Iowa Labor Leader: Infrastructure Bill Path to Middle Class for Iowans

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Bill Gerhard sees the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as a path to the middle class for some Iowans.

“There’s very few jobs that you can get that you don’t have to go to college for that can provide a living wage, health insurance, and a pension program, and construction is still one of those areas,” said Gerhard, president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trade Council.

Gerhard’s group represents a large portion of skilled laborers, including boilermakers, construction workers, carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, and more.

The US Senate passed the $1.2 trillion bill last Tuesday. Iowa’s senators split their votes—Chuck Grassley joined 18 fellow Republicans in supporting the measure while Joni Ernst did not—and the measure has not been taken up in the US House of Representatives yet.

According to the White House, at a minimum Iowa would receive $3.4 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $432 for bridge replacements over a five-year span.

A 2019 USA Today report ranked Iowa’s infrastructure as the third-worst in the country. The condition of Iowa’s bridges alone has been scrutinized by many organizations over the years and the White House promises the bill will be the “largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.”

Gerhard is excited to see progress on the infrastructure bill, something he noted is long overdue.

“How long have we been talking about infrastructure,” he asked. “When was the last big infrastructure package—decades ago? I don’t know, I’m driving on potholes right now.”

Besides roads and bridges, the bill earmarks $638 million for water infrastructure, $305 million for public transportation, $51 million in direct funding to building an electric-vehicle charging network, $100 million for broadband development—another area Iowa lags in—and more.

Should it be enacted, it could be a boon for the more than a dozen labor organizations Gerhard represents through the council, as well Iowans tired of bad roads and slow internet.

“You know as well as I do, infrastructure makes our whole country more competitive when it comes to moving merchandise, corn, beans, grains, and everything around,” Gerhard said. “The better the infrastructure the better we can be on the world market. I don’t see any downside to this.”

 

by Ty Rushing
08/18/21

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