As I travel around the country talking to utility workers, labor and industry leaders, I am finding that our call to Rebuild America is hitting the mark.
Most recently, I spoke at the City Club of Cleveland Roundtable. My message was clear: in order to have a thriving economy that works for everyone, be a world leader, and good environmental stewards, we need to rebuild our infrastructure. By doing so, hundreds of thousands of good, family-supporting jobs will be created.
It’s a no-brainer. Investing in the grid, pipelines, and our water and wastewater systems will bring huge returns.
So why isn’t it happening? In relatively small, but not insignificant ways, it is happening. Some cities and states are acting to repair and rebuild infrastructure, as are some utilities. But it needs to happen nationally. Everyone knows it and is looking to the federal government to make it happen in a big way.
The status quo in Washington isn’t working for anyone, except the 1%. The 99% are being left out and left behind. The same is true for the utility industry. Unless you are a big time stockholder, the status quo — run it ‘til it breaks mentality — isn’t cutting it.
We need an energy policy in this country that will benefit everyone. In order to achieve that, we need more people to say, “Enough is enough. It’s time to do what’s right. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get it done!”
Unfortunately, disasters are becoming the “wake up call.” You don’t need to look any further than Aliso Canyon, California, and Flint, Michigan for proof of this. These gas and water crises could have been avoided. And, we need to do whatever we can to see that such things do not happen again.
Fortunately, people are coming to the realization that we cannot be a first class country, capable of providing life-supporting services and family supporting jobs, without investing in our nation’s infrastructure. This is common sense.
Though their beliefs are quite different, the successes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders reflect widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo.
We are meeting with candidates for office and outlining our goals: we must do everything possible to start moving our water, gas, and electrical systems from the D- grade they currently receive from our nation’s engineers toward an A grade.
In 2013, we committed ourselves to the Repair America campaign with our labor and environmental allies in the BlueGreen Alliance. Since then we have engaged in activities to educate our members, policymakers, legislators, and the public. We are making progress. It’s slow, but it’s steady. If we want to protect our jobs, grow our union, and have a liveable planet for future generations, we have no choice.
We know better than anyone because we are first responders to natural and manmade disasters. When we talk about investing in infrastructure, we also look within ourselves and our union. That’s why so much emphasis is placed on skills training and continuous lifelong learning. This makes sure that UWUA members are the safest, most productive, most highly skilled utility workers in the world.
And as new technologies come online, we want to be positioned on the forefront to make sure our members are prepared.
Along with that, we want to better communicate to our members and the pubic all the positive things that utility workers do to provide life supporting water, gas, and electricity to our country. We are investing in our communications infrastructure to spread the good word about who we are and what we do.
So, as we continue down the path to Reclaim, Retrain, Repower, and Repair America, I say, let’s aim high, the sky is the limit!