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AFL-CIO outlines investment plan for infrastructure, training

The AFL-CIO on Wednesday outlined a major “commitment to action” to bring public and private partners together to encourage both workers’ capital and skilled labor to promote large-scale investments in America’s infrastructure. The pioneering commitment, announced at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago, will seek to solve problems affecting our nation’s ability to create good jobs, address our public infrastructure deficit and the threats posed to the environment and our economy by the way in which we use energy.

“We at the AFL-CIO believe that together, with our partners in business and government, we can profitably invest significant resources to make America more competitive and energy-efficient,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The AFL-CIO and our 55 member unions and 12 million members are in the business of solving America’s problems. Here’s one place where we can help, and that’s what we intend to do, starting right now.”

To address the obstacles to profitable, job creating investments, Trumka said the AFL-CIO will work together with a variety of parties, including pension funds and their managers, training funds, federal, state and local governments, contractors, financial institutions and non-profits in three main areas of approach:

1. Supporting Investment in Public Infrastructure: Work together with business and government to promote infrastructure investment with a goal of at least $10 billion in new funding over the next 5 years.

2. Facilitate Investment in Particular Projects by Existing Funds: At least $20 million in labor movement affiliated funds invested in energy-efficient retrofits of commercial, industrial, institutional and public buildings over the next 12 months. Taking a first step, the AFL-CIO is immediately issuing a Request for Proposal to solicit bids to conduct an energy-efficient retrofit of its headquarters in Washington, DC.

3. Expansion of Worker Training: Train 40,000 new apprentices in specialty welding and other new green technologies required in 21st century construction, and provide skill upgrades and certifications for 100,000 mid-career construction workers over the next year.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Building and Construction Trades President Mark Ayers participated in Wednesday’s announcement to detail the partnership with investors, the government, and businesses.

“The time is now to become intensely focused on the creation of jobs,” said Ayers, who is leading the charge to train 40,000 people for high-skill construction jobs. “America’s building trades unions are ready, willing and able to work with any and all partners to map out a multi-year plan of infrastructure investment and make it the centerpiece of an ongoing economic recovery program. Such investments represent a tremendous source of economic growth that would generate comparable levels of private investment and provide millions of new jobs for American skilled craft workers.”

Weingarten has been leading a working group of public sector unions focused on infrastructure investment.

“We need to find new and smart ideas to both create jobs and rebuild our country’s infrastructure,” she said. “Investing public pension funds, when done prudently, may be an avenue to do just that.  All of us need to be engaged in forming partnerships that will create thousands of new jobs, revitalize our communities and make our country more competitive.”

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings, which take place in New York each September, have brought together nearly 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, along with heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made nearly 2,000 commitments, which have already improved the lives of 300 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued in excess of $63 billion. The 2011 Annual Meeting will take place September 19-22 in New York City.

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