Rudy Gonzalez, headshot

By Rudy Gonzalez | Secretary-Treasurer

Promises Kept, Jobs Delivered, Infrastructure Built

We just wrapped up another Infrastructure Week across the United States, and, boy, has that fella from Scranton delivered once again.

Before I sing our current president’s praises, though, I have to provide some context. I can’t gloss over the one supreme irony of Infrastructure Week: the fact that it was invented by President Joe Biden’s predecessor.

Yes, believe it or not, this event was the brainchild of President Donald Trump. First announced in 2017, Infrastructure Week was the Trump adminstration’s attempt to hoodwink the American people into believing he was serious about his empty campaign promises to fund desperately needed infrastructure projects nationwide.

When you hear “Infrastructure Week,” you might expect a celebration of the progress being made on mending our crumbling highways, sagging bridges, and broken mass transit through smart government investment. But Trump’s Infrastructure Week was nothing more than a PR stunt — a series of high-profile media events manufactured to drum up public support and build momentum for his truly terrible infrastructure plan.

Trump presented that plan to Congress in February 2018, and it was rejected. Why? Because it didn’t actually fund infrastructure — at least not with federal dollars. Instead, Trump’s plan called for $1.5 trillion in funding mostly from cash-strapped state and local governments, and, of course, private investments. The federal government would kick in no more than a miniscule $300 billion.

It was a laughable policy proposition, and it deserved to fail. As a result, Trump’s Infrastructure Week became a running joke for the remainder of his presidency — a symbol of his disingenuous pandering and his administration’s overall ineptitude.

Fast-forward to the Biden era. Now we’ve got a president who has demonstrated how serious he is about funding and building infrastructure, and he’s proving it by getting legislation passed that makes it happen.

Rather than scrapping Trump’s self-serving, stillborn Infrastructure Week, Biden has reclaimed and redefined it. Under this president, the yearly event now delivers on its promise. It’s a time to crunch numbers and evaluate how much progress has been made and how much is to come in order to meet the nation’s mobility and growth needs.

The proof’s in the pudding, as they say. With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS and Science acts, and more laws that Biden has proposed and Congress has passed, we’ve seen a huge surge in infrastructure projects. This is due in no small part to the fact that Biden’s infrastructure legislation stipulates projects actually be funded with federal dollars in an amount sufficient to get the job done.

You can credit this success to a president who, unlike his predecessor, governs with competence. That’s a useful characteristic for someone who leads the biggest economy on Earth.

We all benefit from Biden’s political effectiveness. Infrastructure jobs provide a tremendous amount of work across multiple unions, especially the building trades. I won’t get into the weeds and list all of the positive numbers that have resulted from Biden’s infrastructure initiatives; you can follow this link, and check those on your own. But I will note just one statistic: The national building trades have grown by 95,000 new members since our current president took office. After decades of falling membership, that is remarkable.

Here’s the takeaway: For a tradesperson, there might be no better representation of the massive gulf between Biden and Trump than Infrastructure Week. It now represents success and prosperity through actual infrastructure investment versus the charade it was created to represent — an unimaginative plan from an insincere wannabe authoritarian. It’s no wonder this council, the State Building Trades Council of California, and NABTU have all wholeheartedly endorsed Biden for re-election. After all, he has more than delivered where the last president utterly failed, and he has done so with workers front-and-center.

Under Biden, Infrastructure Week makes it crystal-clear that we’re all much better off with him in the driver’s seat.

Getting Serious About Mental Health

May was designated as Mental Health Awareness Month way back in 1949. In 2024, building trades workers may benefit from taking some time before this month is up to reflect on our own mental and emotional health.

The hazards of our jobs are clear. The stresses of our lives are clear. Taken together, it can all be overwhelming. Recent research indicates that mental health impacts are trending in an alarming direction for those of us who work in construction for a living.

Building and construction trades careers are among the most hazardous of any American jobs. Our line of work ranks among the top five most dangerous industries, according to the most recent data available from the federal government. Among the 10 most dangerous jobs in America, five were in our trades.

Alas, the biggest risk of working in the trades isn’t a fall or a struck-by incident. It’s a self-inflicted one. Suicide and suicide attempts in our field are on the rise. This is troubling, and we all have a role to play in stemming the tide. 

Experts say that this high rate can be explained in part by our demographic makeup, as studies have shown higher rates of suicide among men, who tend to dominate our industry’s ranks. When you factor in the physical demands, irregular and long hours, economic uncertainty, and overall high-risk environment that are part and parcel of our careers, this can quickly equal out to massive stress and exhaustion that oftentimes goes untreated.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, construction members commit suicide at a rate four times higher than the average U.S. worker. In response, unions are rolling out member assistance programs and training staff and members to listen, identify warning signs, and refer members to peer and professional support when necessary.

We need our contractors to participate financially and fully in terms of visibility and prevention awareness, and we need members to be ready to acknowledge the issue and seek help when it’s needed. Frankly, many of us enjoy Cadillac healthcare plans with tremendous mental health benefits. Let’s be honest with ourselves and take advantage of these wonderful resources when we need to.

Finally, let’s remember that our brothers, sisters, and siblings on the jobsite are going through a lot both on and off the clock. Be your colleague’s keeper and know how to access services like the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and your union’s member assistance program.

Organized Labor

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