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New Federal Legislation Supports Unions and New York

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Several new federal laws will create thoudsands of good paying, safe union jobs, many of them for New Yorkers.

By Lisa Wright

Over the past 3 years, Congress has passed several federal laws to boost the economy, fight climate change, and rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. These laws will also create thousands of good-paying union jobs, many of them right here in New York.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law 

Signed back in November of 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water and high-speed internet, address climate change and environmental justice, and invest in underserved communities. 

An important element of the BIL is its commitment to creating thousands of union jobs across the country. To date, nearly $454 billion in funding is earmarked for 56,000 projects. One of these projects is Phase 1 of the Hudson Tunnel replacement. This project will repair damage from Hurricane Sandy and improve Amtrack and NJ Rail transportation between NY and NJ. It will also create 95,000 jobs—many of them union construction positions—and will create opportunities for valuable training through union partnerships. 

According to the Regional Plan Association, these partnerships could work like the Pathways To Apprenticeship (P2A) program, an organization Union Built Matters has reported on before. P2A recruits and trains individuals from low-income communities, with a focus on re-entry programs. These apprenticeships create opportunities for lifelong careers in stable, good-paying union construction jobs. 

The CHIPS and Science Act

Signed into law in 2022, the CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and Science Act will strengthen U.S. leadership in the field of semiconductors. The Act authorized $280 billion to increase research and manufacturing of semiconductors and will create tens of thousands of union construction jobs. Like the BIL, this initiative will bring together state and local governments, local businesses, communities, labor unions and other organizations to create meaningful and lucrative regional partnerships. 

Several chip manufacturers, including Micron Technology and GlobalFoundries have already received funding for the construction of brand-new chip factories in New York State, thanks to subsidies from this Act.

These 4 laws will provide enormous benefit to the nation in the form of infrastructure, social needs, and inflation reduction - all while providing solid union jobs.

Federal Inflation Reduction Act 

The Federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides funds to combat inflation, fight climate change, invest in domestic energy production, and reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The Act incentivizes the use of union labor by offering clean energy project developers tax credits if they pay prevailing wages and hire a minimum percentage of qualified, registered union apprentices. 

Funds from the Act support initiatives like New York City’s “Getting 97 Done,” a plan launched by NYC Mayor Adams in September of 2023. Through the Inflation Reduction Act, the city will be able to claim an estimated $625 million in tax credits and subsidies to comply with Local Law 97. Yet again, this will result in creating thousands of union construction jobs while building a cleaner city and future. 

Federal Project Labor Agreements

In 2022, Biden signed an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to use Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), in large-scale federal construction projects. (“Large scale” here is defined as federal contracts worth $35 million or more). PLAs, usually—but not always—result in the hiring of union labor. 

A PLA creates project-based bargaining agreements that negotiate wages, benefits, and safety protections before work is performed. PLAs often add requirements to use local businesses, hire minimum percentages of POC or women, and sometimes include special conditions to benefit disadvantaged communities. PLAs make projects run more efficiently, facilitate safer working conditions, and reduce project costs. Contractors on PLA projects can enjoy working with highly skilled workers without frustrating disruptions or delays. 

After this Executive Order is finalized, this is sure to translate into the creation of even more union construction jobs for New York’s laborers. 
 
Unions work best with the cooperation and partnership of local, state, and federal governments. A top-down approach with strong federal support for unions will not only make a direct contribution by creating new union jobs, but it’s sure to provide a ripple effect on our growing union movement. 

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Lisa Wright is a journalist and author of several books.

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