This op-ed appeared in the Springfield Republican on June 17, 2019.
By Frank Callahan – President, Massachusetts Building Trades Council
Dan D’Alma – Business Manager, IBEW Local 7
By many accounts, Springfield is in the midst of a resurgence. After being on the brink of bankruptcy 15 years ago, today the city is on sound financial footing, having eradicated a $41 million deficit. What’s more, new industries are locating here and public and private infrastructure projects are coming in to the tune of $3 billion. You’d think all of that investment would add up to a strong economy and a secure workforce. But despite the city’s improved economic outlook, the picture isn’t quite so rosy for many of the families that call Springfield home. A quarter of the city’s residents live in poverty. The unemployment rate is higher here than in other parts of the state. And for too many residents, good jobs with family-sustaining wages remain stubbornly out of reach.
The question on many folks’ minds is how can Springfield ensure that the benefits of the city’s revitalization are shared by all, and not just a select few?
In a word: unions. Think about it: Workers with union wages and benefits earn enough money to support their families, invest in their homes and neighborhoods, spend money in their local communities, and provide opportunities for their children. Unions are the foundation of a strong middle-class.
In the Massachusetts Building Trades Unions, we know that you can’t have a thriving economy without thriving families. That’s why we offer industry-leading wages and benefits to more than 75,000 people. By ensuring that the largest workforce in the state earns a middle-class livelihood, we’re able to create strong families and communities that drive our economy forward.
While others in the private sector are slashing benefits and leaving families with insurmountable medical bills, the building trade unions are doubling down on our commitment to working families. We spent more than $1 billion last year keeping families healthy, and we’re proud that more than 260,000 children, spouses, and construction workers across the Commonwealth count on us for great healthcare coverage.
We know that we can’t just provide the best wages and benefits though. To compete, our members have to be the best, most highly-skilled tradespeople in the nation. That’s why we invest over $55 million in training each year at more than 40 state-of-the-art training facilities.
Springfield has seen the benefits of unions firsthand. Many of the city’s biggest projects have relied on union labor to get the job done right and ahead of schedule, including the I-91 Viaduct Rehabilitation Project, CCRC railroad, and the MGM Casino. That’s good news for commuters, local businesses, taxpayers, and hundreds of skilled local tradesmen and women who are able to pay their bills, support their families, and put money back into the local economy.
All of this investment adds up. Across the Commonwealth, the building trades unions have generated more than $44 million in new tax revenue. Our total economic impact for the state is $1.6 billion, and we want to bring an ever bigger share of that activity to Springfield.
With Springfield’s revitalization comes many opportunities. Let’s make sure that the hardworking men and women who are building the city’s future are also able to build their own, through great careers with union benefits, wages, and training.
Dan D’Alma is business manager, IBEW Local 7 and Frank Callahan is president, Massachusetts Building Trades Council