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Testimony of Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, Before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011


Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Inhofe, and members of the committee,

On behalf of the 12 million workers represented by the AFL-CIO, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the urgent need for investing in our country’s infrastructure.

The fact that Mr. Donohue and I appear before you today does not mean that hell has frozen over or unicorns are now roaming the land. The fact is, while there are many policy areas where we have sharp differences, we both realize that our country needs to step up our “Investment in America” for business as well as working Americans to succeed.

That’s why, following the State of the Union address, we issued a joint statement praising President Obama’s call for investing in our nation’s infrastructure.

Our shared support for infrastructure investment follows many years of bipartisan support for exactly the kind of investments we are talking about today.

Quite frankly, there is no more important time to be thinking long term, rebuilding a solid economic foundation for our country and investing in good jobs to maintain U.S. competitiveness with countries like China, India and Germany. I agree with you, Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Inhofe, about the direct link between a strong transportation infrastructure and a strong economy.

There are 13.9 million unemployed workers in the U.S. and millions more who are underemployed or stuck in part-time jobs. Our building and construction trades workers have been particularly hard hit, with a national unemployment level at 22.5% and even higher in some crafts and areas of the country. Our construction union halls that once teemed with workers receiving training or heading to construction sites are now full of folks simply waiting for jobs.

Strong federal investment in our transportation system has never been more important to support the economy and to create and sustain good jobs for U.S. workers.

The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion in federal highway investment, accompanied by the state match, creates or supports nearly 35,000 jobs.

At the same time, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), we face a $2.2 trillion deficit in 20th century infrastructure that is crumbling and in disrepair, and a broad array of 21st century infrastructure—especially in transportation, communications and clean energy—that is waiting to be built. The latest ASCE report gives our overall infrastructure a score of D. Our roads received a D, our bridges only slightly better with a C, our waterways a D-, and our rail systems a C-. Failure to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure for the 21st century will result in lower rates of economic growth—and thus lower tax revenues.

We cannot solve our long-term federal deficit if we fail to invest in the future. When we are reduced to competing on who can make the biggest budget cuts, instead of deciding how to compete in the world economy and secure our future, then we are having the wrong conversation.

View full version ( Testimony of Richard Trumka

“The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a voluntary federation of 57 national and international labor unions. The AFL-CIO was created in 1955 by the merger of the AFL and the CIO.The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families—to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation. To accomplish this mission we will build and change the American labor movement.”

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