Political climate favors unions and workers

As the weather gets better and more Americans and Canadians receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, there is a growing sense of optimism that better days are ahead.

This growing sense of optimism is further enhanced by the enactment of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan legislation, which makes this is a crucial moment for the Insulators to achieve our legislative goals to generate work for our members.

From rescue to recovery

There has been significant legislative and executive action in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration and Democratic-led Congress.

The most important work was the March 11 enactment of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan legislation.

The President understands ending the COVID-19 pandemic is the first necessary step toward economic recovery. He worked quickly with Congress to get his rescue legislation enacted, and we were successful in ensuring significant multi-employer pension assistance and healthcare subsidies for dislocated workers and their families was included in the bill.

Congress and the President are now moving quickly to enact a comprehensive infrastructure bill. 

During the 2020 campaign, then-candidate Biden called his proposal the Build Back Better plan, and as president, his infrastructure proposal was renamed the American Jobs Plan.

President Biden also released a second proposal called the American Families Plan to support the needs of American families. These proposals are big, bold and transformative, and have the potential to create considerable work for the Insulators for years to come.

Mechanical Insulation and the Biden Administration

The Insulators had positive engagement with Joe Biden and his team during the campaign, during the presidential transition and now as president. 

General President Revard sent a congratulatory letter to President Biden to offer the support of the Insulators Union to help him achieve his economic, energy and environmental goals.

It is clear President Biden read General President Revard’s letter because on April 23 at the Climate Summit, President Biden stated the Insulators Union are part of the climate crisis solution.

It is not every day the President mentions our union, and we greatly appreciate his remarks to recognize the important work we perform.

It is also clear he sees a direct link between climate change and the creation of good-paying union jobs – and we agree.

General President Revard also extended congratulations to Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who he has known for many years. Secretary Granholm previously served as Michigan’s attorney general and as governor.

On April 15, General President Revard and Secretary-Treasurer Gamble had a productive call with Secretary Granholm, where General President Revard requested Secretary Granholm’s assistance to have the Department of Energy promote the increased awareness of the value of mechanical insulation and promote the increased deployment of mechanical insulation.

Secretary Granholm was very receptive to General President Revard’s requests, and we are working with Secretary Granholm and her department on these important initiatives.

Since President Biden’s commitment to clean energy and the creation of union jobs extends beyond the Department of Energy, we have also extended an invitation for Biden Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy to meet with General President Revard.

From Agriculture and Department of Defense bases to U.S. federal buildings, VA hospitals and the weatherization of energy and industrial facilities, there are many areas where the Biden Administration can promote mechanical insulation.

Increased utilization of mechanical insulation in every sector of the U.S. economy is required for President Biden to achieve his ambitious emission reduction goals. 

Mechanical Insulation and Congress

In addition to our executive branch advocacy, we continue our work with the legislative branch to ensure President Biden’s American Jobs plan contains mechanical insulation tax incentives.

I am pleased to report the 2021 U.S. House clean energy tax legislation contains mechanical insulation tax incentives (Section 502 in H.R. 848). Many thanks to Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) for her continued superb work to ensure the U.S. House GREEN Bill contains mechanical insulation tax incentives.

In the U.S. Senate, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), has proposed a clean energy tax proposal, which would consolidate existing renewable and energy efficiency tax incentives.

This is not our favored approach, as we have seen from previous experience that if mechanical insulation is not specifically included in congressional legislation, we are excluded. Mechanical insulation tax incentives in clean energy tax legislation promotes both awareness and increased utilization.

We are also working to ensure all clean energy tax incentives include building trades labor standards. While federal grants for infrastructure require Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wages, federal tax incentives do not.

We also want clean energy tax credits to include registered apprenticeship and local hire requirements, to have employers certify clean energy workers are not misclassified as independent contractors and to respect the ability of workers to join a union.

In support of these legislative priorities, General President Revard participated in a Zoom call with House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on April 21.

Infrastructure legislation questions

As President Biden and Congress work on infrastructure legislation, there are many moving pieces and as many unanswered questions.

The most fundamental question is: What is infrastructure? For many, infrastructure is government spending
on transportation to move people and products (roads, public transit, airports, ports, rail, etc.).

This narrow definition of infrastructure has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. More recently, the definition of infrastructure has evolved to include clean energy investments to combat the climate crisis. The Insulators have long supported the principle that infrastructure includes clean energy.

During the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden expanded the traditional definition of infrastructure to include the needs of individuals and families to be healthy and successful (child and elder care, education, job training and health infrastructure to combat COVID-19).

President Biden’s American Families Plan recognizes the need for additional support for U.S. families, but this significant proposal expands and complicates the enactment of congressional infrastructure legislation.

There are two additional questions President Biden and congressional leaders must answer. How will Congress consider infrastructure legislation, and how will it be financed?

To enact President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Congress utilized budget reconciliation rules so this important piece of legislation could be enacted quickly and without the need for 60 votes in the Senate.

While the American Rescue Plan enjoys strong support from the American people, no congressional Republicans supported this legislation.

President Biden wants support from congressional Republicans on infrastructure legislation and is prepared to negotiate and compromise. It is possible some infrastructure legislation could be enacted with Republican support, while the more expansive proposals could be enacted without Republican support.

One of the key disagreements between Democrats and Republicans is how infrastructure is to be financed. President Biden wants to finance infrastructure by repealing the 2017 Trump tax breaks for U.S. corporations and super-wealthy individuals. Republicans do not.

I want our U.S. members to be prepared to contact their federal lawmakers as Congress considers infrastructure legislation. If we want better days and better work opportunities, we will need to make sure our elected officials know where we stand.

This leads to a final question regarding infrastructure legislation: Whether our elected officials support us.

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