Viewpoints: It’s time to invest in American infrastructure

Our country currently has the highest number of unemployed Americans since the Great Depression. While many of the 33 million workers who have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus crisis began expect to be rehired, many jobs will not come back.

The solution? It’s twofold. We must act now to push for a safe, forward-looking economic recovery while making a serious investment in American infrastructure.

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a stimulus relief package that, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson see “no urgency” to prioritize. The truth is, we can’t act soon enough. The HEROES Act upholds the AFL-CIO’s 5 Economic Essentials, a checklist of priorities our country needs from Congress in order to protect our workers and rebuild our economy.

These Economic Essentials include making sure our state and local governments, public schools, and the U.S. Postal Service are kept solvent and working, our pensions are upheld, our paychecks are protected and more. The HEROES Act also requires OSHA to issue a temporary emergency workplace infectious disease standard — something the AFL-CIO has been calling for since the first days of the pandemic.

Right now we have an incredible opportunity to rebuild our country with a long-overdue investment in our infrastructure. Infrastructure put 1930s America back to work. These jobs teach in-demand skills that pay livable wages. They offer family-sustaining salaries, mobile career paths and health benefits that are now more important than ever. We need that here in Wisconsin, where infrastructure improvements are long overdue and thousands are waiting to get back to work. By investing in America’s infrastructure, we will not only provide millions of people with jobs, we will keep our country competitive.

100,000 Americans and counting have died from COVID-19, over 50 million have lost their jobs, and 12 million have lost their health insurance. The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest public health threat our country has faced, and the time is now for elected officials to put partisan divisiveness to the side and act in the best interest of the country.

Pam Fendt is the president of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, which is made of up 100 local unions representing 25,000 area workers. She also is research director for the Laborers’ Union in Wisconsin. 

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