The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 15, 2011

AFL-CIO unveils its own, construction-oriented, jobs program

By The Building Tradesman



CHICAGO (PAI) – With government unable or unwilling to approve legislation to create jobs, the AFL-CIO decided June 29 to take matters into its own hands, with a construction job-creation initiative that will start with $20 million in labor “seed money.”

CHICAGO (PAI) – With government unable or unwilling to approve legislation to create jobs, the AFL-CIO decided June 29 to take matters into its own hands, with a construction job-creation initiative that will start with $20 million in labor “seed money.”

But besides that, the fed will keep pushing for multi-year multi-billion-dollar federal infrastructure construction legislation, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Chicago, a federation statement said.

“To address the obstacles to profitable, job-creating investments, the AFL-CIO will work together with a variety of parties, including pension funds and their managers, training funds, federal, state and local governments, contractors, financial institutions and non-profits in three main areas of approach,” the fed’s statement said.

The project that commits labor’s own money is investing “at least $20 million in labor-movement affiliated funds” into energy-efficient retrofits of buildings nationwide over the next year.  Union workers would do the retrofits, said AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Mark Ayers, who joined Trumka in Chicago.  Union pension funds could provide the “seed money,” added American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

“The time is now to become intensely focused on the creation of jobs, and building trades unions are ready, willing and able to work with any and all partners to map out a multi-year plan of infrastructure investment and make it the centerpiece of an ongoing economic recovery program,” Ayers said.  “Such investments represent a tremendous source of economic growth that would generate comparable levels of private investment and provide millions of new jobs for American skilled craft workers.”

The first of those projects could be right at the AFL-CIO: Trumka said the fed will seek bids on retrofitting its D.C. headquarters to make the building – which underwent a massive and expensive renovation several years ago – energy-efficient.

One other part of the fed’s job-creation initiative is to campaign for at least $10 billion in infrastructure investments nationwide over the next five years, an investment that would need federal and state legislation. 

The other is to retrain 100,000 construction workers and train 40,000 new apprentices in work on “green” technologies, such as conservation measures on the electrical grid and retrofitting buildings.

All three segments of the fed’s jobs program involve construction workers, and construction is not only one of the more heavily unionized sectors of the private workforce (13.1 percent) but also has one of the highest jobless rates (16.3 percent).  In some construction unions, the jobless rate exceeds 25 percent, as does the under-employment rate.

“We believe that together, with our partners in business and government, we can profitably invest significant resources to make America more competitive and energy-efficient,” Trumka said.  “The AFL-CIO and our unions and 12 million members are in the business of solving America’s problems.  Here’s one place where we can help, and that’s what we intend to do, starting right now.”