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Message from the Co-Chairmen: At a Crossroads for Our Health and Our Economic Recovery

We have arrived at a pivotal moment, where the actions we take over the next several months will determine what our day-to-day lives look like throughout this fall and winter, and perhaps what our economy looks like into 2022 and beyond.

The Delta variant and rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths of COVID-19 have made it clear that the pandemic is not over yet. If we don’t take action now, both science and common sense tell us the situation will only get worse as people spend more time indoors in the coming months. COVID-19 has already taken the lives of over 630,000 people across the U.S. and Canada. Beyond that toll, no one wants to return to the days of our activities being restricted, businesses being closed and the constant anxiety of wondering if every cough and sneeze is the beginning of a serious health complication.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) urge every LIUNA member to get vaccinated if you are able to, and to encourage your family members and friends to do so as well. There’s been a lot of attention around the CDC’s changing mask guidance and the potential for breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people, but the reality is that the best tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19 has already arrived. In the U.S. and Canada, more than 180 million people are now fully vaccinated, proving that these vaccines are safe. Over the last several weeks, the 10 U.S. states with the largest increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations all have below-average vaccination rates. Conversely, nine of the 10 states with the fewest hospitalizations have above-average vaccination rates.

It’s rare that the actions needed to protect the health and safety of ourselves, our loved ones and our communities are so simple and straightforward, but in this case they are. For those people who are not yet vaccinated, the time has come to step up and make the decision to get vaccinated so we can put this pandemic behind us.

In the U.S., we’ve also arrived at a pivotal moment for rebuilding and investing in our nation’s infrastructure. The potential passage of a bipartisan infrastructure framework would be a long-overdue step to make a historic investment in our crumbling roads and bridges and our outdated transit and water systems. This forward-looking investment would not only create hundreds of thousands of good-paying union jobs, it would also help protect workers and their families where they live. We are already seeing the effects of climate change through extreme weather events that used to be rare and now seem like a part of our daily lives. Wildfires, flooding, heatwaves in parts of the country that are typically mild and other events like these are putting a strain on decades-old systems that were not built to handle these stresses. When these systems fail, they put lives at risk.

In addition to weather extremes, this summer has also brought temperatures that are generally higher than normal on an almost daily basis. The summer of 2021 is on pace to be the hottest on record. Many LIUNA members spend much of their day outdoors, and while working outside in high temperatures sometimes comes with the job, it’s important to keep in mind that it can also be dangerous. Workers’ risk for heat stroke and other heat illnesses is real and it is preventable. All employers should be taking the steps to protect workers during high-heat conditions, including providing plenty of water, shade and rest breaks when needed.

Regardless of whether the challenge in front of us is COVID-19, extreme weather or another threat entirely, let’s remember that we have the power to create change when all LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, signatory contractors, members and affiliates work together toward a common goal. Let’s get to work and stay safe out there.

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