Building Trades president calls for greater infrastructure investment

The United States has fallen behind other industrialized countries when it comes to investing in public infrastructure, the president of North America’s Building Trades Unions said during a recent appearance in the Twin Cities.

Sean McGarvey leads an alliance of 14 national and international unions that collectively represent more than 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada. On June 12, he spoke to a group of union business agents and organizers at the Operating Engineers Local 49 hall in Minneapolis.

“The trades have always been and will always be the fiercest advocate for infrastructure investment by the federal government,” McGarvey told the group. Because Congress has failed to allocate the money needed to build and repair bridges, roads and other public projects, he said, the Building Trades have plans to use a portion of their Taft-Hartley and public sector pension funds to invest in infrastructure improvement.

McGarvey argued that if there is a choice between investing in Walmart or in an infrastructure project, both yielding similar returns, then pension funds should be used to leverage the public works that will improve local economies and provide middle class level jobs to trades members.  At the same time, the dues from member wages on such projects return money to the funds - a win-win process.

McGarvey also promoted the value of apprenticeship training programs to provide skilled workers for construction projects.

“We train north of 70% of all the construction apprentices in the United States,” he stated.

With 1,600 training centers nationwide, the Building Trades “recruit, train, and deploy the most highly skilled, safest, most productive craft workforce in the world.” Included in this conversation was an effort to become more inclusive by actively recruiting minorities, women and veterans to the apprenticeship programs.

Reprinted from a Workday Minnesota article by Tony DeAngelis, Labor Education Service, University of Minnesota.

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