Pointing to an unemployment rate – nearly 25 percent – for construction workers that is “unacceptably high,” Vice President Joe Biden on April 19 told some 3,000 delegates to the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) legislative conference:
“We are waging a way to get you back where you belong, not just for your sake but for the sake of the middle class, because if you do not grow, the middle class will not grow, and without a growing middle class our ability to lead to the 21st century is diminished.”
BCTD President Mark Ayers opened the three-day Washington, D.C., conference for union activists and leaders saying, “Putting our members back to work is our number one priority.” He also slammed “the poisonous and reprehensible behaviors of Wall Street and eight years of an administration that had hopes of eradicating unions. Together they have torn a gaping hole in the financial fabric of our nation and our very existence as the stalwarts of the middle class.”
He said while there are signs of economic improvement, recovery “will be neither painless nor short term,” and pointed to several issues on Capitol Hill that could boost the economy and construction jobs, but are stalled by the Republican “just say ‘No’ ” strategy.
He said, “for example, a balanced energy and climate bill that will generate tens of thousands of construction jobs for our members now and in the future has languished in the United States Senate.
“Our unions are also working hard on several smaller – but vitally important – jobs bills, including legislation that contains extensions of our members’ benefits under COBRA, providing longer unemployment insurance coverage and helping spur highway and bridge projects.”
Ayers also called for passage of tough financial reform legislation that he says will reopen the spigot of private investment and credit that was turned off during the fiscal crisis and stalled or killed tens of thousands of construction projects.
“We must get those projects rolling again and financial reform legislation will help provide the structure and the certainty that is necessary to attract new private investments in all types of projects,” Ayers said.