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OPINION: The bipartisan success of union-led infrastructure investment

Frank Hawk
Frank Hawk

Last fall, history was made at the Carpenters International Training Center in the heart of Las Vegas. The Western States Regional Council of Carpenters had the distinct honor of hosting President Joe Biden as he announced a groundbreaking $3 billion investment in the Brightline West project. This transformative high-speed rail system, connecting Las Vegas and Southern California, will not only redefine travel but also mark a historic milestone as the first such project built with American union labor

Since President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, into effect in 2021, innovative infrastructure efforts ranging from electric vehicle charging stations to bridge repairs have been federally funded, which has resulted in the creation of thousands of union jobs. Utilizing American union labor ensures that the economic benefits of such substantial projects remain in the surrounding communities. Union jobs come with higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions, the cornerstones of the council’s mission.

The choice of our training center as the venue is symbolic of the integral role carpenters play, not just in constructing the future rail line, but in the advocacy that led to this moment. Our involvement began early in 2021 when infrastructure discussions commenced in Congress. Under the leadership of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters President Douglas McCarron, the Carpenters Union stepped up to urge Congress to focus on the need to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. 

With a focus on the West, the Carpenters Council launched a campaign to connect council members with their representatives in Congress to tell their stories through direct advocacy and public affairs. We engaged policy leaders, from Vice President Kamala Harris to cabinet secretaries and members of Congress, turning virtual meetings into an opportunity for direct dialogue between carpenters and public officials, giving our elected leaders a local face to put on the policies negotiated by Congress.

A bipartisan infrastructure bill emerged, a testament to the council's commitment to bridging political divides for the benefit of our diverse membership. This success is reflected in unprecedentedly low out-of-work lists at local union halls.

This federal investment is a milestone not just for the Carpenters Union but for all working Americans. Most of the projects being funded in Nevada and across the country come with a commitment to employing union labor, which helps ensure the longevity and quality of tomorrow's infrastructure. These projects demonstrate the power of partnership between the federal government, private sector and union labor: substantial economic benefits for the country and the creation of thousands of jobs. 

As we celebrate this achievement, let us also look forward. The Carpenters Council  remains dedicated to forging partnerships and advocating policies that prioritize union jobs. The success of union-led projects should serve as a catalyst for continued collaboration, ensuring that our members continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of our nation's infrastructure. They are a testament to the strength of union labor, the power of bipartisan collaboration and the promise of a sustainable and interconnected future for generations to come.

Frank Hawk is executive secretary-treasurer and CEO of the Western States Regional Council of Carpenters. He has spent 36 years in the trade and is a descendant of a family of union contractors dating back to the 1930s.

The Nevada Independent welcomes informed, cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces such as this. Send them to [email protected].


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