Labor and Environmentalists Unite to Push for Transportation Reforms

The BlueGreen Alliance, a union of labor and environmental interests, has released its own vision for a transportation reauthorization. The alliance has made the reauthorization one of its top priorities for the year.

Labor and environmental groups are pushing for transportation reform and a new authorization bill. Photo: GreenDiary

Just as business and labor have found a lot they agree on when it comes to infrastructure, so have environmentalists and labor. “As debate begins in Congress on reauthorization of a highway bill, which would be the single biggest job creation legislation there is, we believe the choice for elected leaders is abundantly clear,” Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ Union (LIUNA), told reporters today. “It’s a no brainer… we believe we’ve waited way too long to pass a highway bill.”

The alliance supports the president’s transportation framework and says EPW Committee Chair Barbara Boxer’s legislative outline is “headed in the right direction.” Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, on the other hand, calling for cutting transportation budgets by a third, they call “a jobs-killer.”

Carl Pope, chair of the Sierra Club, called for an “all-American” transportation system. “Right now we’re relying primarily on an OPEC and Saudi transportation system.” He said that as far back as the 1830s, when the U.S. was building a federal transportation system that provided an alternative to “marine shipping controlled by foreign powers,” there were those who said it wasn’t the job of the federal government. Still today, conservatives try to restrain the federal role. But, Pope said, the decision to create a federal transportation system was key to “America’s economic greatness.”

The BlueGreen Alliance wants the U.S. to:

  • Modernize transportation infrastructure and make it more efficient, keeping it safe and in good repair (though they underscore that this should not be read as a call to restrain new construction)
  • Green transportation infrastructure by investing in transit, rail, high-speed rail, and biking and walking infrastructure to reduce congestion and save oil and time
  • Support flexibility for transit operating assistance – a centerpiece demand of transit supporters, as transit agencies struggling with tight budgets are forced to cut service and lay off workers just as ridership is growing
  • Build cleaner cars and trucks in the U.S. and the electrification infrastructure to support them
  • Support cleaner ports and freight so that 87 million Americans will no longer have to live and work near ports that violate federal air quality standards and 100,000 U.S. truck drivers, many of them uninsured and not covered by worker protections, will no longer be vulnerable to preventable diseases
  • Create quality U.S. jobs by ensuring that Davis-Bacon wage protections are included in the reauthorization and that Buy America provisions help keep jobs stateside. (This is not an uncontroversial position: although Buy America is a great way to gain political support, it can make equipment more expensive, further taxing transit agency budgets.)