In front of a sweeping view of the $7.2 billion Bay Bridge construction project, leaders of major labor and manufacturing groups held a press conference Monday to launch a new campaign challenging the offshoring of public infrastructure projects. The effort, entitled “Should Be Made in America,”plans to use the iconic new east span of the bridge a rallying symbol, given that much of it was manufactured in China.
The nationwide campaign, organized by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) and the United Steelworkers (USW), kicked off with two Oakland billboards noting the “100% Foreign Steel” used in the project. Organizers want policymakers to consider the broader economic advantages of sourcing domestically, not just the lower bids received from foreign, often Chinese firms.
AAM Executive Director Scott Paul:
Our campaign is designed to spark changes in federal, state, and local procurement policies. We are engaging the American public with real and practical ideas about how taxpayer money should be spent on rebuilding our nation. The problems with the Bay Bridge project could have been avoided if California officials had made it in America. Instead, the project is costing American jobs, undermining California’s environmental goals, and facing numerous delays.
The USW was particularly critical of the decision, given how helpful sourcing the project domestically would have been for its members.
USW District 12 Director Bob LaVenture:
The foreign steel was produced and fabricated in giant steel modules that made a 22-day journey across the Pacific Ocean to be welded in place to form the most expensive project in California history. The steel manufacturing could have been done here to benefit American workers, but Caltrans and the state’s political leadership failed in their economic vision.
Some elected officials are already embracing infrastructure insourcing. Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District Director-at-Large Joel Young spoke of his recent efforts to insource the manufacturing of at least $16.4 million worth of district buses from a Belgium-based firm to the Hayward-based Gillig. The deal will keep their full staff, which includes members of IBT Local 853 and IUPAT District 16, working for at least a year.
California will be spending billions on infrastructure over the next few decades. We need to invest those dollars in our communities to create jobs. When we put Californians to work, we generate revenue for the state and we spend less on our social safety net. It’s common sense.
Also participating in the event were the Blue Green Alliance, Oregon Iron Works, and the California Fair Trade Coalition (CFTC).
Beyond putting Californians to work, the CFTC is concerned that accepting bids from Chinese firms perpetuates a system of worker and environmental exploitation that allows cheaper production. Additionally, predatory trade practices such as currency manipulation and state industrial subsidies make it even more difficult for American workers to compete. Leveling the playing field will not only make it easier to create U.S. jobs, but will help put international pressure on China to improve labor practices and promote healthier communities.
But with over 12% unemployment in California, creating jobs is key.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:
No workers in the world are more productive than California workers. The Bay Bridge should have been 100% Made in America. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Our leaders must not make that mistake again.
Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t subsidize outsourcing. Those dollars should be putting Californians to work.