For immediate release
November 16, 2021
Via D. Taylor, UNITE HERE International Union President and Marlene Patrick Cooper, UNITE HERE Local 23 President representing 500 Amtrak workers
Yesterday, President Biden signed into law the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a substantial bill that will put millions to work and improve the lives and livelihoods of workers and families across the U.S. UNITE HERE strongly supports this life-changing legislation, which will directly impact the hospitality and transportation industry workers we represent, as well as our union and non-union siblings in other industries.
Unfortunately, much of the coverage of this bill has focused on process over substance; as the union representing low-wage workers in the hospitality industry, we believe the IIJA is a reflection of this President’s commitment to address the needs of the people not just wealthy interests. These are just a few of the most impactful pieces of the IIJA.
For one, folks might not be aware that this bill is the largest investment in passenger rail since the founding of Amtrak. It will help to undo years of GOP attacks – through anti-labor outsourcing schemes – on a profession that has historically employed Black workers. UNITE HERE Local 23 represents hundreds of On Board Services workers on Amtrak trains who will directly benefit from the largest investment in passenger rail in U.S. history. Looking ahead, it will give our union the chance to lift working standards and open the door to opportunity for more on-board workers.
This bill will also undo years of attacks on public services. The investment in public transit in particular will impact thousands of UNITE HERE members who rely on it to get to work. Like so many low-wage workers across the U.S., many hospitality workers have historically missed out on opportunities simply because of lack of accessible transportation. We know from decades of experience that access to safe, affordable and reliable public transportation is a major factor in helping working people escape poverty. The investment in this bill will help remedy some of that problem.
Climate change investments are another big-ticket and urgent item in the infrastructure bill. We are seeing the need for these investments unfolding right now as our members in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast are still recovering from just the latest climate disaster in Hurricane Ida. It is folks like our members in tourist areas constantly hit by climate devastation who will see a direct benefit from the investments of the IIJA.
These are just a few provisions that will impact UNITE HERE hospitality workers directly—but there’s plenty more that will impact our union and non-union siblings in other industries. We encourage folks not to sleep on this bill—it’s a big deal that will yield real benefits to our members and all working people for many years
Now, we look ahead to the rest of the work to improve the livelihoods of workers and families in the U.S.—we call on Democrats to continue onward with President Biden’s “Build Back Better Agenda,” which will further improve the lives of folks like our members fighting to ensure a post-pandemic recovery in which we can all Come Back Stronger.