Steelworkers Urge Congress to “Put People Over Politics” and Pass Infrastructure Investment

By Stockton Grunewald
Oct 28 2021 |
Steelworkers from across the country joined together for a digital event on Thursday to tell Members of Congress that they stand ready and able to supply America with the goods and services needed to rebuild infrastructure. Photo via USW on YouTube

Like many a Halloween classic, “Infrastructure Week” has returned from the grave once again – but this time, the long overdue investment in America could soon become law.

And for members of the United Steelworkers (USW), it’s not a moment too soon.

The union met via a digital briefing on Thursday to signal their strong support for the bipartisan legislation, pressing elected officials to, in the words of USW President Tom Conway, “stop screwing around with infrastructure.”

The conversation, hosted by USW legislative director Roy Houseman, highlighted not just the investment in roads and bridges, but the human impact that the legislation could have in communities across America. Steelworkers who took part represent members making a variety of products, from steel to lighting to paper to tires and more, and all of them said they are ready to get to work.

“As essential workers, steelworkers are here to supply America with the materials and services necessary to rebuild it,” said Pete Trinidad, president of USW Local 6787. “So, as we supply America, let’s keep it Made in America.”

The USW has spent the past several months urging Congress to pass a robust infrastructure investment package, including via its “We Supply America” bus tour over the summer. And in September, Conway wrote to Members of the House in support of infrastructure legislation, calling it a “once-in-a-generation investment” that will put more than $1 trillion into local communities across the country.

“This bipartisan agreement will help move the country into the 21st century with $550 billion in new spending on items like roads, bridges, broadband, public transit, ports, and our power grid,” Conway wrote. “These efficiencies will ensure safer roads, faster internet for millions, and jobs for not just hundreds of thousands of construction workers, but also hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers across the country. Combined with $450 billion in program reauthorizations, some of which expire if action is not taken, this bill will move the country forward and allow us to better compete globally.”

During Thursday’s event, several steelworkers spoke about the potential positive impacts that infrastructure investment could have on their own communities and workplaces.

Donetta Williams, president of USW Local 1025 in North Carolina, noted her 326 members stand ready to make the optical fiber needed to bring high-speed Internet access to all Americans, including those in underserved areas.

“I want to stress to you how important infrastructure investment is and what it means for the workers like the ones I represent,” she said. “This bill invests $65 billion to address broadband infrastructure needs. We have a stake in that; the optical fiber our members make here in Wilmington is essential for the construction of the broadband networks that we need to build across the United States. We can supply the materials to ensure that Americans in rural communities have reliable access to the Internet.”  

Steve Bishoff, president of USW Local 525 in northern Ohio, struck a similar chord. Members of his local make lighting systems used for roads, bridges and other transportation systems, along with security and energy efficient buildings.

“America’s infrastructure needs to be revitalized, and central Ohio is no exception to this need. The lighting systems we make… work to supply America and not just with lighting,” Bishoff said. “The jobs supply our families with health care, our kids with education, our communities with resources and help our local economy. Our facility has been an important part of the local economy for over 120 years.”

Bishoff added: “This is an investment in America’s workers. Our local is ready to supply America.”

Mark Powers of USW Local 831, which represents more than 1,900 workers who make truck, school bus and aircraft tires at the Goodyear plant in Danville, Va., noted that “we need well-maintained roads, airports and ports to support our members’ jobs.”

“While the tires we make here are a vital component to our nation’s infrastructure, the work is just as vital to our families and our communities,” he added.  

After remarks from the participants, the floor was open to questions. Amber Miller, head of USW’s Rapid Response team, invoked Conway’s words to close the meeting: “This isn’t about politics, it’s about people.”

Watch the full briefing below.