Opinion

Memo to Biden: Let’s rebuild infrastructure together

Workers repairing Polk Street near Pacific Avenue in San Francisco. (Photo: Susan Leg Anthony, via Shutterstock)

President Biden wants America to Build Back Better — and we at the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California (ABC NorCal) completely agree. The foundation for the country’s economic rebound will depend on the big infrastructure plans the president has for the country.

However, when it is time to do the building, all qualified builders must have a hand in the rebuild projects to get the job done.

President Biden promised trillions of dollars to allow “millions of construction, skilled trades, and engineering workers to build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy.”  When he promoted his idea for rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure during the campaign, Biden spoke of union jobs, but he importantly also acknowledged the need to employ non-union workers.

Now is the time President Biden should reach out to the skilled and qualified workers of all stripes to help rebuild the country in which we all reside.

As his website stated: “Biden’s proposal will make sure that national infrastructure investments create millions of middle-class jobs, benefiting union and non-union workers across industries.”

We are asking the president to uphold that promise.

The campaign website offered priority to Project Labor and Community Workforce Agreements in federal procurement procedures. Such agreements give a greater opportunity for union workers to gain jobs while leaving many skilled and trained construction workers behind.

That has been the case too often in California. In the Golden State, a staggering 84% of experienced, trained and skilled construction workers — many in minority and women run enterprises — have been essentially frozen out of the construction bidding process because their workers choose not to participate in collective bargaining agreements.

When moving ahead with projects funded in whole or in part with taxpayer money, all qualified Americans deserve a piece of the rebuild. The construction projects will get done faster when the entire construction industry is engaged. Over the past 10 years, ABC members were awarded nearly 52% of large-scale federal contracts.

President Biden has promised to be a president for all the people, now is the time he should reach out to the skilled and qualified workers of all stripes to help rebuild the country in which we all reside.

The president’s big plans to Build Back Better could begin even before his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan is considered by Congress. That’s because the president’s nearly $2 trillion stimulus coronavirus rescue bill already included $130-million dedicated to school construction related improvements.

Following the stimulus package, Biden will pursue the infrastructure plan to rebuild roads and bridges, water systems, electricity grids and more to boost economic growth.

Giving all qualified and skilled workers a chance to help get the country back to normal as quickly as possible will fulfill the president’s desire to create middle-class jobs and give the economy new life. All qualified workers should have an equal opportunity to play a role in bringing back the country.

Both the Obama and Trump Administrations promised big building plans but neither fully delivered. It is past time to get the infrastructure rebuild moving. President Biden’s leadership can get the job done. He is right to highlight this effort as a major part of his agenda. The president’s aspiration to Build Back Better should allow the entire construction workforce to successfully make this imperative for jobs, the economy and long-term growth a reality.

Editor’s Note: Michele Daugherty is the President & CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California.


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