By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor
U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh paid a visit to Toledo and Laborers Local 500 on Tuesday, August 17, to talk up the Biden Administration’s $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He was accompanied by U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who voiced her support for the Act, but also demanded more.
Local 500 Business Manager David Fleetwood served as master of ceremonies for the event that was held at the Local 500 training facilities on Nebraska Avenue. The morning breakfast, closed to the public, was attended by a number of laborers, city and county officials and local agency leaders.
Fleetwood introduced Walsh as a “lifelong champion of equity … committed to creating an economy that works for everyone.”
Walsh, a union leader from Boston, was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1997, then as mayor of Boston in 2013 and was appointed to his current Labor Secretary position when President Joe Biden assumed office. He was certainly at home in front of a labor audience at the Local 500 facility.
“We have a president that wants to fight to make sure we rebuild the middle class, and build bake better,” he said defending the administration’s economic plan. “There have been 4.1 million jobs added to the economy by the Biden Harris administration.”
However, Walsh was in Toledo to talk about the infrastructure act just passed by the U.S. Senate and now in the U.S. House of Representatives awaiting passage.
“We have talked about an infrastructure bill for the last four years, for the last eight years,” said Walsh. “This is the first time in my memory that a major piece of legislation has gone through borh parties.”
The administration’s infrastructure bill was passed by the Senate with all 50 Democratic votes and 19 Republican votes.
Now, the House has the bill on its agenda and the split among moderates, progressives and mainstream Democrats are fully on display. Nine House moderates have sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, demanding that the Senate version pass as is. Pelosi has said she wants the House to take on both the current infrastructure bill and a much larger $3.5 trillion budget bill simultaneously.
Kaptur, in her speech to the labor union explained her support for the infrastructure package and her desire that more be added, particularly to aid the upper Midwest states.
“This is the first time, in my career, we have a chance to make a difference,” she said of the infrastructure bill. “There will be a lot of negotiation,” she added of the ongoing process.
Kaptur then explained, addressing the secretary more than her labor audience, that she was dismayed that money for rail for the upper Midwest was not a part of the legislation. “We are not in the infrastructure bill here,” she noted.
Describing the Chicago, to Cleveland, to New York route as “the fifth most congested corridor in the country,” she took issue that dollars for that corridor are sorely lacking unlike the case of the congested East and West coast routes.
“We need someone to care about the industrial heartland of the country; we need a voice, Mr. Secretary. We gotta have modernized rail here.”
Addressing power and energy, Kaptur turned to the current scandal involving First Energy. The company has agreed to pay $230 million fine for its role in a bribery scheme. The purpose of the scheme was to get legislation passed for a $1 billion bailout for two of its power plants in Ohio.
“You are gonna give billions to those crooks?” she asked Walsh. “Kaptur is going to be tough in the House,” she promised the secretary and her labor audience.
Shifting to the subject of the push to electrify automobiles, Kaptur expressed concern about the possibility that the Midwest industrial area will suffer if a manufacturing plan is not implemented before such a massive change occurs. She noted that electric cars will need far fewer moving parts that the current combustion engines use. She called for an office to be established in the White House “that plans for readjustment – we need a plan for this to be done systematically.”
“Our part of America has been heavily harmed by past administrations that didn’t care,” she added.