What constitutes infrastructure? This question divides Democrats and Republicans and drives debate about what should go into proposed infrastructure legislation.
Dorsey Hager, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the federal infrastructure bill and the need to expand its provisions.
He also discussed the popularity of the PRO Act — proposed legislation that makes it easier for workers to organize — and the incredible opportunities for workers in the trades as the economy continues to improve.
Infrastructure: A question of investment
U.S. Senators are wrapping up a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and should soon vote on the legislation.
Hager contends the $1 trillion is just a drop in the bucket. Much more is needed when it comes to schools, housing and research facilities, Hager stated.
There is an ongoing disconnect between the two major political parties over what is infrastructure, Hager explained. Republicans want to focus on roads and bridges, but Democrats would like to expand spending to include offices, manufacturing facilities and research centers. Many Democrats are also pushing to include broadband internet expansion and childcare support.
Hager said the need for such expansion was made evident early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when the country was forced to rely on China for PPE instead of producing it in the U.S.
Why unions are great for the middle class
Hager was optimistic due to the fact that pro-union language for Prevailing Wage and other issues was included in the infrastructure bill. He is also excited to see positive polling come out about the PRO Act. He pointed out that in a recent poll, 87 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans are in favor of the legislation, according to research from Hart Research Associates.
Hager points out that one only needs to look close to home to see how union membership is building futures for families by pulling people out of poverty and into the middle class. The PRO Act is good for unions and great for the middle class.
An improving economy brings opportunities within the trades
Turning to new closer to his home, Hager spoke optimistically about an upcoming $365 million pharmaceutical packaging facility in New Albany. There are incredible work opportunities for this project and other projects in central Ohio, he stated.
Huge solar field projects are also coming to Ohio, Hager said. In the next year, he expects a need for an additional 500 to 1,000 electricians.
The massive building boom has led many C/COBCTC affiliated unions to train larger apprenticeship classes.
Hager stated there is an amazing amount of work available as the economy improves, especially in central Ohio. As Baby Boomers retire, there are great opportunities for young people coming out of high school or college to go into the trades.