At the North America’s Building Trades Unions Annual Legislative Conference, NABTU President Sean McGarvey and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) both discussed the need for lawmakers to pass laws that create good-paying jobs for union construction workers.
The conference, which took place from April 7-10, provided an opportunity for roughly 3,000 delegates from 14 affiliated trades unions, who represent hundreds of Locals and District Councils throughout the U.S., to hear from lawmakers and others who influence policy. Additionally, members of HFIAW took time during the event to meet with various members of Congress to discuss items important to their Locals and the International Union.
On April 9, McGarvey and Pelosi addressed the conference and proposed alternatives to the highly controversial Green New Deal legislation, sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass). The Senate version of the bill was voted down by the Senate in late March, however.
Officially, the Green New Deal is a proposed economic stimulus package that aims to address climate change and economic inequality, through a wide variety of initiatives.
McGarvey said he viewed the plan as a jobs-killing piece of legislation. Among a long list of objectives, the Green New Deal proposes to make the U.S. 100 percent dependent on renewable energy, upgrade all existing buildings in the country for energy and water efficiency, promote more use of electric vehicles and high speed rail, provide affordable healthcare for all Americans and guarantee every American a job with a family-sustaining wage and benefits.
If approved, many believe The New Green Deal would have killed a number of energy construction or maintenance projects, which in turn, would eliminate many high-paying union construction jobs. For Insulators, like other building trades unions, the Green New Deal would likely cause more harm than good.
While the mandate that every single structure in the country be made energy efficient, would certainly benefit the mechanical insulation industry, it would not be enough to offset the losses related to work tied to fossil fuel production and nuclear energy projects. Instead, McGarvey called for a “Real Deal” to create good paying, building trades jobs. “This year they got distracted by a shiny new object, the Green New Deal,” he said.
“What we need is a real deal that strengthens our economy, preferably by investing at least $1 trillion in infrastructure … If we invested in energy efficiency alone – just retrofitting public schools and industrial buildings – it would create millions of jobs and would prioritize communities and promote the middle class.”
McGarvey pointed out current ways the construction industry is already working to make buildings energy efficient. Not surprisingly, Insulators play a key role in this work. He discussed how projects across the country save energy and pay for themselves in short time through the use of properly installed mechanical insulation and other construction industry methods designed to make buildings and industrial plants energy efficient.
The plan to retrofit all public schools and industrial buildings to make them energy efficient would create hundreds of thousands of jobs for Insulators, as millions of manhours would be needed to install mechanical insulation around miles of pipes and ducts.
Once the insulated jackets are installed, additional work would then be needed to maintain these systems. A “Real Deal” would both save nuclear and vital fossil fuel refineries and power plants, and still go a long way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Building on recent success
Besides touting a “Real Deal” McGarvey also reviewed the past year successes during his Opening Remarks for the Legislative Conference.
This included Missouri voters overwhelming supporting the repeal of So-Called “Right to Work” legislation, the efforts to protect Prevailing Wage laws around the country, passage of various bi-partisan industry-friendly legislation, and the New York “Count Me In” movement.
He delved into the diversity of the industry and commended our Sisters who are working to break a stereotype that construction is a job just for men. He also called for all unions to grow by increasing their contractor base; to further improve on last year’s effort to bring 120,000 new apprentices into the trades; and ongoing commitment to the health and safety of building trades members, including efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
Shortly after McGarvey’s speech, Pelosi spoke about the need for compromise relating to the Green New Deal. This included the introduction of a different resolution that focuses on job creation and environmental protection. Pelosi, who has long been a leading voice on global warming and climate change issues, did not mention the new legislation by name, but emphasized the need for “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”
She called for an investment on transportation infrastructure projects totaling more than $1 trillion, while urging labor to work with environmentalists. The Speaker also stated it is imperative for the country to develop the next generation of union construction workers through Registered Apprenticeship Programs.
Other individuals to address the conference on April 9 included Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (D-Pa.), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa). The Mark H. Ayers Community Achievement Award was handed out in the morning session to the Massachusetts Building and Construction Trades Council and the Massachusetts Girls in the Trades, both of which, HFIAW Local 6 holds an active voice.
After a full morning of speeches, delegates broke into smaller groups. While some Insulator delegates met with elected officials in the afternoon, others attended various workshops on topics including apprenticeship readiness programs, organizing efforts, health and safety topics and multi-employer pension reform.