A Labor Day Message from LIUNA Vice President and Midwest Regional Manager David A. Frye

There are no such things as “Republican bridges” or “Democratic roads,” but there is an undeniable difference between cheap talk and real results. When Joe Biden was elected President, he didn’t have ceremonial “infrastructure weeks” without ever doing anything about infrastructure, and he didn’t just talk about Making America Great (Again) – he got to work making it happen.

And happen it did. In November 2021, Congress passed, and Biden signed, The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), an historic bipartisan infrastructure investment of $1.2 trillion that is creating opportunities for millions of Americans. It is the largest infrastructure investment in a century, creating a generation of well-paying jobs and boosting economic growth. This historic investment will position American workers, small businesses, and families to succeed in the 21st century.

Some highlights of the plan:

  • Makes the single largest investment in roads and bridges since the construction of the interstate highway
  • Makes the single largest investment in American history to deliver clean drinking water to our families by eliminating lead pipes
  • Makes the largest investment in American history to strengthen our infrastructure so it’s resilient to cyberattacks and extreme weather
  • Makes the single largest investment in American history to modernize our power grid and expand renewable energy
  • Delivers reliable high-speed internet access to every American home, drives down prices for internet services, and closes the digital divide

In a few years, when your child brushes their teeth with lead-free water, then you drive them on a street free of potholes, over a bridge you know is structurally sound, to state-of-the-art school with high-speed internet and a brand-new HVAC system, the societal and personal benefits of this investment will be obvious and long-lasting.

But this is Labor Day, so what about the LABOR? The IIJA isn’t just an investment into our “brick and mortar” infrastructure, it’s also an investment into our economic infrastructure. The “J” in the IIJA (JOBS) is every bit as important as any other letter. Estimates range that from 650,000 to one million jobs will be created in the next decade out of the IIJA alone.

So, who’s going to do all that important work? Who has the skill and training to do the job and do it right? Unions.

The IIJA allocates funding for workforce development programs in the trades. Apprenticeships are one of the primary tools workers can use to learn trade-specific skills, and only Unions offer the accredited training programs that build a truly skilled and safe workforce. My Union, The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), is one of the premier adult training organizations in the world, with over 70 affiliated training centers servicing every state and province. Each year, hundreds of thousands of workers are empowered to realize their dream of a lucrative and rewarding career in the construction industry, thanks to LIUNA.

And that’s what we’re really talking about. The “J” may stand for “jobs,” and jobs pay the bills, but training builds careers. Those 650k jobs represent 650k career opportunities for anybody willing to learn and work. They represent 650k paths to the middle class, and they represent 650k chances to rebuild our communities to the highest and most modern standards. In short, there’s no better time to join the trades!

One more thing; because these projects are funded by our Federal Government, contractors and owners must adhere to the Davis-Bacon law. In short, this means they must pay local prevailing wages – literally, the rate that “prevails” or is most prominent in the county where the work is performed. This helps assure that nefarious contractors can’t come into our communities with a low-paid, untrained, out-of-town workforce, and expect to win a bid based on cutting corners and exploiting their workers and our communities.

Who are the workers building our communities and making them safe and modern? They are our neighbors. They help coach our ball teams and eat at local restaurants. They are buying the houses in the new subdivision, and paying taxes that help fund the schools where we and they send our kids. They are the driving force of our communities’ economic engines. They are us.

Over the next decade – the “Infrastructure Decade” – when you see the “Construction Ahead” signs, or “This Project Funded by IIJA” banners, take a minute to appreciate the quality work, then take another to think about the men and women behind it. The Union members, the middle class, and the foundation of our economic infrastructure.

— David A. Frye, LIUNA Vice President and Midwest Regional Manager