On the Last Day of the Bus Tour: “Our country is a turning point.”

By Matthew McMullan
Aug 20 2021 |
United Steelworkers President Tom Conway speaks at a rally in support of federal infrastructure investment in Pittsburgh, Pa. Photo via United Steelworkers

The United Steelworkers end a week of campaigning for federal infrastructure investment.

The United Steelworkers (USW) have spent the past week touring the country, holding rallies in support for the bipartisan infrastructure proposal that recently passed the U.S. Senate. Today, the bus pulled into Steelworkers HQ in downtown Pittsburgh to cap it off and drive the point home: It’s time to get this thing over the finish line.

“Our country is at a turning point,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “And we’re having a discussion about infrastructure that our union has been trying to initiate for 20 years, and we’re finally at a point where we are seriously talking about it.

“The bipartisan legislation that has come out of the Senate and the reconciliation bill that now sits in the House and is going to get consideration – it is full of Buy America provisions. It insists that the money that’s going to be spent by U.S. taxpayers [will be on] products sourced from here. It almost mandates that manufacturing come back to this country, build in this country, and builds a supply chain for the works that’s going to go into this infrastructure.”

Conway is right. The infrastructure bill is loaded with Buy America rules, and that’s a good thing: This is an economic vehicle, and with provisions mandating that much of the economic activity it will generate must take place stateside it will push industry to establish (or reshore) itself here to be eligible for its contracts. That means new or re-established supply chains, which means economic resilience the next time the United States faces a catastrophe and a resulting economic crunch. Ultimately, it will mean jobs for people who don’t, you know, go to a four-year college to get a degree in the humanities. The economy includes all of us, and an American-made infrastructure investment will help the blue-collar corner of it.

“You build an economy not through a bunch of financial algorithms and engineering,” Conway continued. “You build an economy by mining something and milling it, and putting capital and labor into it, and making a product and bringing it to market. And that’s what we do so well. And those products that we’re making are what’s gonna rebuild this nation and put us on the footing we need going forward.”

“To the workers, the welders, equipment operators, fabricators, truck drivers, pipe layers, pipe liners, coaters, laborers, our yard and supply personnel, our pavers. I can’t thank those people enough.”

Russ Sabol, USW Local 14693

This Steelworkers tour promoting the infrastructure bill has covered a lot of ground. They were in Porter County, Indiana on Monday. Ohio and Weirton, West Virginia on Tuesday. Outside Danville, Virginia on Wednesday, and Wilmington, North Carolina on Thursday. These events drew Members of Congress, the U.S. Labor Secretary, steelmakers, AAM field coordinators, and lots of (relatively) smaller manufacturers. And it drew plenty of working people, like Russ Sabol, an official at USW Local 14693, which represents workers in the construction industry in the Pittsburgh area. He spoke at the rally on Friday.

“The labor and services my members provide are vital to infrastructure, and good-paying union jobs and benefits they have are vital to our families,” he said. “We’re involved in our schools with local charities, and every aspect of our communities. Infrastructure investments are investments in all of us – you, me, and our neighbors.

“The industrial health of our nation is at risk, and this bill is the solution, and the power of our voices is the cure.  I’m very proud of the work of ever member of (my local),” said Sabol. “To the workers, the welders, equipment operators, fabricators, truck drivers, pipe layers, pipe liners, coaters, laborers, our yard and supply personnel, our pavers. I can’t thank those people enough. It’s a great time to be a United Steelworker. Let’s seize this opportunity to build a better future for all of us.”

Well said. So tell ’em: Let your Members of Congress know that this infrastructure bill needs to get done. Click the link below.