Balancing the Budget on the Backs of Working Families? Not on Our Watch.

Larry Willis President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

In case you missed it, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — the non-partisan office that provides budget and economic analysis to Congress — issued a report this week suggesting ways that Congress might reduce our current, historically high budget deficit. Surely they recommended rolling back outsized corporate tax cuts, and didn’t suggest something as absurd as scaling back highway funding and ending all federal investments in transit, intercity passenger rail and air travel, and airport improvements, right?

Wrong.

Let me be crystal clear: our nation’s infrastructure is our economic competitive advantage in a global economy. The frontline workers who design, build, operate, and maintain our infrastructure ensure that small business owners can keep the doors open and their employees paid. They move the most productive workforce in the world to and from their jobs safely and efficiently each day. They provide a lifeline to rural communities that too often feel like they are being left behind. They deliver our mail. They get our kids to school. They fly our airplanes and keep our passengers safe and comfortable. They move the goods we buy on and off of ships, and operate the trains that carry them to every corner of our country.

What’s more, we know as a matter of fact, that investing in infrastructure has one of the greatest multiplier effects in federal spending. The CBO’s own estimates state that for every dollar our government invests in infrastructure, we can expect up to $2.50 in GDP growth. Not to mention that for every billion dollars we invest into our must-have infrastructure, an additional 21,000 jobs are created across multiple sectors of our economy.

These aren’t just any jobs. Because of high union density in transportation and infrastructure, working people in these sectors enjoy higher pay, better benefits, safer working conditions, and stronger job security than their non-union counterparts (the CBO also suggests eliminating the prevailing wage requirements that ensure the high quality of those jobs — yet another disastrous proposal in this report). Considering wages for workers have flatlined, these are exactly the kinds of jobs and worker protections we need right now.

So when someone tells me that we are going to balance our budget on the backs of America’s working families, I say this: you have got to be kidding me.

To be sure, this isn’t the first assault we have seen on transportation spending. The current Administration has proposed similar cuts in each of their annual budget proposals (more commonly known as “the door stop” in most Congressional offices). And routinely, Congress does the right thing by ignoring them, because they understand that our 100-year-old tunnels, aging transit systems, and crowded airports cannot keep pace with the growing demands of our economy without additional investment. Put simply: the CBO has a problem if it thinks the answer to our economic woes is arbitrarily cutting the very services that drive our economy. It is the legislative equivalent of stabbing yourself in the foot and then asking why you’re bleeding.

So once again, transportation labor calls on Congress to ignore these disastrous recommendations, and to do the right thing for working people, our country, and our economy.

If you want to have a real discussion about the budget, treat the conversation with the seriousness it deserves and understand how devastating these cuts would be to America’s working families and to our nation’s long-term economic wellbeing.

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Reposted from TTD

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

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