The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 23, 2011

Union chiefs praise Obama jobs proposal, warn against GOP blockade

By The Building Tradesman



WASHINGTON (PAI) – Union leaders generally praised Democratic President Barack Obama’s proposed $450 billion multi-year jobs creation plan, the American Jobs Act, with several warning congressional Republicans against obstructing it.

But whether the GOP will listen to Obama, or anyone else, is unlikely. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and other Democrats praised it. He cited Obama’s proposals to help create jobs, notably helping “to repair our crumbling infrastructure.” A typical GOPer, Radical Right Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., panned it as another “failed stimulus.”

Kline, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, also said the government should get out of the way of business, by dumping regulations.

None of the union leaders cited Obama’s endorsement of collective bargaining, in the middle of his half-hour speech on Sept. 8. And the GOP reaction didn’t stop the union leaders from backing Obama – and challenging Republicans to put up or shut up:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

“The president took an important and necessary step tonight: he started a serious national conversation about how to solve our jobs crisis. He showed working people he is willing to go to the mat to create new jobs on a substantial scale. Tonight’s speech should energize the nation to come together, work hard and get serious about jobs.

“We can no longer delay putting Americans back to work and rebuilding our nation’s schools, roads, bridges, transit, ports, rail, communications and energy systems. And we need to help state and local governments avoid layoffs that are dragging down the economy – rejecting the pernicious myth that the only way to address Wall Street’s crisis is to punish firefighters, teachers and others who perform critical public services. We call on Congress to act and look forward to working with the president and Congress on all elements of this proposal.”

Trumka expects other job proposals will be offered. Obama said there will be at least one more. The president “understands this economic crisis was not created overnight, and it will not be solved overnight. The middle class has been under attack for decades. He understands we need to rebuild our economy for the 21st century and rebuild our middle class. Doing this will require a revolution in the way Washington takes on these questions. Republicans are going to have to stop blocking bills that sustain or create millions of jobs and start offering credible solutions. We don’t have time to waste on the same old failed policies of deregulation and lower taxes that drove our economy off the cliff in the first place.”

AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Mark Ayers:

“America’s building trades unions are encouraged that after so much recent attention on deficit reduction, President Obama has challenged Congress to address the crisis facing our members, their families and so many Americans by presenting a series of proposals aimed at turning our struggling economy around and putting us back to work.  Nowhere is the jobs crisis being felt more than in the construction industry, where the lack of jobs remains at historical highs and where investments in commercial and industrial construction as well as transportation infrastructure remain at generational lows.

“Estimates by state highway officials conclude that for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure projects, 35,000 to 40,000 construction jobs are created. Equally important are the tremendous multiplier effects in engineering, manufacturing and virtually all aspects of employment, both private and public.  It’s good for workers, it’s good for business and it’s good for the nation.

“Our members are tired of politics and demand action.  President Obama has put forth a plan that will help restore confidence in our economy in both the near and long term.  We call on Congress to act and look forward to working with the Administration and Congress on all elements of this proposal.  This isn’t the President’s burden to carry alone.   It’s long overdue for Congress to put political motivations aside and answer the call for leadership put forth by their constituents. Short of action by Congress which the American people so desperately seek, we strongly encourage the President to continue to explore and utilize every possible avenue within his Executive authority to create jobs.”

Teamsters President James Hoffa: “Congress must pass President Obama’s plan now. The jobs crisis is an American problem. It isn’t President Obama’s problem and it isn’t a Republican or Democratic problem. All Americans need to come together to create good jobs for the good of our economy and the good of our country.

“This plan will immediately increase economic activity and generate more tax revenue. That’s how you fix the deficit. Good jobs are good for the economy,” Hoffa added, particularly praising Obama’s emphasis on infrastructure improvements and extension of jobless benefits.”

Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry also put the responsibility on the Republicans, especially since they control the House. “The American people are watching today to see whether the Republicans will play politics as usual with the president’s proposals simply because of the messenger, not the merits,” she stated. But she was the only union leader to cite the GOP’s alternative, further corporate tax cuts. Those “will do nothing to put America back to work,” Henry said.

AGC chief Sandherr: ‘Investing in infrastructure is the most effective way to create good jobs’

The conservative media is full of pundits who say flat-out that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – aka the federal stimulus –  didn’t create a single job. They didn’t talk to Associated General Contractors CEO Stephen Sandherr. His reaction to President Obama’s latest jobs plan:

“As the president made clear last night, too many Americans are out of work or underemployed. Nowhere do we see that problem more severely than within the construction industry. Although construction represents only 4.5 percent of the U.S. workforce, construction workers have accounted for over 20 percent of the jobs lost. Today the industry’s unemployment rate is 13.5 percent – significantly higher than the national average.

“If it weren’t for the stimulus and other public investments in infrastructure projects, however, that unemployment rate would be much worse. Indeed, employment levels in heavy and civil construction – the type of construction funded by the stimulus – have remained stable and even grown slightly since the stimulus first kicked in, while the rest of the industry continued to shed jobs.

“Should Congress fail to enact the desperately needed infrastructure investments the president proposes, too many construction workers will remain unemployed, the private sector will suffer, and taxpayers will end up paying more, later, for infrastructure. Infrastructure projects don’t just create construction jobs. New construction activity boosts demand for steel, concrete, construction equipment and countless other services and supplies.

“Construction projects boost sales at everything from the lunch wagon near the job site to the truck dealership across town. Improved highways and transportation systems also help businesses turn commodities into cash by cutting shipping times and improving their efficiencies. And investing in infrastructure projects saves taxpayers money over the long run, because it costs more to rebuild broken roads and deteriorated structures than to maintain them.

“Investing in infrastructure is the most effective way to create good jobs, deliver great roads, build a strong economy and protect taxpayers. That is why the Associated General Contractors of America stands with the president and everyone else who is willing to make the investments needed to revive our industry and rebuild our economy.”