Monday, February 1, 2010

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO announces a new Good Jobs Agenda

Wisconsin Sustainable Jobs Act and high-speed rail development are a great start

Madison - A better economic future is possible for Wisconsin. Many of the jobs that we have lost during the Great Recession are not coming back but they can, and they must, be replaced with jobs that are just as good or better. Wisconsin doesn’t have to become a second-class state with high unemployment and a deteriorating standard of living.

We can rebuild Wisconsin with jobs that we can be proud of, but it will take a commitment from all of us to:
1. Create a Green Economy for working people.
2. Support and expand our manufacturing sector.
3. Strengthen the public services that make Wisconsin a great place to live.

As part of our Good Jobs Agenda, the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO strongly supports the Wisconsin Sustainable Jobs Act proposed by State Rep. Cory Mason. This legislation will help create a demand for skilled workers, and develop career pathways for potentially thousands of Wisconsin residents to move into family-supporting weatherization jobs.

“The Wisconsin Sustainable Jobs Act creates high-quality employment for individuals, as well as greater ecological and economic stability for our state. It will even contribute to energy independence for our nation. This is a win across the board,” says Phil Neuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer.

The legislation includes prevailing wage requirements; ensures that a percentage of all of the weatherization work is done by local, unemployed or low-income workers; and requires contractors to participate in apprenticeship programs.

“Rep. Mason should be commended for his attention to the needs of unemployed Wisconsin residents,” says Neuenfeldt. “It is critical that we hire within the state, train people properly, and make sure that they can support their families as they work towards a greener future for all of us.”

The unveiling of Wisconsin Sustainable Jobs Act comes on the heels of another important green jobs break through. Last week, Governor Jim Doyle and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced Wisconsin is receiving $823 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to build high-speed passenger rail service, creating an estimated 13,000 high-quality jobs.

Wisconsin is receiving $810 million to build high-speed passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Madison, including construction of track, passenger stations, signaling and other infrastructure improvements. Our state is also receiving $12 million to install crossovers between Chicago and Milwaukee. In addition to Wisconsin’s funding, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has received $1 million to make final determinations on a route between Wisconsin and the Twin Cities.

"These family-wage construction jobs are going to put a lot of our neighbors back on their feet," said Neuenfeldt. "Not only that, but thanks to the Obama and Doyle administrations, Wisconsin is poised to be the nation’s leader in high-speed rail manufacturing."

In July, Governor Doyle signed an agreement with the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo to establish new assembly and maintenance facilities in the state.

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Good Jobs Agenda

1. Create a Green Economy for working people.
Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force recommendations provide a needed platform from which to discuss the development of new jobs in the green economy. However, the green economy does not automatically translate into green dollars in the pockets of Wisconsin workers.
When Wisconsin taxpayers invest in the Green Economy, the jobs should stay in Wisconsin.

It is essential that workers in newly created green jobs be able to bargain for the wages, benefits and working conditions necessary to stabilize and rebuild our communities. The American middle class was created through the higher wages and benefits negotiated by millions of workers through their unions. In other words, green jobs should be union jobs.

2. Support and expand our manufacturing sector.
Wisconsin’s workforce is competitive in the global economy. Productivity, skill and quality set us apart, and will continue to do so as long as we make the investments needed to stay ahead.

Workforce training continues to be a priority, but retraining is pointless unless there are new jobs.

The manufacturing sector needs support through strategic and responsible public investment to help businesses replace outdated equipment and procedures with the technologies that will make new jobs possible.

3. Strengthen the public services that make Wisconsin a great place to live.
When public sector budgets are slashed it is a double blow. Not only do we lose family-sustaining jobs, but citizens who rely on our schools, courts, hospitals, public safety systems and other institutions are at risk of not receiving the quality services that they deserve.

There are currently over 3,000 vacant positions in state government alone, the result of employees who retired without being replaced, due to budget cuts.

Tight budgets are often used as an excuse to dismantle quality public services through outsourcing or privatizing public sector jobs. This often results in inferior service at a higher cost to taxpayers. Accurate cost-benefit analysis and strict accountability are needed any time that privatization is considered to protect the interest of taxpayers.

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