International Union Supports Obama's Infrastructure Plan
General president of UA say construction boom will rebuild America’s economy
America is currently facing a perfect storm of hardships: a weakened economy, an aging infrastructure that needs rebuilding, and a skilled labor shortage that threatens to continue shrinking. According to the leader of an international construction union, that storm will only worsen if these three problems are not resolved.
William P. Hite, General President of the United Association, believes that President-Elect Barack Obama’s plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure holds the answer to these problems and has pledged the full support of his 350,000-member association to the initiative.
“A better America is something we all want and something our children and grandchildren deserve,” said Hite. “It’s our obligation to find sensible, workable solutions to get us there. Barack Obama is promoting a national rebuilding plan for energy, hospitals, schools, communication systems, roads and bridges, ports and other vital transportation systems. We should all work toward helping our new President to achieve these objectives.”
More construction work nationwide means more paychecks for more Americans, Hite noted, which in turn will mean more spending and a boost for our nation’s flagging economy. “Rebuilding America’s infrastructure will revitalize the economy, restore our country’s competitive abilities, create huge numbers of strong new jobs – and in the process, rebuild America’s economy,” he said.
A Man of Vision
“I’ve known Barack on a personal and professional level for many years,” Hite said. “He is, as the American people have come to know and will further learn, a man of vision, integrity and great strength, who holds an unwavering belief and commitment in both the American Dream and the better America we would all like to see for the future.”
Hite believes that the effectiveness of Obama’s plan will lie in the reallocation of America’s funds. “These investments in America’s infrastructure will be funded in part by re-channeling tens of billions of dollars now being spent in Iraq,” said Hite.
“Barack is decisive and acts swiftly,” he added, “especially when it comes to solving problems and initiating improvements. He works extra hard when the issues involve improving the quality of life for ordinary, middle-class and working-class people.”
Much-Needed Careers in Construction
Rebuilding America’s infrastructure, Hite noted, will create more opportunities for career-seekers to enter the construction industry.
This new focus on construction comes at an opportune time. America is currently experiencing a skilled labor shortage and predictions reveal it may get worse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the average construction worker is 47 years old, and as aging Baby Boomers retire or leave the industry, they take much-needed skills with them.
The BLS estimates that the construction field will need to attract 240,000 workers each year to replace those leaving the workforce, while still allowing for industry growth.
In his Radio Address on the Economy on Dec. 6, 2008, President-elect Obama outlined elements of his plans to rebuild America, and construction was at the top of the list.
“First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient,” Obama said. “Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.”
“Just as Barack is committed to rebuilding America,” Hite said, “so is the United Association committed to training workers needed to do the job.” The UA has made an annual commitment of more than $170 million to training. These funds are replenished by the UA members themselves. UA training is jointly administered with their construction industry allies, union mechanical contractors.
The UA workforce, Hite added, will play a major role in updating America’s federal buildings. “Work of that nature requires a high level of training and security from a workforce that is available and readily replenished,” he said.
Recruitment – particularly among underemployed segments of the population – is also a top objective for the UA. In 2008, the UA reached out to American Indian communities across America to provide them with employment training. Successful training programs for Native Americans are already underway in Illinois and Arizona.
The UA also initiated a training program for returning veterans. The Veterans In Piping (VIP) Program was launched in the state of Washington in late 2008 with the support of America’s military forces. This new program is different from other construction industry employment programs for veterans in that it includes a transitioning component to help returning military personnel to adjust to civilian life. The UA is the only union working with the various branches of military service, and many of these soldiers being recruited are actually starting their apprenticeship training while they are being reintegrated into civilian life.
“The VIP Program provides much-needed employment for our country’s returning heroes,” Hite said. “It’s the right thing to do for these brave Americans who have already done so much for their country.”
Hite believes that Obama’s vision and careful planning will lead America into a more prosperous future. “In the months to come,” he said, “Barack’s efforts will show what can be done when American ingenuity is combined with lots of determination and hard work. The UA stands behind Barack and will continue to provide the best possible training to America’s construction and maintenance workforce, as we all work together to strengthen our nation’s economy. We’ve turned a corner and things are going to get better.”
About The United Association
The United Association was the first union to endorse President-Elect Obama, and has adopted the phrase, “Yes, We Did – and Yes, We Can!” as a rallying cry of hope and encouragement.
The full name of the United Association, or UA, is the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting, Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada.
Work performed by members of the UA includes construction, renovation, expansion and repair of facilities. They install piping systems, plumbing fixtures, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems.
The work of UA members can be found in virtually every place where people live, work and play.