By Teamster General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, September 9, 2015
Everyday Americans are facing increased challenges at work and at home. The outsourcing of millions of good-paying jobs overseas has led to lower paychecks here in the U.S. That, in turn, has made it more difficult for many workers to provide for their families.
The Teamsters, however, have a plan to help turn the tide. Called “Let’s Get America Working,” it will encourage both Democratic and Republican lawmakers to endorse a pro-worker platform. At the center of the campaign is the need for this country to invest in infrastructure, which in turn will create good jobs for hardworking Americans.
U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, and I will be discussing how infrastructure investment is key to creating new, better-paying jobs and getting the U.S. economy back on track. Working on transportation, energy and water projects will put thousands to work in construction jobs across the country. It will also improve roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure, which in turn will help business and improve the U.S. economy.
Buy-in from both parties is necessary to effectuate change. If this nation is going to improve the lives of its citizens, Congress needs to advance bipartisan policies that will encourage good job growth. And it must put the current and future generations of workers in a position to succeed in the workforce by giving them the skills they need.
There was a time when all these issues weren’t partisan issues — they were American values, something everyone could support. But government is broken. Partisan bickering has replaced finding solutions. That’s why it’s essential for the Teamsters and like-minded allies all over the country to join together and push this message with lawmakers, colleagues, friends and family.
Infrastructure presents an opportunity to break the political gridlock. Congress in late July approved a three-month extension for spending on transportation projects that provides a temporary patch until the end of October for continuing road and rail funding. But it is not a real solution.
Since 2008, Congress has transferred more than $62 billion from the general fund to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat, and it has been more than a decade since Congress has passed a highway bill more than two years in duration. Meanwhile, the transportation system continues to crumble and the safety of those who work and travel along the vast network of U.S. roads and rails is being jeopardized.
There also is a significant need to move forward with a broader agenda that puts U.S. workers first. That means standing up against lousy trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that send American jobs overseas; protecting workers’ rights to form unions and collectively bargain; increasing affordability of college and vocational schools; and ensuring retirement and pension security for working families.
If elected representatives from both parties want to rebuild the trust between government and workers, they need to reinvest in the people that make this country great. Better pay will lead to more spending and improve workers’ quality of life. Everyone wins.
Let’s get America working.