The new year creates new legislative opportunities

As the U.S. and Canada continue to face significant health and economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not easy to envision better days ahead. This is especially true in the U.S. after the attack on the U.S. Capitol and our democratic institutions on Jan. 6.

On three consecutive Wednesdays in January, the U.S. survived an insurrection, impeached former President Donald Trump and celebrated the Inauguration of President Joe Biden.

There were also a number of significant legislative and political events and developments that set the stage for unprecedented opportunities for the Insulators to advance our priorities.

Completing 2020 legislative work

At the end of December, Congress completed work on legislation to provide COVID-19 health and economic assistance, but President Biden has made it clear additional government resources are needed to defeat the pandemic and help citizens and businesses in need. 

On Jan. 5, Georgia unexpectedly elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, giving Democrats control of the Senate.

Prior to the election, General President Revard wanted our Locals, who have jurisdiction in Georgia (Locals 48, 96, 46, 92 and 13), to engage fully to encourage support for the Democratic senate candidates.

I commend and congratulate the Local leadership, phone coordinators and volunteers who contributed to these great Senate victories.

A new President, new Congress

Even before the inauguration of President Biden, we have been working with other building trades unions and the Biden transition team to promote our priorities, and there are several areas where President Biden and his administration can be helpful.

President Biden has already demonstrated his commitment to support organized labor through his nominations to key federal departments, some of his executive actions and his legislative priorities.

With his selection of Boston Mayor (and building trades leader) Marty Walsh to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor and his selection of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to serve as U.S. Secretary of Energy, President Biden has selected leaders who know the Insulators and how we can help President Biden achieve his economic, energy and environmental goals.

While building trades unions are disappointed with President Biden’s cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline, President Biden has signed executive orders to improve Prevailing Wage coverage and improve energy efficiency standards.

We will continue to work with the Biden Administration to secure work by making federal buildings and military facilities more energy efficient and work with the Biden Environmental Protection Agency on the proper implementation of regulations to ban asbestos.

2021 Legislative Priorities 

In addition to the opportunities to work on executive actions that do not require congressional action, there is much we can accomplish now with President Biden and a Democratic-controlled Congress.

As often stated, elections matter, and even with very slim Democratic congressional majorities, we are working with the Biden Administration and Congress to achieve our legislative priorities.

With regard President Biden’s COVID-19 American Rescue Plan, we are working for the inclusion of multiemployer pension assistance and health insurance subsidies for dislocated workers.

After the enactment of the COVID-19 rescue legislation, which is expected by mid-March, President Biden and Congress will work on legislation for economic recovery.

Hopefully this will include clean energy infrastructure investments. We are working to ensure his Build Back Better legislation will include mechanical insulation tax incentives.

Last year, we were successful in getting mechanical insulation tax incentives included in the House Infrastructure legislation, and now we are even better positioned for success with a Democratic Senate and President Biden. 

I am also pleased to report the House has already approved legislation to improve our registered apprenticeship programs, and we also expect early House action on labor law reform (The Protect the Right to Organize Act) to promote the ability of workers to join a union and negotiate better wages and benefits and a healthier and safer workplace.

We will also continue our work for funding to develop a mesothelioma patient registry and legislation to ban asbestos. We are also exploring opportunities to promote our firestop and infectious disease control work.

Unity and division

COVID-19 health and economic legislation, infrastructure legislation and all our Insulator Union legislative priorities should enjoy bipartisan support from both Democrats in and Republicans in Congress because these proposals address major challenges and impact all Americans.

It is also important to reinforce my message from the Winter 2020 Journal. It is encouraging to see Insulator members in the U.S. and Canada working to solve the challenges of our day. We are truly part of the solution, and we need to make sure every elected official and the general public knows what we are doing.

While we continue our important work, which enjoys support from liberals, moderates and conservatives, the U.S. continues to be divided. It will take considerable time and effort to heal the wounds from the 2020 elections, the ensuing insurrection and impeachment trial.

It is also disappointing the energy policy in our county is so divided. Far too often, elected officials and the media characterize energy policy as simply a choice (or in some cases a battle) between fossil energy and renewable energy.

This false description ignores energy efficiency and the value of mechanical insulation. We will continue to need fossil fuel energy (that includes cleaner natural gas and zero-carbon nuclear energy) for reliable baseload electrical power. It is also imperative for policymakers to understand clean energy is not just renewable energy, but must include energy efficiency.

In these divided and contentious times, we need to encourage energy policies where we can all agree.

When we do that, better days are ahead.

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