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Dems & Coalition Kick Off Fight for Infrastructure Jobs

May 25, 2017, 8:55 AM HST (Updated May 25, 2017, 8:59 AM)
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Big Island Now stock photo.

Congressional Democrats and a coalition of progressive organizations kicked off the long-anticipated infrastructure jobs fight today, Thursday, May 25, launching a massive campaign for public investment in millions of new jobs in Hawai‘i and across the nation.

Pointing to the nationwide infrastructure crises—like O‘ahu’s failing water system, which has over 400 water main breaks a year—the grassroots Millions of Jobs Coalition teamed up with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to unveil a plan calling for millions of jobs to be created by investing $2 trillion in public infrastructure over 10 years—including $35 billion to repair critically damaged water systems in Hawai‘i and across the country.

“On the Big Island of Hawai‘i County, water is unavailable in our area,” said Dennis K, a Progressive Change Campaign Committee member from Honaunau, in the western portion of the island. “The water lines stop at South Point for a stretch of about 30-plus miles until reaching Ho‘okena to the north. The state refuses to fund this improvement and the county claims they have no money,” “Not only does this impact the residents in a rapidly growing area, but there is water unavailable for the fire department or agriculture. The local officials have used the same tired arguments that there is no money available for this infrastructure, while residents have waited for 30-plus years for the improvements.”

The plan, authored by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), would rebuild crumbling roads, bridges, water systems, and veterans hospitals while making 21st Century investments in clean-energy jobs, high-speed rail, high-speed internet access, and other priorities. It would create millions of living-wage jobs for Hawai‘i workers, support racial and gender equity in jobs, and be paid for by asking Wall Street, giant corporations and the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.

“We have invested too much into Honolulu’s rail project to turn back now,” said Rep. Kaniela Ing from Maui. “We must complete the project at least to Ala Moana in order to create hundreds of jobs, reduce traffic and see a return on taxpayers’ investment. As a young person coming of age during massive globalization, I cannot emphasize enough how important these local jobs are to keep our young talent home and for our overall economy.”

The Millions of Jobs Coalition includes Communications Workers of America, Center for Popular Democracy, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, ColorOfChange, Working Families Party, MoveOn.org, NextGen Climate, 350 Action, Roosevelt Institute, Demos Action, Free Press, Democracy for America, Food & Water Watch, PICO, and others.

“We are launching a massive campaign for millions of new jobs through investment in our public roads, mass transit, and water systems — in Hawaii and across the nation,” the Millions of Jobs Coalition stated in a press release. “We will work with progressive Democratic congressional leaders to highlight the local impact of this plan in communities across America. Instead of creating jobs building rail or water systems, Trump will sell them off to Wall Street billionaires and foreign governments—allowing them to double tolls and put billions of our dollars in their pockets.”

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At an event Thursday with congressional leaders at the U.S. Capitol, the Millions of Jobs Coalition announced that events will be held next week in Hawai‘i and across the nation, touting local support for the progressive plan to create millions of jobs by rebuilding roads, rail lines and water systems.

“Honolulu has a rail project to connect a few parts of the island but not all,” said Charles I, a PCCC member from Aiea. “We are a small place, getting gentrified by foreign capital, priced out of our homeland and bulldozed by massive projects that would get swallowed up in a larger landscape, without solving very real transportation needs. A classic example of federal dollars dangled to entice continued usurpation of limited land under our own flag, distorting local decisions. Cost overruns will triple the original cos, and paying via bonds means shackling our grandchildren to ongoing costs, subsidizing wealthy developers.”

Congressional leaders and the Millions of Jobs Coalition also announced 10 principles that must be true of any jobs plan that passes into law. These principles, encapsulated in a new House resolution supported by dozens of congressional leaders, include prioritizing public investment over corporate giveaways and selling off the country’s roads, racial and gender equity in jobs, environmental and worker protections, investment in 21st century jobs like wind and solar and high-speed internet, and requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share. The Congressional Progressive Caucus and Millions Of Jobs Coalition will urge all House Democrats to co-sponsor the resolution and draw a sharp contrast with President Donald Trump.

Lieu’s job-creation proposal is the first in the House that fulfills all 10 principles and stands in direct contrast to President Trump’s plan to sell off public roads to billionaires and corporations that would place new tolls on Americans.

The Trump administration has made clear they support little direct public investment in jobs and will rely heavily on privatization and corporate giveaways:

  • Trump’s proposal would result in a net negative in direct infrastructure investment. The Washington Post reports, “Despite his much-touted plans to spur significant increases in infrastructure investment, President Trump’s budget would actually cut more federal spending on such programs than it would add, according to an analysis by Senate Democrats.”
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao confirmed that Trump’s supposedly-trillion dollar proposal will include only $200 billion in direct federal funding — and that’s after “$206 billion in cuts to an array of infrastructure programs.”
  • Last Monday, Politico reported a Fox News interview in which Chao said Trump’s plan will center on “some kind of public-private partnerships” and “maybe some sale of government assets as well.” According to Bloomberg News, the Trump plan will likely include selling $40 billion of American infrastructure to Saudi Arabia.
  • Trump has also pledged to roll back environmental protections and other regulations as part of his plan. A coalition of conservative advocacy groups supports weakening those rules and also urges a repeal of labor protections.

Unions representing millions of American workers also endorsed the progressive framework, and Rep. Ted Lieu’s specific proposal to create jobs through direct public infrastructure investment. Labor endorsers include North America’s Building Trades Unions; Transportation Trades Department of AFL–CIO; Teamsters; United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; American Federation of Teachers; National Educators Association; Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; and Amalgamated Transit Union.

Below are statements from members of the Millions of Jobs Coalition, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and other congressional Democrats.

Statements From Millions Of Jobs Coalition Members

Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder: “This bold plan can be summed up in three words: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Democrats have a plan to put millions of Americans to work rebuilding local bridges, roads, and schools in local communities — and to create 21st Century jobs in fields like clean energy. It’s ridiculous that Trump wants to sell off our public roads to Wall Street investors and foreign corporations who would put up tolls and keep the money for themselves. The difference between the progressive Democratic vision of job creation and Trump’s vision of jobless corporate giveaways is night and day, and the Millions of Jobs Coalition will ensure voters see this contrast.”

Heather McGhee, Demos Action president: “Progressive Democrats in Congress are showing America what a 21st Century economy can look like — millions of living-wage jobs and economic growth for struggling communities, women, and people of color. Donald Trump believes America is for sale, but Americans won’t buy his vision of selling off our roads, bridges, and other public resources to Wall Street and foreign companies. The Millions of Jobs Coalition will show the public a more positive vision of direct public investment in jobs and our communities.”

Rashad Robinson, ColorofChange executive director: “It’s time for a new vision, and that’s why we stand with the principles released by the Congressional Progressive Caucus today that, if enacted, would repair the physical fabric of our country and create millions of jobs for our communities. Black communities have seen firsthand the devastation that can occur when our country’s infrastructure is privatized and run by corporations. Whether it’s the poisoning of public waters like we saw in Flint or the creation of new highway tolls that force working class folks onto overcrowded roads, our very health and livelihood is threatened by the hollowing out of America’s infrastructure.”

Rhana Epting, MoveOn senior fellow: “Nationwide, millions of Americans are standing together to call for a renewed commitment to invest in public infrastructure and job creation — and resisting efforts by Donald Trump to privatize our public goods to benefit billionaires and foreign corporations. This coalition represents millions of grassroots activists who are devoted to creating jobs in communities that have been left behind and prevent the Trump administration’s dangerous policy agenda from making it worse.”

Tom Steyer, NextGen Climate president: “The American people deserve good jobs and a vibrant economy that works for all of us, fueled by clean energy that protects our air, water, and climate. That requires a modern infrastructure that meets 21st century needs. This plan will help ensure a just transition to clean energy, make our economy stronger and fairer, create millions of good-paying jobs, and protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Rafael Navar, Communication Workers of America national political director: “The question is, will we have a 21st-century infrastructure plan that will create millions of jobs and strengthen the backbone of our communities or will we privatize everything for corporate profit and further the decline of this country.”

Dan Cantor, Working Families Party national director: “From his steaks to his university, Trump believes he can stamp his name on junk and call it gold. His so-called infrastructure plan will be nothing more than a massive giveaway to Wall Street, and he’ll stick our children with the bill for generations to come. Progressives have a plan to create millions of jobs, build a 21st-century economy, and pay for it by taxing the big banks that still never paid the bill for crashing the economy almost a decade ago.”

Jason Kowalski, 350 Action policy director: “For Progressives in the Trump era the best defense is a good offense. Trump’s climate-wrecking agenda is designed to help fossil fuel billionaires profit while our planet cooks. Our plan is the exact opposite: creating millions of 21stcentury jobs through 100% clean energy for all. This plan acknowledges that there’s no time left for incrementalism. What we really need is massive public investments in clean energy infrastructure that will create millions of jobs—starting with communities that need it most. Our movements for justice are as aligned as ever and we are not looking back.

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Center for Popular Democracy Network president and co-executive director: “Donald Trump doesn’t care about marginalized Black and Brown communities nor about struggling white communities too often forced to choose between their health and the only decent pay in town. Rather than a real plan investing in our families, Trump’s infrastructure plan is little more than a redistribution of our tax dollars to Trump’s corporate backers. That is why 47 of CPD’s affiliates across the country are coming together to protest more privatized infrastructure. Our communities deserve real infrastructure projects that bring good jobs to our communities, protect the environment, and strengthen our economy, not corporate tax breaks and giveaways. We won’t support any infrastructure plan that doesn’t benefit all of our communities.”

Craig Aaron, Free Press Action Fund president and CEO: “Free Press Action Fund commends these progressive legislators for proposing policies that create new jobs and new economic opportunity by narrowing the digital divide and making affordable Internet access a reality for millions of Americans. By bringing high-speed broadband Internet to places it isn’t available, more people will be able to find jobs, start their own businesses, and get an education.”

LeeAnn Hall and George Goehl, People’s Action co-directors: “The Congressional Progressive Caucus proposal is what a real infrastructure program for our country looks like; living wage jobs to make our communities and families safer and more resilient while serving the common good. We applaud the CPC for their forward-looking and aggressive plan to pump badly needed jobs into communities of color by putting people and planet first. Trump’s plan is nothing more than a trillion-dollar privatization scheme, designed to enrich his own family and their millionaire friends. For elected officials foolish enough to believe that Trump is trying to create jobs, he really does have a bridge in Brooklyn that he’d like to sell them.”

Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch executive director: “The water shutoffs in Detroit and Baltimore and poisoned water in Flint, East Chicago and other communities should serve as a wake-up call: Our nation is facing a water crisis, and nothing short of a massive, direct federal investment in publicly-controlled water systems will save it. Abdicating control of our water services to corporations is not the answer. Instead, we need the federal government to renew its commitment to funding community water and sewer systems. Repairing and updating our nation’s water infrastructure will create nearly a million jobs while ensuring that water service is safe and affordable for everyone in the country.”

Statements From Members of Congress

Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5), DNC deputy chair and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair: “Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure is about so much more than construction projects. It’s about replacing the pipes in Flint that poisoned an entire community, making our roads and bridges safer, and rebuilding crumbling schools. The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs will do all that and more—improving the lives of millions of hardworking families and putting 2.5 million Americans to work at good jobs. It will also make our tax system fairer by making the wealthiest pay their fair share, unlike the Republican infrastructure plan which is nothing more than another tax break for millionaires and billionaires. The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs is what our country needs—an investment in hard working Americans and our country’s most needed communities.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-33): “America’s infrastructure is desperately in need of repair— this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated $4.6 trillion in infrastructure needs, of which more than $2 trillion did not have estimated funding. The American people deserve to have a serious conversation about how to address these needs. To fund infrastructure projects, President Trump’s relatively small and incoherent plan would use irresponsible tax gimmicks that benefit Wall Street at the expense of taxpayers. My colleagues and I know that Americans cannot afford to settle for this scam. Instead, we have introduced the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs to ensure that Congress boldly addresses our infrastructure needs and supports a plan that creates millions of jobs without sacrificing protections for workers and the environment.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2): “Democrats are leading the way for millions of jobs. Donald Trump wants to sell off our roads to foreign governments and give taxpayer dollars to Wall Street billionaires, and he calls that job creation? Maybe that will create jobs in Russia, but not for hard working Americans. Democrats will take this fight to the people. Our country is in dire need of a bold vision to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, clean our air and water, restore our children’s unsafe school buildings, and connect our communities to each other with high-speed rail and internet. The Congressional Progressive Caucus’s 21st Century New Deal for Jobs is a comprehensive plan to rebuild our infrastructure and create millions of good-paying, family-supporting jobs in the process. While President Trump and the Republicans are busy concocting a trillion-dollar Wall Street giveaway under the guise of infrastructure, our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs makes big corporations pay their fair share to support dignified employment and build a more sustainable and vibrant economy for everyone.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17): “While Trump’s plan has no commitment to expand vital Internet service, progressive Democrats have a 21st Century vision of increasing jobs and economic opportunity in all our communities. Our plan will expand economic opportunity by bringing high-speed Internet access to all Americans — including new access for rural communities and incentives to increase adoption in low-income communities. By doing so, we will help create millions of new jobs and start-ups in rural America, in tribal areas and in urban centers that have yet to see the gains of the technology revolution.”

Rep. Ted Lieu’s White PaperThe First House Plan Offered That Meets All 10 Requirements

  • The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan would create 2.5 million new jobs by investing $2 trillion in public investment over 10 years rebuilding crumbling highways, bridges, schools, and veterans’ hospitals. The plan would also invest in clean-energy jobs like solar and wind power and rebuilding water systems so our families can drink clean water.
  • The plan would be paid for by making Wall Street, giant corporations, and the rich pay their fair share— not new tolls or fees that hurt working families.
  • The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan gives precedence to the infrastructure needs of people who are struggling the most. Lower-income people and communities of color coping with elevated unemployment—both rural and urban alike—will play a leading role in determining their own infrastructure gaps and solutions. It also calls for local and regional planning that considers equity of access to transportation across communities.
  • Job training and local hiring will reflect the racial and gender diversity of the community’s workforce and those seeking employment.
  • Federal procurement will prioritize minority- and women-owned businesses, cooperatives and employee-owned firms, and community-owned and municipal enterprises. The plan would also boost federal funding for programs that help small businesses, like Historically Underutilized Business Zones.

House Resolution: 10 Things That Must Be True Of Any Jobs Plan

Supporting efforts to enact a bold jobs and infrastructure package that benefits all Americans, not just billionaires.

Whereas the Nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, and schools, unsafe drinking water facilities, and outdated energy systems are in need of major transformation, and a plan is needed to rebuild the Nation and create millions of good jobs;

Whereas the Nation’s taxpayers should not subsidize billionaires and Wall Street banks that will profit from privatizing roads, bridges, drinking water and sanitation systems, and utilities;

Whereas any investment in the Nation’s roads and bridges must support the repair and rehabilitation of existing assets, improve resilience to more extreme weather, and support targeted expansions to reduce congestion, improve air quality, and enable job growth;

Whereas the Nation must ensure that every child who attends a public school has safe facilities that contribute to a high-quality education, and therefore the Nation must invest to construct, renovate, repair, and modernize its schools;

Whereas direct public investment in the United States public transportation network can meet the Nation’s infrastructure needs without selling off roads and bridges to private investors and foreign entities;

Whereas any clean water initiative must prioritize investment in communities most in need, ensure safe drinking water for millions of Americans, and protect the Nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans;

Whereas any infrastructure package should include building high-speed internet facilities to ensure that this increasingly essential resource is available to all Americans through direct funding, tax credits for low-income workers, and investments in municipal broadband to promote economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life;

Whereas any investments made to update Federal Aviation Administration facilities and United States ports, waterways, dams, and levees should ensure that these entities remain public, improve security, and facilitate commerce;

Whereas any public investment plan should include repairs and upgrades to the more than 1,800 Veterans Affairs facilities to ensure that every veteran has access to quality institutions and state-of-the-art treatment;

Whereas any investment plan should prioritize creating millions of living-wage jobs for struggling communities and especially for people of color, women, and individuals in high-poverty areas;

Whereas any public investment in Federal funding to public lands should be directed through Federal land management agencies that would strengthen the Nation’s outdoor industry and ensure that public lands are widely enjoyed by Americans for generations to come and are not sold off to private entities or foreign governments;

Whereas true public investment also includes investment in Tribal transportation, Indian Health Service facilities, and Bureau of Indian Education schools to promote job creation in Indian country where community members have had to make do with substandard services for generations;

Whereas public investment should aim to build resilient communities and infrastructure protection to ensure that the Nation’s infrastructure can withstand cyber attacks, physical attacks, and the extreme weather events caused by climate change;

Whereas a genuine infrastructure agenda should not sell or lease roads, water systems, or other essential infrastructure facilities, resulting in new tolls and user fees on working families;

Whereas we cannot leave essential rural infrastructure in disrepair simply because it would not generate profits for private investors;

Whereas government spending on infrastructure as a share of the economy has fallen to a 2-decade low, and yet for every $1 in government investment the Nation’s economy would gain $1.70 back through greater employment and efficiency; and

Whereas in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates approximately $4.6 trillion in infrastructure needs over 10 years, of which $2.06 trillion does not have funding: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that any infrastructure plan passed by Congress must:

  1. invest in creating millions of new jobs through investments in roads, bridges, and 21st century projects;
  2. prioritize public investment over corporate giveaways and selling off public goods;
  3. ensure that direct public investment, without reliance on private investors, provides the overwhelming majority of the funding for infrastructure improvement, so that public investments advance the public good;
  4. prioritize racial and gender equity and environmental justice;
  5. embrace 21st-century clean-energy jobs, including expanding solar and wind power, promoting energy efficiency, and modernizing the energy grid, while avoiding support for projects that promote fossil fuel use and hasten the disastrous effects of climate change;
  6. include expanded Buy America provisions, protect and encourage the use of project labor agreements, require the use of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage standards, include strong local-hiring and veteran-hiring requirements, ensure racial and gender equity in hiring, and guarantee that disadvantaged communities most in need, including both urban and rural communities, receive priority;
  7. ensure the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations who reap the greatest economic benefit from public goods pay what they owe and pay their fair share for key investments moving forward;
  8. ensure that investments are not paid for at the expense of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other vital program;
  9. not weaken or repeal existing laws or rules protecting the air, water, or environment, transportation safety, civil rights, worker safety, prevailing wage standards, or minority contractor provisions; and
  10. prioritize resilient infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters, as well as physical- and cyber-attacks.
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