Trumka: Workers to hold pols accountable if transportation bill fails

WASHINGTON –AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has a blunt warning for the nation’s politicians, regardless of party: Pass an infrastructure bill this year, to create jobs and help the economy, or suffer at the polls in the fall.

Trumka delivered that message May 15 before a large crowd in front of the AFL-CIO building, massed for a rally as part of “Transportation Week” – a lobbying effort by unions, pro-union contractors, business and the Obama administration convince lawmakers to approve long-term legislation for road, bridge and mass transit projects.

The legislation is important to millions of U.S. workers, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Ed Wytkind said.  One of every 10 U.S. workers engages in “building, operating or maintaining our transportation system,” he said.

“And buses and transit are lifelines for three of every four Americans, yet they’re seeing cuts in services and increases in fares” at a time of record ridership, due to congressional inaction, Wytkind added.

The administration, the unions and their allies advocate a multi-year mass transit-highway bill, such as the $265 billion measure the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed on May 15, or Democratic President Barack Obama’s 4-year $302 billion plan.  Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx touted Obama’s plan at the rally.

“Call Congress,” Trumka urged the crowd, which included members of the Laborers, the Operating Engineers, other construction unions, the Office and Professional Employees, Working America and TCU/Machinists Sector President Robert Scardelletti, whose union represents many Amtrak and freight rail workers.

“Pay attention to those who provide responses and those who provide excuses. Tell them that if they don’t support America’s economy, we won’t support them on Election Day. This is our country and it is time – it is way past time – we took it back!” he declared.

“Our message is clear: Congress must act to fix the Highway Trust Fund as quickly as possible.  We cannot afford to wait.  The transportation bill is the single biggest job-creating measure Congress regularly considers.  Working families are counting on them to do their job” Operating Engineers President, James Callahan, said.