By James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, December 7, 2016
The U.S. is entering a new era with a new president. And the Teamsters will roll up our sleeves and continue to create an economy that works for all Americans trying to get ahead and provide for their families here in Michigan and across the country.
Right after the election, federal authorities announced they were pulling the plug on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal that was set to ship thousands of jobs overseas and drive down wages at home. The Teamsters were part of a coalition that worked for years to educate the public about this big business boondoggle.
The TPP was a scourge on society not only for its effect on U.S. jobs, however. It promised to increase the amount of unsafe foods and products shipped to U.S. store shelves, worsen the global environment and drive up drug prices worldwide.
It also would have left member nations on the hook for any perceived efforts to curb the profits of multinational corporations through legislation or regulation. Pro-corporate tribunals would have heard complaints filed by companies, and taxpayers would have had to foot the bill.
Given all that, its defeat is a win for hard-working Americans. But it can’t be the only one. There are other opportunities to work in a bipartisan fashion to get real change done at home, and it begins with investing in infrastructure to rebuild this great nation.
President-elect Trump has repeatedly called for more to be done to improve roads, rails and airports. And the Teamsters agree. Back in September 2015, the union released its “Let’s Get America Working” plan that called for greater spending to improve the nation’s transportation, energy and water systems. Now it’s time to make it happen.
So why infrastructure? Because infrastructure jobs, unlike those in other sectors, can’t be outsourced. They improve living standards for all Americans, including the men and women who help to repair and maintain roads, bridges, ports, airports and mass transit systems, along with those who earn a living transporting goods and much of the public who use our transportation networks every day.
There was a time when building infrastructure wasn’t a partisan issue. Instead it was part of what made America a shining star and something everyone could support. There needs to be return to that way of thinking. This country’s future depends on it.
Rebuilding, repairing and reinvestment is about more than just transportation, energy and water projects – it is about reinvesting in the people that have and can continue to make this country great. Better pay will lead to more spending and improve our quality of life.
Taken together, better trade policies and improved infrastructure will go a long way toward creating a nation that puts its workers and economy first. True greatness will not happen until all hard-working Americans share in the spoils of prosperity. That way we all win.