal investment, stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund for surface transportation needs and prioritizing Buy America rules and longstanding labor protections that support good jobs and raise wages.

“Creating an infrastructure network capable of supporting a 21st-Century economy requires real federal commitment. It is now time for Congress to take the lead and we stand ready to support that effort.” 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also released a statement on Trump’s infrastructure plan: 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our country’s grade on infrastructure is a D-plus. The infrastructure we use hundreds of millions of times each day is literally crumbling after decades of neglect. Our cars drive on broken roads, our children cross failing bridges, our loved ones ride on unsafe rail, our outdated electrical grids waste incredible amounts of power all while working people pay the cost of inaction.

President Trump has rightly noted the urgency and scale of America’s infrastructure crisis, and he has an opportunity to fix it. Unfortunately, today’s proposal relies more on accounting gimmicks and Wall Street investors than on a new federal commitment, which leaves states and municipalities to pick up the tab.

The right infrastructure plan will lift our communities and drive our economy forward for generations to come. That’s why this issue is so important and why the AFL-CIO and our affiliates are working actively with Congress to craft legislation that achieves these goals in a bipartisan way. If our nation’s leaders are serious about building America, they need to step up with trillions of dollars in new federal funding that supports America’s jobs, America’s resources and America’s products. And they need to uphold high labor standards and good wages and protect working people on the job. If they do, we have the most highly skilled and well-trained workforce ready to get the job done.

Well known economist, Robert Reich, posted a short video about the new infrastructure plan calling it a “huge tax giveaway for the rich.”  He warns that we would be turning over our public roads and bridges to private corporations who will install new fees and tolls.

This afternoon the Washington Post reports that President Trump is looking to “divest” in government assets and privatize government services. He is even proposing selling off, Washington National Airport (DCA) and Dulles International (IAD).

“The Washington region’s George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, both run by the National Park Service, are listed as “examples of assets for potential divestiture.” It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Same with the two airports in Virginia, which are leased from the federal government.

…Efforts to privatize federal assets were discussed early in the administration by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and other advisers as a preferred way to come up with capital for much needed improvements.

A high-profile Trump effort to move the nation’s air traffic control system out of government hands was blocked in Congress.”

Even the fiscal conservative group, The Concord Coalition, says the numbers just don’t add up.

The administration is focusing a great deal of attention on its infrastructure plan but counting on most of the money for it to come from state and local governments as well as the private sector. The federal government would provide only $200 billion of the $1.5 trillion spending goal. Yet the budget proposes transportation and other infrastructure cuts of around $200 billion and there is no clear, credible explanation of this juxtaposition or how any new infrastructure spending would be financed.

Trump says he is open to the possibility of raising the federal gas tax, which has not been done since 1993. This would be a reasonable step. But just hinting at such an increase is not enough; the president should show real leadership by calling on Congress to approve a specific gas tax hike.

No matter how you slice it, this infrastructure plan stinks. If it goes through, the public will be forced to cough up more money to fix the roads and bridges, but that money will go right into the pockets of the executives of the billion dollar corporations who have bought up all of our public roadways.

Senators Shaheen And Hassan Urge President to Prioritize Rural Broadband in Infrastructure Proposal

(Washington, DC) –  As the administration prepares a broad infrastructure plan and approximately 23 million Americans living in rural areas still lack access to high-speed broadband, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to include funding to support broadband deployment in unserved rural areas across the country.

“In an increasingly interconnected world and global economy, we must include in our discussion of infrastructure not just roads, bridges and waterways, but also high-speed internet access. While the vast majority of Americans have access to high-speed internet service, there is a stark disparity between urban and rural America,” wrote the senators. “This digital divide puts many rural Americans at risk of being left out of critical technological advancements and economic gains. The longer we delay investing in quality telecommunications for rural residents, the more challenging it will become to bridge the digital divide. As you finalize your proposal to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, we urge you to include at least $40 billion in funding for broadband deployment to help reach unserved Americans in rural and remote areas.”

Senators Shaheen and Hassan have both fought tirelessly to expand high-speed mobile access to rural areas in New Hampshire and across the nation. Last year, the senators sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC Commissioners asking the FCC to renew its commitment to the Mobility Fund, which is a key rural broadband funding source. Shaheen and Hassan have also both repeatedly expressed concern that repealing net neutrality rules will eliminate equal access to an open and free internet and harm rural communities, small businesses and consumers.

 


The full text of the letter appears below and can also be read here:

Dear President Trump:

As we enter 2018, there is broad agreement that investments in infrastructure are a critical component of strengthening our economy and promoting growth. Accordingly, we await the opportunity to review the Administration’s infrastructure plan and remain hopeful that there is common ground for us to work together to improve our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

In an increasingly interconnected world and global economy, we must include in our discussion of infrastructure not just roads, bridges and waterways, but also high-speed internet access. While the vast majority of Americans have access to high-speed internet service, there is a stark disparity between urban and rural America. This digital divide puts many rural Americans at risk of being left out of critical technological advancements and economic gains. The longer we delay investing in quality telecommunications for rural residents, the more challenging it will become to bridge the digital divide. As you finalize your proposal to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, we urge you to include at least $40 billion in funding for broadband deployment to help reach unserved Americans in rural and remote areas.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 10 percent of Americans lack access to high-speed internet in their homes. While that figure has been improving over time, it obscures a troubling statistic: the profound gap in access between Americans who live in rural and urban areas. While only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access to fixed broadband, 39 percent of Americans who live in rural areas—23 million people—lack access to high-speed broadband. For Americans living on rural tribal lands, the statistics are even bleaker, with 68 percent of people lacking access to broadband. If we intend to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband, we must make rural communities a priority for high-speed internet access.

The United States has always been at the forefront of technological innovation and the digital economy. But when almost 40 percent of our rural citizens lack broadband access and children grow up in households without access to the internet, we jeopardize the ability of our citizens to meaningfully participate in the civic and economic life of our country. As a nation we have long understood the importance of promoting access to advanced technologies, from electricity to telephone service to broadband, and we have long recognized the role that government plays in supporting the deployment of those critical services. We must continue working to ensure that no American is left without access to technology that has become integral to daily life.

As you prepare your infrastructure plan, we urge you to include funding to support broadband deployment to connect families, facilities and businesses in unserved rural areas across the country. We look forward to working with you to promote investments in quality telecommunications infrastructure for rural America.

Sincerely,

CWA President: Working People Are Worse Off After One Year Of Trump Presidency

CWA President Chris Shelton Responds To Trump’s State of the Union Address

“President Trump tried hard to spin his record on “defending American workers,” but the truth is that working people are much worse off one year into the Trump presidency.

“The tax cut that the President and Republicans jammed through Congress gives billions of dollars to corporations and the 1 percent at the expense of the rest of us. Some companies have doled out bonuses, and those extra dollars always make a difference to working families. But instead of putting more money into creating good jobs and increasing wages, these corporations have made it clear that their tax break will be used mainly to enrich executives and shareholders.

“Here’s the reality for working people after one year of the Trump administration:

  • Corporations are encouraged by the corporate tax bill to send even more jobs overseas. We’ve seen call center closings by some of the biggest U.S. corporations, with work shifted to the Philippines, Dominican Republic and other countries. Other big corporations like General Electric, Microsoft, Lowe’s, Nabisco and others have recently announced new closings and more jobs going overseas.
  • Plans for a renegotiated NAFTA still include the worst elements of past U.S. trade deals, including special rights for investors and the failure to include enforceable labor and environmental standards.
  • Federal regulations covering job safety and health, wage theft and workers’ rights have been reversed, putting workers at greater risk for job injury and illnesses and giving employers more opportunity to cheat workers of their rightful wages.
  • Instead of “draining the swamp,” President Trump has filled his administration with Wall Streeters who have moved to weaken protections for working people’s retirement savings and block regulations that safeguard consumers from bank and credit industry abuses.

“U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) hosted CWA Local 1170 member Dustin Newman at the State of the Union address, to spotlight the Trump administration’s failure to save good jobs. Newman, an Army reservist from Rochester, N.Y., was laid off in January along with 31 other Frontier Communications employees as part of a larger company-wide downsizing.

“In contrast to the President’s empty promises, CWA and working people have a clear agenda. We want to keep good jobs here in the U.S., and raise wages for working families.  We expect a real plan to improve our roads, bridges, highways and public buildings that is not based on big tax handouts to private companies and budget cuts.  We want fair treatment for the “dreamers” who came to this country as children and who have become full contributing members of our communities and our nation.

“That’s the agenda that millions of working families support.”

 

Read the full SOTU transcript here

Video of the SOTU available here

The NH Congressional Delegation Responds To Trump’s State of the Union Address

Last night, President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address to Congress.  The speech was full of self gratification and praise for the Republican tax bill that was forced through Congress, despite huge opposition from the American people.

The New Hampshire Congressional delegation responded to Trump’s State of the Union address. Below are the statements from all four of the NH Congressional Delegation.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

“I appreciate the attention the President devoted to the opioid crisis in his remarks this evening, but words are not enough. I was proud to have Jeanne Moser, who tragically lost her son to a fentanyl overdose and has done so much to raise awareness about substance use disorders, as my guest to help highlight the urgent need for help in New Hampshire and across the country to respond to this crisis. The President must finally begin fulfilling his promise to deliver treatment resources. Over the past year, President Trump has only devoted lip service to respond to the opioid epidemic. Instead of any meaningful action, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to undermine existing programs that have proven to be critical in battling this crisis in New Hampshire. I continue to stand ready and willing to work with the President to deliver these resources that are so needed. The urgency of this lifesaving effort cannot be overstated.

“The President was right to address the desperate state of our aging infrastructure. I believe this is an area where Republicans and Democrats can work across the aisle, and I encourage President Trump to deliver an ambitious plan to Congress that provides the resources to begin these critical upgrades and repairs. Granite Staters are becoming all too familiar with crumbling roads and bridges, and water and wastewater systems, that have far outlasted their intended use.”

In the days leading up to the President’s address, Shaheen distributed purple ribbons to her senate colleagues to wear during the State of the Union Address to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders. To further bring attention to the opioid crisis, Senator Shaheen brought Jeanne Moser of East Kingston as her guest, who lost her son in 2015 to a fentanyl overdose and has advocated in the years since to bring awareness to substance use disorders.

As the lead Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to combat the opioid epidemic. She recently introduced bipartisan funding legislation to prioritize states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, including New Hampshire, and has consistently urged the Trump administration to consider bipartisan action as the public health emergency continues to devastate Granite State communities.

Senator Maggie Hassan

The Senator brought McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, who works as the Program Administrator for the Office of School Wellness in the Laconia School District, as her guest of honor for the President’s address.

“While President Trump touched on many important issues tonight, we’ve unfortunately seen this script before from the President – lots of big promises, but little action to back them up. Since taking office, the President has delivered huge giveaways to corporate special interests and the ultra-wealthy, but he has not come through for middle class families or for communities reeling from the devastating opioid crisis. That’s why what really counts is not his words, but what he does tomorrow and in the days that follow.

“I brought McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, who works to prevent substance misuse and support Laconia students impacted by the opioid crisis, as my guest of honor to the President’s speech in order to highlight the importance of getting more resources to those on the front lines of this devastating crisis. While I appreciate that the President spoke about the importance of stepping up efforts to combat this crisis, he once again failed to lead in calling for more federal resources to strengthen treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts. Struggling families and communities don’t need words, they need real help.

“The President also discussed the need to rebuild our highways, roads, and bridges, another issue where there could be real bipartisan common ground. As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I look forward to working in a bipartisan way to evaluate the Administration’s proposal and ensure that it would actually meet the needs of New Hampshire, not simply pass the buck to local communities.”

“No matter what the President says or does, I will continue to work with members of both parties to expand economic opportunity and support innovative businesses, step up efforts to combat the opioid crisis, and keep our country safe, secure, and free.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

“After his Joint Address last year, I said that President Trump had created deep divisions in our country and disregarded our shared values: tolerance for religious and ethnic diversity, freedom of the press, good health and opportunity for working families, the well-being of our beautiful planet, and the rule of law. That was only 40 days into his presidency. A year later, it’s clear that nothing has changed.

“The President needs to stop throwing red meat to his base and stink bombs to the rest of us if he wants to get anything constructive done. I was saddened and alarmed that the President used this opportunity to spout hateful and xenophobic rhetoric that is far from the uplifting image of America, the shining city on a hill.

“America is the greatest country on earth, but the constant lying, the scandals, and the dangerous policies coming from the White House do harm to our people and environment, imperil our democracy, and erode confidence in our institutions. He continues to endanger our national security.

“I am also deeply concerned about what President Trump did not say tonight. There was no roadmap to a better future. He did not ask Congress for emergency funding to combat the deadly opioid epidemic that is devastating our communities. And he did not ask Congress for new legislation to improve veterans’ access to quality healthcare or invest in VA medical centers. We need to find a way forward and pass a long-term budget agreement that fully funds critical national priorities such as infrastructure, health care for veterans, national security, our military, the opioid crisis, funding for community health centers, and disaster funding.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster

“Tonight President Trump discussed several issues important to the Granite State, including efforts to take on the opioid epidemic and the need to improve our aging infrastructure. Unfortunately, it’s long past time the President put actions to his words on both of these critical issues. Declaring the opioid epidemic a national health emergency was the right thing to do, but without funding it’s a meaningless gesture. As the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, I’m working to make real progress on this crisis and just last week 50 members of the Task Force wrote to President Trump urging him to work with Congress to appropriate the funding necessary to bolster prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts as well as support law enforcement.

“We need to fix red listed bridges, aging roads, airports, railroads, and deteriorating infrastructure to create jobs, increase public safety, and boost our economic competitiveness in New Hampshire and across the country. Far too many people in New Hampshire lack access to adequate internet services, and any 21st Century infrastructure plan must expand broadband in rural communities. As I’ve learned, the devil is in the details and I will closely examine President Trump’s infrastructure proposal and look for opportunities to work across the aisle on behalf of all Granite Staters.”

Read the full SOTU transcript here

Video of the SOTU available here

Transportation Trades Department Of The AFL-CIO Applauds Work Group On Infrastructure

Problem Solvers Caucus Report Demonstrates Bipartisan Support for Infrastructure Investments

Washington, DC — Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on the Problem Solvers Caucus Infrastructure Working Group Report Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure:

“We applaud the Problem Solvers Caucus Infrastructure Working Group, led by Reps. Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT) and John Katko (R-NY), for recognizing the urgency of America’s infrastructure crisis and are pleased many of the bipartisan proposals outlined in Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure are solutions transportation labor has long called for. We believe this report can and should act as a framework for investing in our transportation system in a way that will breathe new life into the middle class.

“Specifically, we are pleased that the report calls for stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund by modernizing a gasoline or alternative user fee and providing proper indexing tools. Increasing and indexing a user fee, a long-time transportation labor priority, is the most viable means of funding surface transportation programs because it raises sufficient funding, maintains a dedicated revenue stream, and can be easily implemented. Fixing the Trust Fund requires tough decisions, and we believe the recommendations of the Problem Solvers Caucus should be part of any infrastructure discussion.

“All infrastructure investments should be accompanied by strong Buy America requirements that leverage U.S. tax dollars to create good jobs here at home. We applaud working group members for recommending these requirements be included in all federally funded infrastructure projects.

“We are also pleased the report contains common-sense, long overdue reforms to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). Ensuring revenue collected in the fund goes toward its intended purpose of supporting ports, harbors and waterways will enable American ports to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment.

“Addressing our country’s severe and widespread infrastructure problems while creating good jobs for Americans who need them most will require cooperation and leadership from political leaders on both sides of the aisle. The example set by the Problem Solvers Caucus Infrastructure Working Group is an important step and we look forward to working with lawmakers to invest in our nation’s infrastructure.”

If You’re Surprised By America’s Wage Stagnation, Then You’re Not Paying Attention

By Larry Willis, President of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the economy and how well it’s doing. The unemployment rate has steadily fallen for years now, and jobs are being created.

But wages? Not so much.

The latest jobs report shows that while the unemployment rate remains low, wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Instead, they are falling flat.

Some economists and policymakers seem baffled — but TTD and our affiliated unions aren’t.

Yes, there are a number of reasons for this trend. But, as we reflect ahead of Labor Day, it is clear that anti-union policies, like so-called “right to work” laws, and failure to invest in our crumbling infrastructure are contributing factors that need to be called out and addressed.

Unions act as a check against corporate power, making union representation one of the most reliable ways for working people to improve their quality of life and secure a living wage. In fact, data shows a direct correlation between high union density and higher wages and better benefits. And while union members are more likely to have a pension, employer-paid health insurance, and earn an average of 13.2 percent more than their non-union counterparts, the union difference doesn’t just affect those covered by collective bargaining agreements. Strong union contracts influence competition, driving up wages, benefits, and standards of living for non-union workers too.

So what happens when working people don’t have access to unions? Take a look around – we’re seeing it right now. While millions of Americans struggle just to get by, the average CEO makes nearly $14 million annually – 200 times what an average employee earns. This is not a coincidence. It is the result of ruthless, decades-long attacks on the rights of working people to demand better for themselves and their families.

As for all those jobs being created, it is time we ask ourselves what kind of jobs they are. Based on an analysis from MIT’s living wage calculator, it takes a typical family of four (two adults, two children) more than $58,000 annually to have their basic needs met. A minimum-wage, non-union job just won’t cut it.

This country needs more good jobs — the kind that allow people to own a car, buy a house, and put their kids through college. Attacks on the rights of working people to negotiate together for better wages and benefits are not the only reasons these jobs are lacking. Failure by political leaders to invest in our nation’s transportation system hasn’t just left us with infrastructure that’s crumbling and dangerous — this inaction has also resulted in missed opportunities to create as many as 900,000 long-term, good paying jobs, annually.

Thanks to high union density in transportation and infrastructure industries, people working in these sectors — including frontline workers who build, operate, and maintain our transportation system — earn higher pay, better benefits, and more job security than their low-wage counterparts. In fact, at $38,480, the median annual wage paid by occupations in infrastructure is nearly $4,000 higher than the national median wage.

When Congress considers transportation and infrastructure spending, TTD and our affiliated unions will fight for policies that ensure these investments will continue to create the type of jobs we know our country needs. We cannot support an infrastructure plan that threatens long-standing labor standards or undermines the collective bargaining rights of working people.

There are ways to turn things around and make our economy work for everyone. But doing so requires taking a stand against the rich and powerful — something working people cannot do alone. America needs a commitment from political leaders on both sides of the aisle, not only to invest boldly in infrastructure, but to end attacks on the rights of working families, and understand that strong unions aren’t part of the problem — they are part of the solution.

Ten Years After Minneapolis Bridge Collage Progressive Warn About Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

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On 10 Year Anniversary of Minneapolis Mississippi River Bridge Collapse Tragedy, Progressives Warn ‘Trump’s Radical Infrastructure Privatization Plan Will Hurt American Consumers & Workers’

On the tenth anniversary of the Minneapolis Mississippi River Bridge collapse, which killed thirteen and injured dozens after the bridge’s central span gave way during rush hour traffic, Working Families Party National Director Dan Cantor released the following statement of the Millions of Jobs coalition:

“A decade ago this week, the nation watched in shock as a bridge crumbled in Minneapolis during rush hour traffic, killing and injuring dozens. This tragedy never should have happened in America. But today, our nation’s’ roads, highways and transportation infrastructure are deteriorating from lack of public investment. We can’t let it happen again.

“Democrats in Congress and the Millions of Jobs coalition believe we have the opportunity to put millions of Americans to work rebuilding bridges and roads and repairing our unsafe water systems — and also creating modern jobs for the 21st century by investing in clean energy and high-speed Internet.

“Trump wants to use this crisis as cover to sell off our our nation’s public infrastructure to Wall Street investors and foreign corporations, who would levy tolls that Americans would have to pay for generations to come. It’s a scam, not a real plan to rebuild. The difference between the progressive vision of job creation and Trump’s scam of jobless corporate handouts could very well  save innocent people from another tragedy like what happened on the the Mississippi River Bridge 10 years ago.

“The president’s radical privatization plan will hurt American consumers and workers, and we implore our elected officials to block Trump’s corporate giveaway of this country’s  infrastructure future.” 

Leo W Gerard: Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Image from USW / Getty

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Despite Trump’s promise in Cincinnati that he would take care of rural areas, there’s no profit in many crucial infrastructure projects in such regions. Investors won’t pay for a highway needed to connect two isolated towns in West Virginia.

And the profit in some projects is highly questionable. Several corporations that have bought or built toll roads have filed for bankruptcy. This includes highways in Texas, California, Indiana and Alabama.

In other cases, the profits reaped are outrageous. After Chicago sold its 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank doubled the parking rates and charged the city tens of millions annually for meters Chicago took out of service for street repairs, mass transit stops and safety. A city inspector general report on the deal says Chicago under-priced the meters by nearly $1 billion when former Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year contract in 2008. The bank is expected to make back its $1.15 billion investment by 2020, giving it 60 more years to rake in pure profit on the backs of Chicago taxpayers who paid to install the meters and who feed them daily.

That’s gold for Morgan Stanley, grief for taxpayers.

Another part of Trump’s financing plan is to shift infrastructure costs to states and towns. This also cheats too many citizens. Sure, some places high on the hog like Silicon Valley might be able to afford that. But too many will be left out.

That’s because large numbers of cities and states are facing fiscal crises. Chicago sold its parking meters to fill a budget shortfall. In Oklahoma, where there’s a $900 million budget gap, schools are so underfunded that 96 of the state’s 513 districts have reduced the school week to four days and another 44 may be forced to do that in the fall. The state has shuttered rural hospitals, overcrowded its prisons and limited state troopers to 100 miles of driving a day.

In Kansas, with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state Supreme Court just ordered the legislature to properly pay for its schools. The court said Kansas’ under-funding meant inadequate education in basic reading and math for students in one fourth of its public schools. The state shortchanged half of the state’s black students and a third of its Hispanic pupils.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget for two years. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times. It has accrued $14.5 billion in unpaid bills. As a result, more than 1,500 public university and community college workers have been laid off and untold numbers of social service agencies have closed or severely curtailed services.

Other states, including Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, face massive pension shortfalls after years of failing to properly pay into the funds.

These places aren’t going to be able to jump up and take on the federal government’s responsibility to invest in infrastructure.

Even the $200 billion that the Trump administration is saying the federal government will provide is in question. It’s in the budget Trump submitted to Congress, but also in that budget is $206 billion in cuts to existing infrastructure programs, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers. That’s the very Corps of Engineers that would pay for the river lock and dam projects that Trump complained Wednesday in Cincinnati were grossly underfunded, causing costly breakdowns.

That kind of budgeting is bad alchemy. That’s not $1 trillion in infrastructure gold.

Trump said Wednesday, “We will build because our people want to build and because we need them to build. We will build because our prosperity demands it. We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

That sounds wonderful. But to build, projects must be properly paid for. And so far, the Trump administration has offered only pyrite.

Transportation Unions Roll Out Strategies to Move $1 Trillion Transportation Infrastructure Package

Labor Leader Release List Of Priorities For 2017 And Beyond 

San Antonio, TX – Transportation labor leaders laid out an aggressive strategy yesterday focused on shaping the President’s $1 trillion transportation infrastructure package and tackling unprecedented challenges faced by frontline transportation workers. Some of those challenges include the looming transportation automation wave, risks to jobs and safety, and reckless political forces taking aim at workers’ rights to bargain collectively for good wages and benefits.

“We committed to rally behind a $1 trillion infrastructure package that doesn’t rely mostly on tax incentives but instead includes an infusion of billions in new federal funding and embraces high labor standards,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD). “We cannot toll our way to modernizing and expanding our transportation system and creating millions of new jobs.”

TTD hosted Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) for a discussion on the pressing issues affecting America’s transportation workers, including the need to advance a robust infrastructure package. Denham is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

“Our nation’s transportation system, and the men and women who build, operate and maintain it, play a crucial role in keeping our economy strong,” Denham said. “I look forward to working with transportation labor leaders to advance strategic infrastructure investments that will rebuild our vast transportation network and, in the process, drive middle-class job creation in California and throughout the nation.” 

Transportation labor leaders laid out key issues for 2017 and beyond, including:

 Responding to the Wave of Transportation Automation

  • Automated technologies will drastically change the nature of work in transportation industries, will put millions of jobs at risk and pose new safety and security threats requiring rigorous federal regulations.

Views on President Trump’s Call for a $1 Trillion Infrastructure Investment Initiative

  • Any transportation infrastructure plan advanced by the President and Congress must include a significant infusion of new federal funds and embrace strong worker protections, labor standards and Buy America requirements.

Mobilization Against Job-Killing Right-to-Work Laws

  • Transportation labor will engage in an aggressive effort to stop national right-to-work legislation, which is part of an orchestrated, deliberate attempt by extremists to crush the wages and benefits of working Americans.

Protecting Airline Customer Service Agents from Assault

  • Too many airline customer service agents are verbally or physically assaulted on the job. Federal legislation must mitigate the problem by providing clear protocols for violent situations, preventing violent travelers from boarding planes and subjecting those who assault customer service agents to arrest and prosecution.

Strengthening Transportation Buy America Rules

  • Billions in new transportation investments must be used to not only grow the economy, but to maximize middle-class job creation through vigorous and strongly enforced Buy America policies.

Protecting and Expanding Middle Class Freight Rail Jobs

  • Transportation unions are committed to policies that strengthen and expand freight rail and will oppose reforms that would weaken the freight rail sector’s ability to expand business, invest in its network and workforce, and support middle-class job creation.

Supporting Cargo Preference Laws that Strengthen Our National Defense

  • The Trump Administration and Congress must uphold cargo preference laws that ensure a viable U.S. merchant marine, strengthen our national defense and support mariner jobs.

Protecting Official Time for Federal Employees

  • Transportation unions will mobilize against the Official Time Reform Act, which is a thinly veiled attack on public sector unions and federal employees.

The Executive Committee heard a presentation from Wytkind, who was appointed to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s federal advisory committee on transportation automation, on the safety and security challenges as well as massive job impacts from emerging automation technologies.

“Every sector of the transportation industry faces massive change and significant job loss from the development and deployment of automated technologies,” said Wytkind. “Our priority going forward is to ensure that these technologies are tools for frontline workers to enhance safety, security and service, rather than enablers of massive job and wage destruction.”

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