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Engineering News-Record Honors Iron Workers for Groundbreaking Maternity Leave Program

Iron Workers General President Eric Dean Named ENR Top 25 Newsmaker for Pioneering Paid Maternity Leave Program in the Building Trades

Washington – Iron Workers (IW) General President Eric Dean was named one of 2017 ENR Top 25 Newsmakers for his role in establishing a groundbreaking paid maternity leave program. The IW employer-ironworker partnership IMPACT announced the groundbreaking move at its annual conference last year.

The program is the first of its kind in the building trades and provides qualified pregnant ironworkers up to six months of paid leave and up to six weeks postpartum.

The tragic story of an ironworker woman who had miscarried due to physically demanding work during pregnancy inspired Eric Dean to work with the IMPACT Contractor Co-Chair and CEO of Ben Hur Construction Bill Brown to introduce a paid maternity leave program. “When Eric Dean heard the ironworker woman’s story at the Women Build Nations conference, he took immediate action not only to keep the ironworker women safe during pregnancy, but also to give them time after birth to take care of their babies,” says IW General Organizer Safety/Diversity Vicki O’Leary.

The IW leadership hopes that the program will not only keep ironworker women safe but also improve retention. It’s an adjunct to the IMPACT Off-the-Job Accident program, which provides financial support for ironworkers while recovering from an injury that occurred off the job site.

“We are very proud to be an agent of change in the industry,” says Eric Dean. “It’s about time we make diversity and inclusion a priority. The maternity leave program was a big step for ironworker women but we are now exploring other initiatives to improve diversity and retention.”

“It’s an investment because we want our well-trained ironworker women to come back to work after pregnancy,” says Bill Brown.

2017 ENR Top 25 Newsmakers will be honored at a New York City gala in April.

Ironworkers And Stockton Steel Sets Monumental Safety Record

Stockton Steel Reaches Over 4 Million Work Hours Without Any Incidents 

Washington – Stockton Steel, a subsidiary of Herrick Corporation and one of the largest steel fabricators in the country, celebrates an impressive milestone. The company reached 4.5 million work hours, over 3000 days, free of lost-time incidents. The company marked the impressive milestone with a celebratory barbecue last Friday.

Stockton Steel’s Corporate Safety Manager Tom Davies credits the achievement to effectiveness of the company’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program and culture of safety. “We work hard with our workforce to create a culture of safety, where everyone looks out for themselves and others,” said Davies. “Our philosophy is one of continual improvement. Our safety commitment is backed by strong organizational policies, procedures and incentives to ensure all employees have a safe and healthy workplace. Our workforce is our greatest asset.”

Stockton Steel’s safety committee meets monthly and the company conducts weekly safety training and meetings as well as regular special training for overhead cranes, rigging, fall protection and forklift safety. Its Code of Safety Practices serves as a guide for high-risk work activities to prevent injuries.

Stockton Steel employs around 150 workers from various trades. The employees are encouraged to suggest safety improvements and take an active role in managing safety in the workplace. “We have empowered all employees with the ability to stop work when they recognize a safety issue and address it,” said CEO of Herrick Corporation Doug Griffin. “When you have employees, who feel free to point out hazards and prevent injuries, you know you have succeeded in creating a culture of safety.”

Stockton Steel is one of Iron Workers’ (IW) partner contractors. The IW is proud of its skilled, safety-conscious ironworkers who made this achievement possible. The ironworkers contributed over 3.5 million incident-free work hours to Stockton Steel’s outstanding accomplishment. Considering the highly hazardous nature of the ironworking trade, it is an exceptional contribution.

“The great relationship between the employer and workers and the safety committee comprised of representatives from both made it possible,” said IW District Representative Erik Schmidli.

Stockton Steel looks forward to growing its culture of safety and many more days free of incidents. 

The Herrick Corporation has established itself as one of the largest steel fabricators and erectors in the United States over the past 95 years.  

IMPACT is an ironworker-contractor partnership designed to provide a forum for ironworkers and their contractors to address mutual concerns and encourage reasonable balanced solutions. 

The Iron Workers (IW) represents 130,000 ironworkers in North America who work in construction on bridges; structural steel; ornamental, architectural, and miscellaneous metals; rebar; and in shops.

Iron Workers and Contractors Announce Paid Maternity Leave Benefit

IMPACT Conference Attendees Cheer Announcement at the 2017 Conference 

Washington – The Iron Workers (IW) and the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), announced a new paid maternity leave benefit at the 2017 Iron Workers/IMPACT Conference in San Diego last Tuesday. The organization is the first to introduce a generous paid maternity leave benefit in the building trades. It is a laudable move considering that the U.S. lags behind its European counterparts when it comes to paid maternity leave and most industries in the country do not offer adequate paid maternity leave. It’s virtually unheard of in the building trades. 

The Iron Workers’ paid maternity leave includes 6 months of pre-delivery maximum benefit and 6 to 8 weeks of post-delivery benefit. Regardless of what was covered pre‐delivery, the ironworker member will be eligible for up to six weeks of paid leave after the birth of the child and two additional weeks for Cesarean deliveries. The challenges of physical work associated with the ironworking trade create unique health challenges that can jeopardize a pregnancy.

“I’m extremely excited about this policy and I think it’s going to help with retention of ironworker women and encourage them to build a career,” said Vicki O’Leary, an Ironworker representative who made the announcement during a panel focused on the role of women ironworkers. “It’s one more step in achieving greater diversity in our trade.” 

The announcement was well received by the ironworkers and contractors in attendance. “It’s a relief to know that female ironworkers don’t have to choose between work and family anymore,” said Blue Coble an ironworker woman from IW Local 75 in Phoenix.  

“We are very proud to be the first to introduce a paid maternity program in the building trades,” said General President of the Iron Workers Eric Dean. “It’s about time we make our industry a level playing field for women and make diversity and inclusion a priority”. 

“When we first started talking about it, I wasn’t sure how we’d pull it off and what it would cost, but we realized that it’s an investment because we want our well-trained ironworker women to come back to work,” said, CEO of Ben Hur Construction Co. and Co-Chair of IMPACT Bill Brown.   

The IW became a trailblazer in diversity and inclusion in the building trades with its announcement of the remarkable paid maternity leave.  

Iron Workers Endorse Hillary Clinton for President

 (image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

(image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

Washington, D.C. – The General Executive Council (GEC) of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers voted unanimously Friday, November 20 to endorse Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

Clinton now has the support of nearly 11 million union members across 14 different national unions who have endorsed her campaign.

“As President, I will fight every day to protect and expand workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, to maintain prevailing wage and labor standards, and to retire with dignity after years of hard work. Because when workers are strong, families are strong—and when families are strong, America is strong,” said Secretary Hillary Clinton. 

The GEC reviewed the qualifications of each candidate for president while coming to its decision.  While the council felt that several other candidates align with ironworker values, none compare to Secretary Clinton when it comes to putting those beliefs into practice.  Clinton’s record of looking out for the jobs that union members rely on was the largest factor in the council’s decision.  Her support for workers’ rights, infrastructure investment and economic opportunity lines up with the union’s priorities for the next administration.  Secretary Clinton’s unmatched experience in government will enable her to deliver on her promises in ways the other candidates cannot.

“I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Ironworkers,” said Clinton

Secretary Clinton’s readiness to take on the global challenges, threats and opportunities faced by our country also played a role in the union’s decision.  The Secretary was tested as soon as she entered the U.S. Senate by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Then-Senator Clinton sponsored legislation to provide for the ironworkers and others who sacrificed their health rescuing victims and clearing rubble on “the Pile” in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia.

Between her time in the Senate and her service as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has more post-9/11 defense and foreign policy experience than all other serious presidential candidates, Republican and Democratic, combined.

“The Ironworkers have helped build the mighty American middle class for decades—oftentimes literally, creating good-paying jobs and careers with every bridge and building they work on. They have stood strong against repeated attacks on workers’ rights, as Republicans and their allies have sought to roll back the hard-won progress we’ve achieved for workers and their families. And in our country’s hour of need, after the barbaric attacks of 9/11, they worked tirelessly on ‘the Pile,’ putting in overtime to dismantle tons of wreckage—and, later, to build the soaring Freedom Tower,” stated Clinton

“I have always stood with organized labor, and I will be proud to stand with the Ironworkers as President. As a Senator, I fought to secure critical health care benefits for the brave first and second responders at Ground Zero, and urge Congress to reauthorize the Zadroga Act without delay,” concluded Clinton.

With many jobs connected to the energy and manufacturing sectors, ironworkers are directly affected by new regulations on greenhouse gases and other environmental issues.  In the union’s assessment, other candidates for president have either unconstructively denied climate change or shown a cavalier attitude towards jobs lost due to environmental regulation.  The union expects Clinton to take a balanced approach, protecting the public from pollution while keeping Americans at work building the economy.

The GEC encourages all union ironworkers to register to vote and bring their families to the polls in 2016.  Besides the president, voters across the United States will choose 12 governors, 34 senators, and countless state and local officials.  With right to work legislation on the march in states throughout the country, 2016 is a vital year for ironworkers to make their voices heard.

Ironworker Apprentice Praises Building Pathways Program For Changing Her Life

Last week the Building Trades Unions celebrated National Apprentice Week and specifically the inaugural National Women in Apprenticeship Day.

On National Women in Apprenticeship Day, Annastashia Parke, stop to take the time to tell her story about changing her life’s direction and beginning a new career as an Ironworker.  Below is her post.

Annastashia Parke

Where do I even begin? First off: Happy National Women in Apprenticeship Day! And Happy National Apprentice Week!

Ladies, many of you whom I have met inspire me in so many ways – and I am grateful to call you sisters. I also want to thank my brothers in Local Seven for their graciousness and patience with all of us apprentices. That being said, this is my story.

I was 23 and divorced, and faced with the reality that I spent so long putting my ex-husband’s dreams before my own – and now I was stuck in dead end jobs and had no real pathway to a career and no true way to provide for myself.

What’s worse is: I had a college degree, but if I wanted to do anything in the field I had studied, I still need a master’s degree – which would be about another $40,000 dollars, which I didn’t have.

I had grown very close over the years with my ex-husband’s parents and, as odd as it may sound, they took me in. They are the most amazing people and have always looked at me like their own daughter.

My mom always was very politically active and just happened to follow Governor Hassan’s Facebook page, and she came across a new program called “Building Pathways New Hampshire.”

This program was just starting up, and its goal was to get more women into the trades. I knew very little about unions and exactly how many trades there were, but as my mom pointed out I was very good with my hands and loved seeing tasks completed. So I went to an informational session, which was the minimum requirement in order to apply to the program. I was a little nervous as they were only accepting thirteen applicants. I am thrilled to say I got in.

Flash forward past an interview and an evaluation day and I was being shown a world that suddenly gave me a great sense of hope and pride. I was gaining skills to become an apprentice in whatever field I choose to apply to. We had seventeen different trades workers come and talk to us about their craft. One struck me more than anything, and that was the Ironworkers of Local Seven. I knew I had to get in. I was in love with it from the start.

I managed to get an interview with the apprenticeship coordinator for Local Seven. He kept asking me, “are you sure?” For once, I could truly answer “yes” every time without hesitation. At the end he said “Good, because we invest a lot of money to train you guys, and losing someone after a year doesn’t do anyone any good.”

I am now a second-year apprentice with Local Seven. I received my welding certs in June after many months of training that was free to me. I have learned invaluable information about structures and safety – free to me. I have learned history and am starting to learn blueprints – again, free to me. This Local and brotherhood is investing well over $10,000 dollars in exceptional hands-on training – all free to me!!!! Where else will you find that kind of thing?

Also, since the very beginning when I stepped foot on my first job, I have been making the same wage as my male counterparts! The exact same – no discrepancies. We all work hard and safely for our checks and we all deserve our wages – and that’s what our union believes and what our contractors believe.

I have worked several jobs since I started. Watching the skyline and landscapes of Boston and the other towns I have worked in has seemed like a dream. I will be up on top of a building and see a sunrise or just a view that makes me wonder how many people don’t realize what amazing work this is.

I am Annastashia Parke and I am a woman apprentice who is thrilled and grateful to be where she is.

Apprenticeships work. They are a pathway unknown to many, and it’s about time we speak up! Becoming an apprentice is one of the best things I ever did. There is no where to go now but up!

#‎WomenInApprenticeship #‎Apprenticeshipworks #‎local7 #‎ironworkerforlife #‎20percentby2020


‘National Women in Apprenticeship Day’ A Huge Success


On November 5th, America celebrated the inaugural National Women in Apprenticeship Day. President Obama, along with over a dozen Governors and Mayors, made proclamations praising the Building Trades apprentice programs.

NH Gov Hassan NWAD Proclamation 11.3.15“We recognize the ways apprenticeships foster innovation and prosperity, and we recommit to encouraging and supporting those who offer and partake in them,” proclaimed President Obama.

Across the country, the Department of Labor and local union activists, organized events to focus on the benefits for women of becoming an apprentice.

“The success of National Women in Apprenticeship Day can be measured by the supportive proclamations from governors & mayors, by the reach of 2.2 million impressions on social media, by the celebratory events held all over the country, by the 200,000 cars every day who passed by two different Boston union’s billboards each day last week, and by the enthusiasm with which tradeswomen all over the US shared “selfies” and stories from the job,” said Elizabeth Skidmore, Business Representative for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

“Events like National Women in Apprenticeship Day make concrete the growing support for advancing women in the trades,” Skidmore added.

In Boston, the Women’s Bureau and Office of Apprenticeship co-hosted a conversation on Women in Apprenticeship. Public sector leaders from U.S. Department of Labor, EEOC, and state, city, and county officials discussed examples of successful apprenticeship programs and some challenges women still face in entry and retention in many occupational fields.

In Lowell, MA the Women’s Bureau and the Greater Lowell Workforce Investment Board convened a roundtable discussion focused on Apprenticeships in Manufacturing.

Some of the other events included:

  • In Berkeley, CA the Women’s Bureau collaborated on an open house called Celebrating Women in Apprenticeship, which showcased the federal role in promoting apprenticeship and enforcing equal employment opportunity for women and minorities within the building trades.
  • In New York City, the Women’s Bureau attended an event hosted by Nontraditional Employment for Women called “Advancing Women in the Trades: Building on Success” to help increase awareness of and access to nontraditional occupations among women.
  • In Denton, TX, Women’s Bureau spoke at the National Apprenticeship Week event hosted by Power Line Holdings (PLH) Group at Northwest Lineman College.
  • In Philadelphia, the Women’s Bureau spoke at an open house at the Finishing Trades Institute and the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund’s Career Fair, which featured guest speakers and previous apprentices.

tipxsThe main focus of the National Women in Apprenticeship Day is to encourage more women to become skilled laborers. 47% of the national workforce is made up of women, yet only make up 4% of the building trades workforce nationally.

Thousands of women are taking the first step towards pay equity, while climbing the economic ladder to the middle class, by becoming an apprentice in one of the many Building Trades unions.

Last year the Building Trades began training 430,000 new apprentices, up nearly 50,000 from the previous year. On top of that, women now make up over 9% of all new apprentices. The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues wants to raise that to “20 percent by 2020.”

There are a few of compelling reasons that women are choosing careers in the Building Trades.

  • The Building Trades offer women an opportunity to learn a valuable skill without years in college and the burden of thousands of dollars in student loans.
  • A women in the building trades has the potential to make $1.2 million dollars more in her lifetime than if she worked in a typical “woman’s” job such as childcare or food service.
  • Get paid while you learn. Apprentices on average earn more than $50,000 upon program completion, and have been shown to increase their compensation by approximately $300,000 over their lifetime compared to someone not completing an apprenticeship.
  • 90% of apprentice graduates enter and sustain meaningful employment.

All across the country, the unions of the Building Trades, are helping young workers find good careers in the Building Trades.

page_8plq95zy0z_1446225077Specifically here in New Hampshire a group of unions have come together to start a new program to give women a chance to see what a career in the Building Trades would look like. The program, Building Pathways, is a six-week class where participants get hands on experience learning about the different trade unions.

Last year, Annastashia Parke felt her life was headed in the wrong direction. She could not afford to attend college but knew she needed to do something more than working in a variety of low-wage jobs. She learned of the Building Pathways program, signed up, completed the pre-apprentice course and now is a second year apprentice with the Ironworkers Local 7 in Boston.

“I am a woman apprentice who is thrilled and grateful to be where she is,” she wrote. “Apprenticeships work; they are a pathway, unknown to many, and it’s about time we speak up!”

Labor Unions Representing Tens of Thousands of New Hampshire Workers Endorse Jeanne Shaheen

Manchester — Just one day after Scott Brown declared he has no interest in promoting economic development here in our state, New Hampshire labor unions representing tens of thousands of Granite State workers including the NH AFL-CIO, SEIU, NEA, Teamsters, Iron Workers, Electrical Workers, Food and Commercial Workers, Postal Workers, and Laborers, endorsed New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen for reelection. In their endorsements, workers highlighted Shaheen’s commitment to creating good paying jobs and her record standing up for New Hampshire workers and their families. Meanwhile, Scott Brown has shown that he’s only looking out for one job, his own, after it was recently reported that he is collecting a hefty paycheck from a company that shipped jobs overseas. Yesterday, Brown declared he wasn’t going to work to create jobs in the Senate.

“I’m honored to have the support of so many New Hampshire workers and their families,” said Shaheen. “Every day in the U.S. Senate, my number one priority has always been to strengthen our economy and create good paying jobs here in New Hampshire so everyone who works hard can earn a decent living for their families. I’ll never stop fighting to increase the minimum wage, invest in our state’s roads and bridges, and close loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. These are commonsense solutions that will make a real difference for people throughout New Hampshire.”

Jeanne Shaheen has fought to strengthen the state’s economy and create good paying jobs for New Hampshire workers. She reached across party lines to secure new funding to widen I-93 and rebuild the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, both of which created jobs for workers across the state. Shaheen stood up to members of her own party to protect thousands of jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. She also voted to close tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and is fighting to raise the minimum wage because it’s what’s right for New Hampshire families.

Scott Brown has opposed increasing the minimum wage and voted to support tax loopholes for companies that offshore American jobs. Recently, the Nashua Telegraph reported that Brown has made over a quarter million dollars as a board member of a company that touts outsourcing American jobs to China and Mexico as part of its business plan. Legal documents dated just two days before Brown entered the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire bear his signature endorsing the company’s outsourcing strategy.

“This election, we’re going door to door because there’s a real contrast in this race between someone running for New Hampshire working families and someone who’s in this race to line his own pockets,” said Mark Mackenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO. “While Jeanne Shaheen puts New Hampshire first, Scott Brown puts his bank account first, refusing to resign from the board of a company that offshored American jobs to increase its profits. We don’t stand for that here in New Hampshire.”

“As a former teacher herself, Jeanne Shaheen knows the importance of ensuring every child has access to an affordable, quality education,” said NH National Education Association President Scott McGilvray. “It’s an insult to working families that Scott Brown would sit on the Board of Directors of a company that sent American jobs to China and Mexico to increase its bottom line. What Scott Brown needs to understand is that the offshoring practices he endorsed don’t just hurt workers, they hurt communities and they hurt kids.”

“Senator Shaheen has shown time and time again she can reach across the aisle and get things done for the people of New Hampshire,” said Steven Burk, NH Business Agent and Political Liason for the Ironworkers. “She’s worked to create good paying jobs here in our state, including the rebuilding of the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, which our workers were proud to be a part of. New Hampshire working people deserve a Senator who will stand up for them, fight to increase the minimum wage, and close loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas–not one who supports special interests and lines his own pockets while claiming to represent us.”

“Jeanne Shaheen understands that investing in New Hampshire’s infrastructure not only creates good paying jobs, but also strengthens our economy in the long run,” said New Hampshire Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer David Laughton. “Scott Brown is still cashing in from his role on the board of a company that shipped American jobs overseas. While he profits, working people suffer. Here in New Hampshire, we’re not going to tolerate that kind of behavior.”

“The bottom line is Jeanne Shaheen understands that people in New Hampshire have bills to pay, kids to send to college, and food to put on the table–all while trying to save for retirement,” said Diana Lacey, SEIU 1984 President. “Scott Brown didn’t just vote for tax breaks for companies that offshore American jobs, he sits on the board of one of those companies himself.”

“Senator Shaheen supported every postal worker in New Hampshire when she personally urged members of the Appropriations Committee to protect the USPS service standards, helping to preserve a vital public service,” said Dana Coletti, New Hampshire President of the American Postal Workers Union. “Jeanne Shaheen looks out for the people of New Hampshire and has always put the families of this state first.”

“As Governor and Senator, Jeanne Shaheen’s worked to create good paying jobs by investing in infrastructure and education right here in New Hampshire,” said Joe Bonfiglio, President of the Massachusetts & Northern New England Laborers’ District Council. “Scott Brown on the other hand seems to care more about the economies of China and Mexico. He’s made a quarter million dollars on the board of a company that shipped jobs overseas to increase profits. We need a Senator who prioritizes working people here in New Hampshire, and that Senator is Jeanne Shaheen.”

We’re proud to endorse Jeanne Shaheen for reelection to the United States Senate,” said Jim Carvalho, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 Political Director. “She has a long record of fighting to create good paying jobs and looking out for working families here in New Hampshire. As a Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown voted to protect tax breaks for Big Oil, Wall Street and companies that ship jobs overseas. Now, he’s collecting money sitting on the board of a company that touts relying on low cost manufacturing jobs in China and Mexico as a part of its business plan. That’s not the representation our state deserves to have in the Senate.”

“Jeanne Shaheen is a Senator New Hampshire working people can trust. Her top priority has always been to create new jobs and she’s delivered for New Hampshire time and time again,” said Joe Casey, President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 490. “Scott Brown is in this race for nobody but Big Oil, Wall Street and himself. I can’t believe he’d vote for tax breaks for all these special interests but won’t support increasing the minimum wage so working people can support their families. Now he’s making money off of a company that shipped jobs overseas? We need to keep Jeanne Shaheen in the Senate.”

Labor Day Represents Our Continued Fight, Not A Victory

A special message from Walter Wise, General President of the Ironworkers Union

Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, pre-dating the founding of our own International Association.  It was a time of brutal working conditions: 6-12s the standard workweek; child labor; no holidays, no sick days or pensions; and worker safety was unheard of.  It was a time when corporate power and excesses were at a peak.  Monopolies dominated industries and labor alike.  Wages were depressed to the point where workers were paid in company script (money) that could only be spent on housing, goods or services sold by the employer. Most employees owed more than they earned each month.

Intolerable conditions led to strikes that were met with brutal retaliation from company thugs, the police and even the government.  Those confrontations were described as a second “civil war.”   Labor Day as a federal holiday was a failed attempt by President Cleveland to gain labor support for a third term after he sent 12,000 federal troops to break the Pullman Car Company strike where at least 13 strikers were killed.  The demands of decent wages, an 8-hour workday and the right to organize did not come about until nearly 50 years later.  Labor Day represents our fight, not a victory.

The strength of individual workers overcame ethnic and racial tensions to unite in their common plight. They fought to gain bargaining power with their employer, to demand a fair share of the profits that their labor helped generate.  As Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, said: “Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Since the eighties, that shared equity partnership has been broken.  Not between us and our signatory contractors, but by the moneyed interests of Wall Street with their pursuit of unfair profits and higher bonuses at the expense of everyone else, including our own nation’s independence and security.

This history is not only worthy of being remembered on Labor Day, but every day you walk into the workplace, every time you cash your collectively bargained paycheck, each year when you vote and every time you hug your loved ones.  Our fight continues.

Thank you for helping to build our great Union.


IronWorkers President Talks About The State Of Our Bridges

“There are over 100,000 bridges in this country that are old enough to qualify for Medicare.”  That is what President Obama told the nation in his recent speech about rebuilding our infrastructure.

Infrastructure is a term tossed around a lot lately to discuss everything from roads,  bridges, schools, telephone lines,  and power lines.  In most cases the term infrastructure refers to status of our roads and bridges.

Nationally our roads and bridges are rated at a “D”.  Unless something has changed in our grading system, that is not good.  That “D” made me have to retake biology in high school.

That is why Ironworkers Union President Walter Wise went on Fox 5 in Washington DC to talk about how bad our roads and bridges really are.  Here are a couple of points to get you started before you watch the video.

  1. The average age of a bridge in the United States is 47 years old
  2. 1 in 9 bridges have been determined to be structurally deficient.
  3. The average age of the structurally deficient bridges is 65 years old.

Be sure to share this with you friends after watching.

The Dilemma Surrounding Chinese Steel

Over the last few decades workers in the steel industry have taken a significant hit.  This has left a huge loophole for Chinese steel manufactures to undercut US steel mills and gain a stronghold on the market.

Chinese Steel AAM

From ShouldBeMadeInAmerica.COM

More recently there have been many examples of large construction projects that have relied on Chinese produced steel.  One of the most famous was the reconstruction of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco California.  The NH Labor News talked about the $500 billion dollar project that was slotted to be funded under President Obama’s reinvestment program. The problem was that the reinvestment program required American made products and a project labor agreement for worker protections.  These restrictions are some of the reasons that the California Legislature decided not to use federal funds to fund the project.

In fact the project was completed with Chinese steel and Chinese workers, a double slap in the face for American workers.  The chinese government continues to use currency manipulation to make trade more favorable for their exports.  Currency manipulation is one of the biggest problems in trading with China. “Due to currency manipulation the raw materials costs in the United States are the same as final price of Chinese steel” said Congressman Tim Ryan. This unfair advantage has bigger effects on our national economy than just the cost of steel.

This was not the only problems with the Bay Bridge project.  The project was plagued with huge delays mostly due to shipping and steel construction.  Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing’s Executive Director explains::

“The problems with the Bay Bridge project could have been avoided if California officials had made it in America. Instead, the project is costing American jobs, undermining California’s environmental goals, and facing numerous delays.”

In a recent Wall Street Journal article Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union, said Chinese steel’s “supposed cost savings do not take into account the environmental price of shipping steel from hundreds of thousands of miles versus 100 miles, nor the cost to our fragile economic recovery and the loss of American jobs.”

This Wall Street Journal article is creating a stir with some of the leaders in our nations building trades.  General President Walter Wise of the Iron Workers released this rebuttal:

While “U.S. Icons Now Made Of Chinese Steel” accurately depicts the ramifications of subsidized Chinese competition to our strategic steel fabrication industry, the author fails to address methods by which we can commit to re-build its capacity. Rather than abandon the U.S. steel and fabrication market for cheap labor, untested Chinese products, and the insecurity of that supply chain; the commitment to the use of U.S.-produced steel and fabrication to rebuild our 20,000 failed bridges and aging infrastructure will expand and modernize our native capacity with private capital.  In the process, they will create jobs, providing a shot in the arm to the U.S. economy that far outweighs any perceived savings from Chinese purchases. Perhaps most importantly, while the author references “price” six times, not once does he mention value. A $600 million bridge project fabricated by U.S.-based firms and U.S. workers will yield a huge local economic impact.  The same project secured by the Chinese bidder at $500 million, while cheaper, produces an economic boost in China, not here at home where our economy is still struggling to produce jobs.  The “price” of Chinese steel may be low, but the value to American families is nonexistent.

We need to ask ourselves what is better for our economy, buying cheaper and inferior products from China or boosting our national economy by getting more Americans back to work?

The United States as a whole is struggling to find ways to get our economy back on track. The biggest and best thing we can do is get Americans back to work in good paying jobs.  This means we need to revive our American manufacturing, including our steel producers.  Every state is talking about spending hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.  These are the investments we need in our country and our community.

When workers are paid a good wage they spend their money at local stores and shop.  This benefits everyone from the big box store to the small businesses on main street.

We need our politicians at every level to understand that an investment in American manufacturing is an investment in America.

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