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Message from the Co-Chairmen: Brighter Days Ahead for Worker Safety and Health

On January 20th, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) was proud to watch our country’s democracy at work as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in on inauguration day. The peaceful transition was a much-needed sign of hope on the heels of the violent insurrection that shook the country two weeks earlier. President Biden’s inauguration day message of unity, putting aside our differences to find common ground and working together to improve the lives of all Americans in every corner of this country shows that we can expect a very different White House over the next four years.

While there is a lot of work to be done and change isn’t going to happen overnight, one place we are already seeing progress is at the Department of Labor. President Biden has selected Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a second-generation member of Laborers’ Local Union 223, to be the next U.S. Secretary of Labor. Mayor Walsh has spoken proudly about his union affiliation, has always stood side by side with working people and has a track record of protecting the health and safety of workers in Boston. LIUNA and the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) look forward to having an ally in the Department of Labor who won’t hesitate to enforce existing labor laws, who is committed to improving conditions on the job for millions of American workers and who will hold all employers to the same high standards.

Another important area that should be a focus for the new administration and Congress is supporting infrastructure projects that create middle-class union jobs and pay family-supporting wages and benefits. Bringing this approach to infrastructure projects at the federal level would not only create more opportunities for workers but would also improve jobsite safety and health. It’s critical to create a bidding environment that values workers and encourages contractors to include the safety equipment and protocols necessary to keep workers safe on the job while remaining competitive. Nowhere is this more true than on highway construction projects, where a low-bid environment that doesn’t allow opportunities to include barriers and other positive protection often results in construction laborers being seriously injured or killed in work zone intrusions.

In a piece of positive news, the U.S. vaccine rollout is well underway, with millions of Americans already getting their first shot in the two-stage vaccine. These vaccines have proven to be safe and effective, and the LHSFNA wants to encourage all LIUNA members and their families to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available to them. Because the distribution of these vaccines is being handled by each state, some workers may get this opportunity before others, but we should all be ready to do our part. Getting the vaccine protects your health, the health of your loved ones and the health of your LIUNA brothers and sisters on the job. By working toward widespread vaccination, we also take major steps toward reducing health inequities in vulnerable groups, getting our lives back to normal and getting our economy back on track.

As we look towards a brighter future in the months and years to come, let us recommit ourselves to building a stronger democracy and labor movement and protecting the safety and health of workers both on and off the clock. If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that no obstacle is too big to overcome when we remain united and never forget that we are all in this together.

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