Federation of Labor Communications Director Steve Smith describes how
President Obama’s economic recovery package is key to bringing
much-needed jobs to the state’s economy:
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
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
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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