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ND Unions Applaud Infrastructure Bill Passage

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Tuesday, November 9, 2021   

FARGO, N.D. -- Labor leaders said North Dakota is poised to benefit from a boost in federal infrastructure spending, after the public works package cleared its final Congressional hurdle.

Late last week, the House gave approval to a more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

The White House estimated North Dakota could receive around $2 billion for road and bridge repairs, and there is a possibility of $26 million to add more electric-vehicle (EV)
charging stations.

Jason Ehlert, president of North Dakota's Building Trades Unions, said their members work in all kinds of energy production, and would welcome advancing the network for EV's.

"That's gonna create more jobs, more opportunities, and ultimately just bolsters the market," Ehlert asserted.

He pointed out North Dakota unions also are excited about provisions to boost training in the trades, creating lasting pathways for those who enter the profession. But he said members remain worried about the lack of access to child care, while alluding to funding possibilities under Build Back Better, the broader spending package still being debated.

The unions argued lack of care access hurts families and their ability to work.

Landis Larson, president of the North Dakota AFL-CIO, said as for the infrastructure bill, there is also beefed-up enforcement when it comes to companies crossing legal boundaries to thwart union-organizing efforts.

"It's happened many times in many organizing campaigns," Larson recounted. "They fire some of the big movers and shakers, and if they do get found guilty, they just have to pay the lost wages."

Erick Brekke, president of the Northern Plains United Labor Council, said whether it's immediate job opportunities or enhanced training, the infrastructure bill sends a strong message.

"It allows us to have more jobs, but two, it also gets the word out there these are not just jobs, but great careers to get out there and everybody has a workplace shortage," Brekke noted.

Among the training provisions is an extension of apprenticeships to marginalized groups, including women and people of color. As for Build Back Better, the plan remains hung up in negotiations with some lawmakers saying it is too costly.

Disclosure: North Dakota AFL-CIO contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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