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Members of the Iron Workers Union and Painters and Allied Trades Union rallied in Washington, D.C., on November 16 to demand that Congress increase spending on bridges and crumbling infrastructure. The call for more funding to repair bridges, roads and other vital parts of America's landscape is important for not only creating jobs, but for saving lives and preventing injuries and property damage as our infrastructure ages and begins to crumble. In its most recent infrastructure report, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a "D" grade for the state of our infrastructure. The speakers at the rally were clear in what they asked for:
“Once again a Senate Republican minority invoked a filibuster to stop investment in our nation’s infrastructure and American jobs,” said Walter Wise, general president of the Iron Workers Union. “This is not just a matter of safety and jobs, it’s a lack of vision and investment in our future.”
George Galis, general secretary-treasurer of the Painters and Allied Trades echoed Wise: “Today's successful event underscored the need to stop partisan bickering in Congress and finally pass legislation that funds crucial infrastructure projects. This will create badly needed jobs and save tax dollars in the long run by doing these projects sooner rather than later, before our bridges and roads further deteriorate,” he said.
Karen Toles, member of the Prince George’s County Council and strong union advocate, also joined rallying ironworkers and painters Wednesday morning. Toles decried Congressional inaction on job creation and the country’s ailing roads and bridges. “They need to get up off their butt, pass the jobs act and put more of you back to work. Because we know that’s how you create wealth in the middle class, not just in Prince George’s County, not just in Maryland, but in the United States of America,” she said. Toles has been a champion for union labor in Southern Maryland, and most recently introduced and passed county legislation encouraging Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on construction jobs over $1 million.
“The total cost of [a new South Capitol Street Bridge]…is 806 million. One of your brothers said, if we’re going to have to fix this bridge anyway, now is the time to fix it when workers are out of work and the economy needs the stimulation of workers getting back to work,” said a fervent Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Congressional Delegate, and a long-time building trades supporter. Holmes has advocated for funding to repair the South Capitol Street Bridge for more than a decade.
Rallying tradesmen also garnered Congressional attention. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards said in a release Wednesday afternoon, “I applaud the Iron Workers International Union and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades for highlighting the urgent need to invest in our nation's crumbling infrastructure.”
Edwards added, “With over 69,000 bridges in America rated as 'structurally deficient,' there is an opportunity to invest in our nation's future prosperity while creating millions of jobs. It's a win-win,” she said.
“[Congress] knows we need to fix our transportation systems, we know we need to fix our bridges. And if Congress doesn’t understand that, we know how to get their attention. And we’ll do it in 2012 when we occupy the ballot box!” Wise said.