The coronavirus has brought the American economy to its knees. During the last three months, more than 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment, forced out of jobs by a pandemic that has shuttered businesses, many never to reopen again.
COVID-19 is the biggest calamity to hit the U.S. workforce since the Great Depression. Getting people back on the job is not just going to magically happen – it is going to require a detailed federal plan that not only puts people to work but improves the nation so it can return to its rightful perch as a shining light to the world.
Doing so will require some innovative thinking. There is a place, however, for some tried-and-true ideas. And that means one thing – infrastructure investment.
The House took a step toward implementing a plan in early July when it approved a $1.5-trillion infrastructure bill that will beef up the nation’s transportation network while also employing thousands in good-paying, union jobs.
H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, not only moves an important surface transportation agenda forward, it does so in a way that recognizes the evolving challenges our country faces. The measure makes critical investments in repairing and maintaining the nation’s roads, bridges, rail and transit systems, plus it makes significant improvements in highway safety and provides frontline worker protections as the transportation system begins to reopen.
“Increasing investment in our core transportation networks is essential to turning the economy around,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “Infrastructure jobs, unlike those in other sectors, can’t be outsourced. They improve living standards for workers and make it safer for those who use our transportation networks every day.”
For hundreds of thousands of Teamster drivers, the bill also contains a number of vital provisions, including delays to misguided hours of service rules; the creation of new safety and reporting requirements for autonomous commercial motor vehicles; and research into a number of exploitative practices that harm American workers across the trucking industry. The bill also protects the family-supporting wages of drivers who work on construction projects with Davis-Bacon coverage.
Getting a bipartisan plan signed into law is a challenge that President Trump and congressional leaders are going to have to come together to solve. The importance of doing so, however, cannot be dismissed.
The gains from making such investments go beyond better infrastructure. Rebuilding, repairing and reinvestment is also about rebuilding and repairing the trust between government and workers by reinvesting in the people that have and can continue to make this nation great. Better pay will lead to more spending and improve the economy at a time it is desperately needed.
There was a time when building roads and rails weren’t just political issues – they were American values, something everyone could support. The leadership in Washington, D.C. has an opportunity to return to that era right now by breaking political gridlock. Americans need that now more than ever.