AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka gives testimony on "Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America" at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Testimony of Richard L. Trumka
President, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
Before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Feb. 1, 2017
Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America
Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, members of the committee—it is a pleasure to be here with you today.
This committee is known for working together, setting aside partisan differences and getting things done for the good of the country. Today we need that more than ever.
In recent years, you have passed many pieces of important legislation, and this year will bring FAA reauthorization and hopefully a major new infrastructure package.
Our nation’s challenges are great and the task ahead is daunting. We are all familiar with the American Society of Civil Engineer’s estimate that our infrastructure deficit is approaching 4 trillion dollars. Yet closing that gap is only a first step. To truly be competitive in the 21st century, we must invest in the transformative infrastructure of the future—this century’s version of the transcontinental railroad and the national highway system.
Our failing infrastructure may be an obstacle and a challenge, but fixing it is a powerful opportunity. During his campaign, President Trump spoke about 1 trillion dollars in new infrastructure investment. This is the right scale to be talking about—trillions—and the labor movement is ready to work with this committee to turn words into action.
Look at this panel before you. Business and labor are many times at odds, but we do agree on the need for serious investments in America’s infrastructure. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, there is no clearer mandate from the American people.
It should surprise no one that infrastructure is a top issue. The American people have been forced to endure an infrastructure that has been crumbling for decades. We are hungry for investments that create good jobs and meet the real needs of our economy. Any other path takes us backward, because investments in infrastructure create the foundation for a long-term strategy of growth. Building the infrastructure of the 21st century is vital to both our nation’s competitiveness and to the hopes of all working people to lead better, more prosperous lives.
The labor movement is ready to fight, here in Washington and across our great nation, to see a transformative, inclusive infrastructure program enacted. We need to bring 21st century technology and good jobs to our entire country—to places as diverse as West Baltimore and my rural hometown of Nemacolin, Pennsylvania. And once that investment is made, the labor movement stands ready with the most highly skilled and well-trained workforce in the history of the world to get the job done.
One trillion dollars in new infrastructure investment would make a big difference to working Americans and put our nation on the path to sustainable prosperity. It must be real investment and create good jobs, not another pile of Wall Street giveaways to hasten our national race to the bottom.
Let me be clear: Good jobs include labor protections for the people who build, maintain and operate our infrastructure. That’s not all. We need to make sure public money is used to support American jobs, American resources and American products. Finally, it is imperative that we invest at the lowest cost of capital to the public—anything else simply sacrifices jobs to Wall Street.
How we invest matters. Done right, 1 trillion dollars of truly new and additional infrastructure spending will create good jobs, revitalize communities and build a prosperous future for our country.
Finding significant sources of funding may be politically difficult, but the cost of inaction is high, it’s real and it’s growing. Labor has and will continue to consider all types of funding, including our traditional support of user fees to fund surface transportation. But the reality is that the only way to really meet our nation’s infrastructure needs is with significant public dollars.
I’ll be blunt. We need to be bold. We need to be aggressive.
We need to be the America that can, not the America that can’t.
We are eager to work with leaders of both parties to make this investment a reality.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
Follow the AFL-CIO:http://www.aflcio.orghttp://facebook.com/aflciohttp://twitter.com/aflciohttps://www.youtube.com/aflcio