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Unions Like Buttigieg for Transportation Secretary

Trans unions applaud his commitment to "transformational infrastructure projects"

Brian Young's picture
Dec 16, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden made history on Wednesday when he announced that former South Bend Indiana Mayor and his one-time Presidential rival Pete Buttigieg would be his choice for Transportation Secretary. If confirmed, Buttigieg would be the first LGBTQ person to be a Senate approved Cabinet member. (Trump appointed the first openly gay Cabinet member in Rick Grenell, but he only served in an acting role.)

The Transportation Department is expected to play a major role in Biden’s “Build Back Better” campaign since the department is tasked with dealing with many infrastructure projects. Some areas where Buttigieg will be in charge of include interstate highways, railways, and overseeing the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

On the campaign trail, Buttigieg laid out a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that prioritized upgrading the country's crumbling infrastructure and expanding broadband internet access through payment to state and local governments. As mayor, he spearheaded a number of infrastructure projects, including a program to make the city's sewers "smart" as a way to prevent flooding and a plan that got rid of a number of one-way streets in South Bend's downtown in an effort to revitalize the area.

“Pete Buttigieg is committed to transformational infrastructure investment that creates good jobs and he is ready to lead the fight for transportation workers,” said TWU President John Samuelsen. “The TWU is looking forward to working with Secretary-designate Buttigieg to invest in public transit, raise safety standards for aircraft maintenance, prioritize Amtrak, and ensure that workers benefit from new technologies like autonomous vehicles as our economy grows. After talking to him, I believe he is going to bring a level of leadership that has been nonexistent to the secretary of transportation job. I’m confident he will have an open door when it comes to the issues that organized labor is concerned about and that there will be an open dialogue.”

UCOMM Blog previously reported that the TWU was lobbying Biden against former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, so the selection of Buttigieg was welcomed news for the union.

“The IAM applauds President-elect Biden on nominating Pete Buttigieg, the first openly LBGTQ+ nominee candidate in U.S. history, to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation,” Sito Pantoja, IAM general vice president for transportation, wrote. “This nomination is welcome news for the more than 100,000 IAM members working in the transportation industry.”

The AFL-CIO also released a statement saying that they looked forward to working with the former Mayor and noted that during his campaign he committed to strengthening unions and growing their power, a promise that the AFL-CIO is sure to hold him accountable for as his department dispenses billions of dollars in prevailing wage contracts to rebuild transportation infrastructure.

Unions are also weighing in on Biden’s selection last week of Katherine Tai to be the United States Trade Representative (USTR). In this role, Tai will be in charge of the United State’s trade agenda and unions hope that she will push for a more worker-friendly trade policy. Tai worked on trade policy under President Obama and for the House Ways and Means Committee. From 2011 until 2014 she worked on prosecuting US trade cases against China in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"As president of the largest union of electrical workers in North America, trade policy is vital to the livelihoods of my members and their families,” said IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson. “That is why I’m supportive of Katherine Tai as the next United States Trade Representative. She possesses deep policy expertise and a commitment to trade policies that support good jobs and fair trade, making her the best candidate for the job. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to forge a new direction for international trade that puts working people and our communities first.”

The AFL-CIO also released a statement saying her nomination was a stark departure from the failed policies of the past, but they noted that there is still a lot of work to do to forge a new trade policy that puts workers first.

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