For California construction and building trades workers, there hasn’t been much good news lately. The state’s unemployment rate jumped to 10.3 percent this week. The housing industry has taken a beating as the economic crisis worsens. State infrastructure projects were idled by the California budget stalemate.
Still, the mood at Friday’s “Putting the Bay Area Back to Work” forum in Concord, Calif., with U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher was decidedly upbeat. Instead of hearing about layoffs and budget deficits, workers finally got a dose of good news—federal stimulus money was going to put Californians back to work, and soon.
To a packed crowd of more than 100 local union and community members, Tauscher, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski, Bay Area labor leaders and California State Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Director Will Kempton detailed the impact of the ”American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” on Bay Area workers, especially in the construction and transportation industries. Said Kempton:
It is about jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s all about the creation of new employment and getting the economy back on track.
California stands to receive more money than any other state from the recently enacted stimulus package. In total, California was allocated about $4.5 billion for transportation and infrastructure projects. Some $2.6 billion of this money will go toward highway construction and $1.1 billion for transit projects. There may be additional money allocated to the state in “discretionary” funds.
Tauscher, whose leadership on the House Transportation Committee was key to passing the job-creating measurers, said the stimulus package will create jobs and jump-start the Northern California economy in the coming months. Tauscher predicted that the total stimulus investment will create 396,000 new jobs for California and 8,100 in Contra Costa County alone.
In the face of a severe economic crisis, we’ve taken bold and decisive action by approving an economic recovery and reinvestment package to get our economy back on track. This is a solid first step to put Americans back to work and get our economy growing again.
Union leaders stressed the timeliness and importance of the stimulus investment for California’s workers, especially in the suffering building and construction industries.
Pulaski hailed the stimulus package as
“a light at the end of the tunnel” for California workers who have been
hit as hard as any in the country by the economic crisis.
Every day, jobs are lost, layoffs mount and 1,000 California families lose their homes. That’s why it’s so essential for us to have this money to help Californians get back to work again.
Russ Burns, a business manager of Operating Engineers Local 3, which represents some 50,000 members statewide, stressed the importance of immediately putting construction workers back to work.
Our health and welfare, our pensions, and our livelihoods all depend on getting work started today. Most of us are seasonally employed, that is, when winter rolls around, we’ll get laid off again. So we need to get back to work now.
-- By Tula Connell
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