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Message from the Co-Chairmen: Collective Bargaining Power Takes Center Stage

At the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), the fight for workers rights and better safety and health protections on the job never stops. Fortunately, the last several months have shown plenty of progress in that ongoing effort.

First, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the last form of asbestos allowed in the U.S., a historic action that will help reduce both on-the-job and off-the-job exposure to this cancer-causing hazard. Next, federal OSHA updated its worker walkaround rule to clarify who workers can designate to represent them during safety and health inspections. The effect will be a stronger voice for workers on the job and increased communication between workers, management and OSHA’s safety and health officers about working conditions and how to improve them.

These continued victories for worker safety and health have been a hallmark of the Biden-Harris administration. It’s one reason why the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and its affiliates across the U.S. wholeheartedly support a second term for President Biden and Vice President Harris. From generational funding for infrastructure projects to a stronger National Labor Relations Board and everything in between, LIUNA and the LHSFNA have watched President Biden and his administration deliver more for LIUNA’s membership than any other President. 

Across the U.S., we continue to see the popularity of unions, including a breakthrough victory for UAW at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee that made national headlines. Collective bargaining is also a topic of conversation in Congress, with the introduction of the bipartisan Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (PSFNA). Currently, about half of U.S. states deny public sector workers the right to collectively bargain for better wages and safer working conditions. LIUNA represents tens of thousands of public sector workers in state and county governments across sectors including health care, sanitation and road and building maintenance. Public sector workers in all states should have the same rights as their private sector counterparts, and LIUNA and the LHSFNA urge Congress to pass the PSFNA.

In the construction and energy sectors, the building trades and their signatory partners are also showing the collective power of unions. The recent Solar Good Jobs Summit hosted by the IBEW, IUOE and LIUNA brought together labor leaders, Biden administration officials, utility board members, developers, investment managers and contractors. Getting this many stakeholders to collaborate on large-scale solar projects is possible in part because of collective agreements like the Tri-Trade Solar Agreement. This national solution is helping to meet the extensive workforce needs of contractors and ensure that project owners are following the labor provisions – and receiving the tax incentives – outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act.

On construction jobsites, one topic that’s top of mind as contractors look to complete busy summer schedules is rising heat levels. Temperatures continue to hit historic levels on a regular basis, and while federal OSHA hasn’t finalized its proposed heat standard, several states are taking matters into their own hands – some positive and others negative. State OSHA programs in New Jersey and Nevada are discussing actions to protect workers, while Florida’s legislature has effectively blocked any legal mandate for heat protections. Regardless of the existence of such a standard in your state, the LHSFNA strongly encourages all construction contractors to take the risk of heat illness seriously and take the necessary steps to protect your workforce. LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions and affiliates can always contact the Fund’s staff for assistance with heat or other safety and health concerns.

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