Q&A: More Americans Share How Infrastructure Investment Will Help Their Communities

Apr 19 2021 |
In a special series, we are asking Americans who work in manufacturing and other industries about how an infrastructure investment package could benefit their workplaces and communities.

The Biden administration is hard at work promoting the American Jobs Plan, the president’s proposal for rebuilding American infrastructure, shifting to a clean energy economy, and strengthening critical manufacturing and supply chains.

While most of the chatter around the plan has centered on what’s happening on Capitol Hill, we wanted to find out what factory workers think about a potential infrastructure investment package. In an occasional Q&A series, we’re asking people working in manufacturing facilities for their thoughts on infrastructure, including how investment may effect their job and what kinds of improvements are needed where they live.

Read the first entry in the series here, and the second here. If you are a factory worker who would like to take part, please email us at info@aamfg.org.



NAME: Vonda McDaniel
HOMETOWN: Nashville, Tenn.
EMPLOYER: Bridgestone American Tire Operation, Inc
UNION MEMBERSHIP: United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1055L

Tell us a little bit about your job. What sort of products do you help make, and what is your role in making them?

Vonda McDaniel

I’ve been a production operator for 29 years. Worked in Final and Stock Prep. We make TBR passenger tires.

Manufacturing industries have had a number of ups and downs over the past several years, including layoffs and plant closures, both temporary and permanent. Has this impacted you at all?

In 2009, the LaVergne Plant discontinued passenger tire production after a plant in Monterrey, Mexico went online. Resulted in layoff of 1,200. The plant now operates with about 800 people, about half the workforce during peak years.

President Biden is proposing a major investment in U.S. infrastructure, including everything from fixing roads and bridges to building electric vehicle charging stations. Would an investment like this mean more business for your plant?

Hopefully. Logically, the increased production of electric vehicles would mean increased demand for tires.

What sorts of infrastructure improvements are needed in your community?

In Nashville, rapid growth has created enormous pressure on infrastructure. We need investment in improved transit, school improvements, water and sewage infrastructure, affordable housing.

Do you think infrastructure investment will help manufacturing workers overall? If not, what would you rather see the government doing for workers instead?

Pass the PRO Act to make it easier for workers to join a union. Help to increase pay for care workers (childcare and eldercare) so that women can return to the workforce with confidence.

Debra Ackerman


NAME: Linda Deane
HOMETOWN: Livermore, Maine
EMPLOYER: Recently retired from ND Paper in Rumford, Maine
UNION MEMBERSHIP: USW Local 900

Tell us a little bit about your job. What sort of products do you help make, and what is your role in making them? 

Linda Deane

We made white and brown paper that was used for packaging and printing.

Manufacturing industries have had a number of ups and downs over the past several years, including layoffs and plant closures, both temporary and permanent. Has this impacted you at all? 

Yes.  ND Paper Rumford recently reconfigured the factory from mostly bleached white paper to packaging grades which resulted in shutting down parts of the mill and the loss of 130+ employees.  (I do not think final count is in.)  They did this to make the company more “viable”. They did make a feeble attempt at an early retirement package, but unless you were planning on retiring soon anyway, it was not much of an incentive.

President Biden is proposing a major investment in U.S. infrastructure, including everything from fixing roads and bridges to building electric vehicle charging stations. Would an investment like this mean more business for your plant?  

I’m sure it will help my plant with getting raw materials and goods to and from the plant. The roads, bridges, and rail are all very bad in Maine and we received a C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers on our infrastructure. However, I’m not sure how much it will do to convince ND paper to expand. 

I do feel it will help to bring new manufacturing opportunities to our state.

What sorts of infrastructure improvements are needed in your community? 

We have had several sink holes appear on our streets in the last year, which was unheard of before.  These have been associated with leaks in the water and sewer systems.  The town desperately needs to update these systems.

Do you think infrastructure investment will help manufacturing workers overall? If not, what would you rather see the government doing for workers instead? 

I definitely think this will help manufacturing workers—companies need safe reliable ways to get their products to and from business.  It will also create good paying I hope union jobs.

Debra Ackerman


NAME: Nick Reed
HOMETOWN: Grand Island, N.Y.
MPLOYER: Civil Service Employees Association, AFSCME Local 1000
UNION: CSEA, AFSCME Local 1000

Tell us a little bit about your job.  What sort of products do you help make, and what is your role in making them?

My occupation is in the Safety and Health of Unionized workers across New York State who are a part of local municipalities, New York counties, New York State and private entities. The work straddles all aspects of public work, from Department of Public Works to road and bridge repair to office administration to water/wastewater treatment to schools and universities to nursing and healthcare to private industries. The only work our members do not do is manufacturing.

Manufacturing industries have had a number of ups and downs over the past several years, including layoffs and plant closures, both temporary and permanent.  Has this impacted you at all?

In a secondary way. Our workforce is dependent on the goods and services provided by those workers. When closures happen and raw material pricing increases, localities and state workforce are culled through attrition. This leaves less workers to do the same amount of work. While this is not a direct result, the ripples of these closures leaves towns and cities with a smaller tax base and less resources to provide town and city workers. Personally, this issue has not affected my employment yet.

President Biden is proposing a major investment in U.S. infrastructure, including everything from fixing roads and bridges to building electric vehicle charging stations.  Would an investment like this mean more business for your plant?

Similar to the above, the investment into infrastructure repair will have both a primary and secondary impact on our workforce. Some of the repair of roads and bridges will be done by localities, however, a majority of this work will be contracted out. There could even be a more direct impact to the municipalities around the country if money was set aside to upgrade equipment at the small town and village levels. These places are still using machines that are prone to breakdowns and disrepair, decreasing effectiveness. Secondarily, these jobs may increase local taxes or a tax base if a contractor takes up residence in one of the covered municipalities, thus increasing revenues, and hoping for more resources to allow workers to do their jobs.

What sorts of infrastructure improvements are needed in your community?

Living in a constant freeze-thaw cycle area, road repairs are a constant need. Potholes that appear endlessly, bridges that lose their protective shells leading to structual members exposed to weather, and water and sewer mains breaking from infrasturucte that is over 100 years old. 

There are proactive repairs that can be completed at a fraction of the cost of the emergency repairs. Local funding to municipal expansion of mass transit, including light rail, to provide access to those in need. Roadways are not the answer to everything. Also, an upgrade of the railway system to allow the transport of goods and people. 

Do you think infrastructure investment will help manufacturing workers overall?  If not, what would you rather see the government doing for workers instead?

Yes.  It has been proven, again and again, that these bills help get some infrastructure complete.

There are more behind-the-scenes upgrades than projects seen by the public. Specific money should be allocated to education of the community of where the money is going. This could help decrease confusion over how the money is used.

As a result of infrastructure work, there will be needed manufacturing that may not be able to be fulfilled at current capacities. All workers will need basic gear, like hard hats, safety vests, work boots, gloves, hand tools, and other things. Signs and markers will need to be manufactured to keep with demand. Heavy machinery will need to be built and ordered to perform major infrastructure repairs. Lighting will be necessary to perform work during nighttime hours. All of these consumables will need to be manufactured. Steel and tires will need to be made stateside to fulfill demand. There is a giant ripple effect from an infrastructure bill that reaches every corner of this country. 

On a personal note, there MUST be a nationwide effort to advise and educate the American public on the hazards of speeding through work zones and texting while driving. Since 1983, CSEA has lost 60 members in roadways that we are aware of, half of which occurred with a work zone intrusion. That’s of the 167 fatalities that we are aware of.  Working on a roadway is an extremely dangerous job, and I hope that there are investments in this bill that will educate the workers on temporary work zone requirements, driver education and national “don’t zone out” campaigns.

Jennifer Drudge


NAME: Ron Rodgers
HOMETOWN: Sweet Home, Ore.
EMPLOYER: United Steelworkers (USW)
UNION MEMBERSHIP: USW

Tell us a little bit about your job. What sort of products do you help make, and what is your role in making them?

Ron Rodgers

I do not make any products. I am a Staff Representative for the USW and I am also the Director of Sub-District 3 of District 12, covering Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Manufacturing industries have had a number of ups and downs over the past several years, including layoffs and plant closures, both temporary and permanent. Has this impacted you at all?

This has impacted me in the sense that I have engaged in effects bargaining at several locations, including one complete plant closure and several workforce reductions.

President Biden is proposing a major investment in U.S. infrastructure, including everything from fixing roads and bridges to building electric vehicle charging stations. Would an investment like this mean more business for your plant?

The proposed investment in infrastructure would definitely have potential to mean more business for several of the locations I service directly, as well as many other locations within my sub-district.

What sorts of infrastructure improvements are needed in your community?

Upgraded storm water collection systems and water treatment facilities, road maintenance and bridge expansion and/or installation, particularly between Oregon and Washington between the Portland and Vancouver metro areas.

Do you think infrastructure investment will help manufacturing workers overall? If not, what would you rather see the government doing for workers instead?

A robust infrastructure investment would definitely be beneficial to workers as a whole; not just manufacturing workers. The availability of good jobs in infrastructure would lead to better paying jobs with better benefits in other sectors as the demand of workers increases. The better overall wages would also lead to more consumer spending, thus leading to an increase of jobs in the service sector.

Meghan Hasse


NAME: William E. Jones
HOMETOWN: Newport News, Va.
EMPLOYER: United Steelworkers
UNION MEMBERSHIP: YES

Tell us a little bit about your job. What sort of products do you help make, and what is your role in making them?

William Jones

I am currently the staff representative for the United Steelworkers union representing a variety of industries, including over 12,000 hourly ship builders on behalf of the United States Navy; a chemical company where they produce goods that go into fertilizer, ammonia and nylon; an aerospace company that makes parts for the airline industry; and a paper mill.  

Manufacturing industries have had a number of ups and downs over the past several years, including layoffs and plant closures, both temporary and permanent. Has this impacted you at all?

Fortunately, each of these industries were deemed essential and they have held their own as it relates to production. A couple of them actually have done very well during the pandemic.

President Biden is proposing a major investment in U.S. infrastructure, including everything from fixing roads and bridges to building electric vehicle charging stations. Would an investment like this mean more business for your plant?

Yes, it certainly would. Each of my locals I have touched bases with concerning supporting the USW’s “WE SUPPLY AMERICA” initiative.

What sorts of infrastructure improvements are needed in your community?

Definitely roads and bridges.

Do you think infrastructure investment will help manufacturing workers overall? If not, what would you rather see the government doing for workers instead?

I know that it would because it will help create more jobs or even help get certain companies back to employees working 40 hours or allow employees to be returned back from layoff. Job investment in a community could be almost be the best way to build up and/or restore a community. When we do better, so do our communities, socially and economically.

Jennifer Drudge