|By Israel G. Torres|
I’ve been working with the building and construction trades for nearly 20 years and have the utmost respect for the hardworking tradeswomen and tradesmen who build our communities. There are no words to describe how excited I am to hear workers’ rights being discussed in the news, in boardrooms, in legislative chambers, and at dinner tables. For two years, as we adjusted to living and working during a global pandemic, front-line workers stayed on the job to build and maintain hospitals, schools, airports, factories and warehouses to keep our economy and society functioning.
Well-established private unions are seeing a growth in membership, and workers at some of our nation’s largest corporations like Starbucks and Amazon are organizing to fight for better pay and benefits, safer working conditions, and a stronger voice in their company’s future. This is a generational shift in attitudes toward unions and labor that we know will influence many sectors for years to come.
The political climate is right! The Biden Administration and its cabinet members are the most labor-friendly administration in a generation and that has translated into bold actions that prioritize worker safety, training, wages and benefits. With Secretary Marty Walsh leading the Department of Labor, the administration’s focus is back on workers’ needs and policies that protect and support workers. The DOL has proposed sweeping changes to Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, updates that modernize the interpretation of this 90-year-old law to reflect current construction practices and technology, while making worker protections a priority. Moreover, after the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill passed, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order on Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects. The administration knows what we have known for years. PLAs benefit businesses, contractors, and workers, and keep projects on time and on budget. In addition, the pro-worker sentiment extends to congressional leaders who are including labor standards in energy and infrastructure legislation.
I was fortunate to attend this month’s North America’s Building Trades Union Annual Legislative Conference with the TCLG government relations team and I was inspired by the “Our Movement, Our Moment” theme. It was refreshing to hear President Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Charles Schumer, as well as congressional representatives and cabinet secretaries, express their support for the tradespersons who build our nation. Not only are building trades leaders energized by the current pro-worker political climate, but they are also committed to recruiting, training and supporting a diverse workforce that mirrors our nation. Apprenticeship programs are attracting more people of color, more women, and more creative and tech-savvy individuals who appreciate the opportunities a career in the trades brings.
The time is right! Workers’ voices are loud, strong, and unified. And Team TCLG is ready to lift their voices even higher.