On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Senator Barbara Boxer addressed a crowd of construction workers, airport officials and the media at a press conference organized by the Oakland Port Authority. It felt like d&eaceacute;jà-vu, as I had stood there at the same spot less than three weeks earlier at a similar press conference that helped turn the tide in getting an FAA reauthorization extension bill approved, just as the politicians were about to go on their summer recess. But this time, there were a few things different: the gate to the job site was open, the crane was set up and working, there were close to 100 construction workers there, and Senator Barbara Boxer was in attendance.
Before Sen. Boxer arrived, electrician Rich Zemlok, a member of IBEW Local 595 who works at the job site and who spoke at the last press conference said, “We build America. Let’s put America back to work.” The last time around, they were able to get a temporary extension to the FAA reauthorization bill, but that expires on Sept. 16.
The Oakland Control Tower project is just one of many construction projects across the state and nation that were stopped due to political maneuvering or what Senator Barbara Boxer called being “held hostage by her opponents in Washington.” She spoke on many topics, saying “they are all related,” beginning by saying, “We are here to talk about three things, Jobs, Jobs and Jobs.” Among other things, she went on to say that “we cannot afford to turn our back on the bread and butter, the FAA and the highway transportation bill.”
Boxer went on to say,
The people of the Bay Area expect to have safe airports. This is a safety project. The FAA bill has a next-gen system and will move us forward. Right now we’re on an old ground-based system, and the next gen system will move us forward. The FAA bill will save about 200,000 jobs. Let’s get it done!
We all know that Sept. 16 is not far away, and I hope that I am not at another press conference, in about a month’s time, at this same site, highlighting yet another work stoppage that is being used as a political football. Playing football might be appropriate due to the construction site's proximity to the Oakland Raiders practice facility, but it is not appropriate to use the jobs and the lives of the working men and women who work these jobs as political footballs.
The unemployment rate in the construction industry alone is 15% -20% or more depending on the trade and many of these people have not worked much if at all in the past year or two. So let’s stop playing with the lives of the working men and women of this country and as Rich Zemlok said, put America back to work.