AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, whose death was announced Thursday by the labor organization he led since 2009, warned that the economy was “at a crossroads” and stood a chance of slipping if lawmakers did not give more than lip service to passing an infrastructure bill this year.
In addition to creating jobs and lowering unemployment, “investing in roads and bridges and transit and climate mitigation and all of those things will make America stronger and more competitive,” Trumka, who was 72, asserted during a Bloomberg podcast on July 23, a week before compromise infrastructure legislation was unveiled.
“I think everybody, the labor side and the employer side, is saying, ‘Let’s get going and get this thing done.’ Things could get derailed, but I think that will not happen, because both sides [of the political aisle] want this because they know the importance of investing in the nation’s infrastructure.”
AFL-CIO Communications Director Tim Schlittner said in a statement that the labor movement “lost a legend,” and that the 56 unions and 12.5 million members of the AFL-CIO “mourn the passing of our fearless leader and commit to honoring his legacy with action.”
The trillion-dollar infrastructure package being negotiated in the Senate is just a quarter of what Trumka advocated for in 2019, while testifying on Capitol Hill.
“We think it takes $2 trillion over 10 years to get us up to good working order and then another $2 trillion over almost that same 10 years to get us into the 21st century where we have a grid that is more dependable and actually more efficient and saves money,” Trumka said.
He and Chris Spear, American Trucking Associations president and CEO, who testified at the same hearing, both supported raising the gas tax to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent.
“Personally, it was a privilege to work with Richard Trumka during the past three decades on labor and trade issues,” Spear said in a statement.
“He was a battle-hardened and passionate advocate for those he represented and someone I personally and professionally admired and respected. Testifying alongside him on infrastructure and funding solutions, we were able to demonstrate that, despite policy and political divides, business and labor can work together to make sure Congress puts good-paying American jobs before their own.”
Trumka was also a huge backer of the PRO Act, proposed legislation that would bring California’s ABC test into one federal definition of an independent contractor, and seen by trucking interests as a potential disruptor to trucking’s independent contractor model.
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