Unions plan $10bn US infra initiative

The AFL-CIO, a 12 million member federation of labour unions, is leading an initiative to increase both public and private infrastructure investment in the US.

A 12 million member labour federation has started an initiative to bring together pension funds, businesses, politicians and government agencies to raise at least $10 billion for US infrastructure over the next five years.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which includes 55 international and US labour unions, announced a plan yesterday to address the US “public infrastructure deficit” by attracting investment from both public and private sources, according to a statement.

Mark Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO building and construction trades department, said in a statement that the unions are “ready, willing and able to work with any and all partners to map out a multi-year plan of infrastructure investment”. He said he expected that union commitments would “generate comparable levels of private investment”.

A spokesperson for the AFL-CIO was not available to comment on the specifics of the plan at press time. But Randi Weingarten, president of the Federation of American Teachers, an AFL-CIO affiliate with 1.5 million members, suggested that public employee pension funds could play a role. Weingarten said in a statement that “investing public pension funds, when done prudently, may be an avenue” to rebuilding the US’ infrastructure.

Earlier this year, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka came out in support of infrastructure bank legislation sponsored by four US Senators – Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.  The legislation, also endorsed by US Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donohue, aims to create about $600 billion in infrastructure investment, beginning with an initial funding commitment of $10 billion from the federal government.

The AFL-CIO plan, announced at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago, includes training 40,000 workers in new “green” technology skills, as well as a $20 million AFL-CIO commitment to retrofit public buildings over the next year, according to a statement.