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Politics & Government

Biden's Labor Secretary Visits Springfield, Promotes Infrastructure Investment

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Brian Bull
/
KLCC

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh came to Springfield today to highlight President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.  This followed the Senate’s passage of a sweeping infrastructure bill.

Secretary Walsh toured a training facility for Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 290. Such sites are essential to preparing workers to meet new infrastructure demands, with more eco-friendly systems.  Walsh says the president has tied jobs to climate reform.

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Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio speaks at today's news event.

“And he tied it to the opportunity for not just combating climate change, and having a greener society, with charging stations and EV vehicles and all that, he also talked about that we have to build that infrastructure, and that’s quite honestly what we’re seeing here with the infrastructure bill as it moves forward.” 

Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio added Biden’s agenda will tackle emerging hazards across the Pacific Northwest.

“We have to build back resilient to earthquakes, and now we find out resilient to fire. We had communities that had plastic sewer and water mains.  Guess what? They melted.” 

The Build Back Better Agenda also aims to improve the cost of living and workforce training.

The Senate’s passage of the $1-trillion infrastructure bill sets it up for potentially contentious reconciliation in the House.

DeFazio says while he’s pleased that there was bipartisan support, skepticism from Republicans over climate change caused concessions in this latest version.

“I had way more investment in fossil fuel reduction and we’re hoping to fix that through this so-called reconciliation process, which is the next big fight coming in Washington," DeFazio told KLCC.  "And we’re going to start the reconciliation process in the House.  And we’re going to get a big number. And we’re going to meaningfully deal with climate change.  

"We had a report on Monday, the planet is dying. We’ve already reached a tipping point. If we go further, it’s going to be totally catastrophic.” 

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Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Labor representatives of Local 290 meet with U.S. Labor Sec. Marty Walsh and Rep. DeFazio.

Some Congressional Republicans have attacked the reconciliation process as partisan or something that’ll eventually add to the national debt.

House Democrats won’t need GOP votes to pass their reconciliation bill, but they will need unanimous support from their own party.   

Meanwhile, Secretary Walsh says it’s too soon to tell what effects a new infrastructure bill will have on the American labor market. As the legislation heads to the House for reconciliation, Walsh did say recent efforts are brightening the outlook. 

“The American Rescue Plan, the investments in that first plan that went through

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Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Inside the training facility, a laborer grinds at some newly-welded metal as part of their hands-on learning.

the legislature; we’re still seeing the benefits of that.  Four million new jobs since President Biden took over.  Unemployment rate of 5.6%   We still have a ways to go.

"There’s still room for growth in the hospitality industry, there’s still room for growth in the restaurant industry, there’s room for growth in the government sector and the manufacturing sector, so I think that’s where we’ll probably see the jobs over the course of the next couple months.” 

Walsh shared his outlook while visiting with labor representatives at the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 290 Apprentice and Journeyman Training Institute.  He said the employment sector would also improve after more Americans get the COVID-19 vaccine. Otherwise, the economy could, quote – “take a step backwards.”

Copyright 2021, KLCC.