Union labor and infrastructure will go hand-in-hand if the Biden administration is able to find a way to get Congressional Democrats and Republicans to come together and agree on an infrastructure plan.
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) General Vice President at Large Jimmy Williams Jr. expressed the need for an infrastructure bill when he appeared on AWF Union Podcast. He also explained why unions need to keep pushing for the PRO Act and other pro-labor legislation.
Tracking President Biden
Williams said President Joe Biden has been a great change of pace for the labor movement. He said it feels good to have an ally after four years of an adversary.
President Biden has encouraged Congress to pass the PRO Act, which he has promised to sign as soon as the bill makes it to his desk. Williams was especially happy to hear this during the President’s recent address to Congress, where unions were spoken of in a fond manner.
While President Biden ran against one of the country’s more controversial presidents in history, many building trades members supported President Donald Trump and voted for him. Williams said it has been encouraging to see these tradesmen and tradeswomen come around following the appointment of Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary and the openly pro-labor stance of the current administration.
Passing pro-labor legislation
Williams said the Democrats need to make the PRO Act a major priority. It has been passed by the House of Representatives, and now the Senate needs to do its job. Democrats are beginning to seek ways to pass the labor legislation by attaching it to potentially bipartisan legislation, such as the American Jobs Plan.
Williams said it will be vital to step up and work to organize the renewable energy sector, which is currently almost entirely non-union. These jobs will be plentiful in the future as the U.S. shifts to renewable energy, Williams wants to get ahead of the curve.
More traditional infrastructure also needs to be addressed. Williams said IUPAT members have been working on resurfacing bridges that were constructed with harmful materials, which are still present. He is hopeful the federal government will finally invest in the working class.
He added that the PRO Act and organizing will be a vital part of any infrastructure plan. This legislation will help right the wrongs currently taking place in the construction industry. Worker misclassification is one of the largest issues. Misclassified workers miss out on wages, benefits and protections they should be afforded.