Building a new world...for who?
What does the infrastructure deal mean for working Minnesotans? Plus: will there be a special session in the MN legislature? Lots of things to talk about.
Time to strap in, folks! This newsletter is a bit longer than usual, it probably won’t even fit entirely in your email. There’s just so much juicy and important stuff I think you should know about—news, politics, celebration, jokes, heartbreak...
So let’s get this nugget of information out of the way…another MN legislature special session seems unlikely
MinnPost’s Walker Orenstein (@walkerorenstein) reports on Governor Walz’s statements in regards to convening a special session during a COVID-19 surge to pass frontline worker bonus pay and drought relief for farmers. The GOP threatened to remove Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. The governor, who’s been in Europe promoting Minnesota on a trade mission, doesn’t think the risk of losing her is worth it. 💔
Next up: Infrastructure!
On Monday, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal into law. The Brookings Institution called it a “generational commitment” to invest in infrastructure, similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Biden praised the deal for its job creation, calling it a victory in the global economic competition that addresses the needs of the people.
The state of Minnesota could receive billions. 💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰
In a press release, Laborers’ International Union of North America Minnesota & North Dakota President and Business Manager Joel Smith expressed gratitude to the representatives who voted for the bill:
“More than 3,000 LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota members and family members sent messages to their representatives urging them to pass the bill. The House’s approval of the infrastructure jobs bill will lead to the creation of hundreds of thousands of family-sustaining jobs across the country, which will help LIUNA members improve their livelihoods while rebuilding our communities and economy.”
Local news outlets have looked at what the bill means for Minnesotans, giving reactions from lawmakers and some union leaders, framing the news story around different issues. I’ve been keeping track of these stories, noting what pieces of dialogue are dominating coverage.
🎤 Axios Twin Cities summarized the press conference announcing the bill by legislators.
📰 KARE 11 collected brief statements from legislators.
🏗️ KSTP framed the bill around industry, as a step that would bridge a gap in the state’s infrastructure.
🇺🇸 MinnPost highlighted bipartisan and nonpartisan dialogue surrounding the bill.
👀 The Star Tribune framed a story around Representative Ilhan Omar’s vote against the bill, even though she wasn’t the only one who voted no. Another Strib story lays out where the state’s projects could benefit most from the bill, like our aging water systems and airports.
💭 Some thoughts.
The Republicans who voted against the bill used the opportunity to take a stance against socialism. On the other hand, Rep. Omar recognizes a community need for the bill to be passed alongside the Build Back Better Act. Congress is voting on that today!
This got me thinking about social infrastructure, or the idea that infrastructure is not just about roads, bridges, and telecommunications. It’s all of the shared spaces and systems and relational practices that keep our world functioning, like paid leave and healthcare (this includes a LOT of frontline essential workers—you know, the ones we’ve been calling heroes and failing to fairly compensate for their sacrifices). Some Democrats are referring to the BBB Act as “human infrastructure.”
On Tuesday, care workers and members of SEIU marched in Washington, D.C. in support of the BBB Act, more affordable and accessible healthcare, and protection of workers. #CareCantWait
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Build Back Better Act would also be a big job creator, enabling more working people to participate in the economy.
💭 Participating in the economy as a worker and consumer is one thing. But as the budgeting and implementation processes move forward, will working people get to be part of the conversation as much as business and industry?
Commentary from one of my favorite comedians:
🌎 Thinking about the bristling conversation on the infrastructure needs of Minnesota communities, my young, anxious, justice-oriented brain is constantly wondering about the climate crisis. If we keep neglecting how we’re destroying the environment, there will be no economy like the one we know today. Are we doing enough to protect the planet and its people right now and for generations to come? Who gets to be part of the conversation on infrastructure that builds climate resiliency? Are green jobs the solution?
The Blue Green Alliance, a national coalition of labor unions and environmental organizations, held a press conference today calling on Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act. The members made points about the economy and inflation, and also released a data analysis on the investments in the act.
Executive Director Jason Walsh quoted the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone in his introduction speech: “It’s our partnership’s guiding principle that Americans shouldn’t have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. We can and must have both. We now have an historic opportunity to see that principle realized in federal legislation…we all do better when we all do better. We are here to urge the US House of Representatives to pass the build back better act in the coming days and Congress to get this over the finish line in the coming weeks to start delivering these jobs benefits to workers and communities so we can all do better.”
Roxanne Brown, International Vice President from United Steelworkers talked about the efforts to pass the act: “Our union along with the entire labor movement is excited that President Biden signed the 1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill into law on Monday. And we were proud to do the work to help get that bill over the finish line…the main goal of our We Supply America campaign has been to help pass both the physical and social Build Back Better infrastructure bills. Together they represent an historic 3 trillion dollar investment in the American worker and the American family.”
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club talked about uniting the labor and environmental movements: “Collectively and individually, we see fighting climate change not just as an obligation, but an opportunity. An opportunity to promote environmental, economic, and racial justice all at the same time.”
James Williams Jr., General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades said the infrastructure bill isn’t enough: “We in the construction industry are gonna benefit from having jobs, but they gotta be good paying jobs, and the Build Back Better Act takes us to another level. It’s the first piece of legislation that could be generational change for how we treat the working class in this country…it’s not good enough to just have a job. We have to live in a clean society.”
Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of National Wildlife Federation: “This will be the largest investment in climate action, in natural resource restoration, community resilience and revitalization, clean air and clean water, and good jobs since the New Deal…I’ll kinda be damned if we’re gonna spend the next 30 years buying solar panels from China, buying offshore wind turbines from Germany, buying electric vehicles from Japan, all those things can be made here. This puts us on a path to a have a clean energy future actually made in America.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts! How do you feel about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal as a worker? How do you feel about the Build Back Better Act? How would this affect your job or the industry you’re in? What is a “green job” and what is it like?
🎉 Congrats to the Minnesota Historical Society!
AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl welcomed 300 new workers in a press release:
“Workers are choosing our union known for empowering rank-and-file members and local unions to take action that improves the lives of all working people in the workplace and our communities. This successful organizing victory comes on the wave of many workers unionizing to demand stronger, safer, and more resiliant workplaces all across Minnesota and our country."
🐴 Teamsters Local 120 election results
Members of Teamsters 120 elected Tom Erickson as Central Region Vice President, the first Minnesotan to be in a leadership position.
From a press release:
Erickson and the entire Teamsters United slate, led by Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman, are here “to rebuild the Teamsters as a militant, fighting Union from bottom to top.”
🚌 Bus drivers with Teamsters Local 320 vote to authorize a strike if mediation fails
Last week, nearly 100 Teamsters Local 320 members, including bus drivers and dispatchers, voted to authorize a strike. They start mediation in December. From the press release:
“If the District doesn’t increase its economic offer and address the other significant issues we’ve put on the bargaining table we have been authorized to engage in a full-scale work stoppage with active picket lines and ambulatory pickets at the schools,” says Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 Secretary Treasurer and principal Officer. “Every independent school district in Minnesota is facing a bus driver shortage but Teamsters are prepared to do something about it where the administration and politicians have failed.”
😵💫 Would You Manage 70 Children And A 15-Ton Vehicle For $18 An Hour?
Science writer Maggie Koerth (@maggiekb1) writes about the bus driver labor shortage and how it affects mostly working women and families for FiveThirtyEight:
As the bus driver shortage continues, parents and drivers, often women on both sides, have been stretched to the breaking point as they try to do more with less — less time, less money, less help, less of a sense of safety and respect. “This problem existed before COVID, but nobody wanted to hear about it, especially the school districts,” said Zina Ronca, a driver supervisor for DuVall Bus Service in West Grove, Pennsylvania, who has been in the industry for nearly two decades. There haven’t been enough school bus drivers nationwide for years. But it took a pandemic to make that shortage visible and painful to more than just the drivers themselves.
🤣 “Here...we’re family. And you employees are children.”
ICYMI: John Oliver from Last Week Tonight injected his classic satirical humor into the conversation on union busting.
Jokes can be medicine, too. We are each other’s harvest.