As we mark Labor Day, it is a time to remember past struggles and hard-fought victories that have improved the lives and livelihood of all workers. It is also a time to take stock of the problems that must still be tackled.
Addressing the growing income inequality and continued pay inequity is essential for families and for our long-term economic prosperity. Safer workplaces where workers have a voice should not have to be up for debate.
As the economy continues to recover, unemployment and underemployment continues to take a toll on Pennsylvania families. Wise investments and decisions must be made to level the playing field for American workers, build a strong workforce and spur the creation of family-sustaining jobs.
After Labor Day, as work continues on fiscal decisions, I will continue to fight to increase wages, improve competitiveness and strengthen the economic recovery.
Moving the Route 219 project forward wasn’t easy, but doing so will vastly improve infrastructure in the region and contribute to growing Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy. I worked with key senators to secure language in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) transportation bill that allowed toll credits to fund Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) projects and allowed the federal cost share on ADHS projects to increase from 80% to 100%. This is a step forward for Somerset County and will help create economic growth in the region, and I’m proud to help make this project a reality today.
This coming Friday it will be my honor to welcome the President and the Vice President back to Northeastern Pennsylvania. I'm pleased that the President and Vice President will be in Northeastern Pennsylvania and specifically at Lackawanna College to discuss the need to focus on job creation and economic growth. Lackawanna College is a great example of an institution that gives graduates the skills they need to compete for good paying jobs.
Last Friday I had the pleasure of touring the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Training Center in Philadelphia. Local 19, along with the Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Philadelphia and Vicinity (SMCA) have partnered to train skilled sheet metal apprentices and journeypersons.
The tour was a great opportunity to see, first-hand, the kind of comprehensive training these workers are receiving. I had the opportunity to meet several of the trainees, get an overview of how the training process works and speak with several contractors and employers who utilize these trainees after they have completed all of the necessary requirements. I learned to find out that over 75,000 man-hours are devoted to training each year and that approximately 700 members pass through the training center in that time. Those statistics speak to the necessity of these programs in our educational system. In order for Pennsylvania, and the nation, to maintain a manufacturing base we need an educated workforce that cannot only compete with, but surpass the abilities of cheap labor that gives incentives to outsource jobs.
At the event, I was also able to learn more about Local 19 and the SMCA’s efforts to retrofit fume hoods in science laboratories to make them safer and more energy efficient. Aside from members of Local 19 and the SMCA, a number of attendees were from pharmaceutical, biotechnical and energy companies in southeastern Pennsylvania who hope to utilize this new technology.
Unfortunately, like the rest of our workforce, Local 19 has seen an increase in the number of its members that are unemployed. However, in this instance, the Union is proving the importance and ingenuity of an organized workforce by leading their own advances with this innovative technology that improves workplace safety, decreases energy consumption and creates good, sustainable jobs.
Yesterday, I was in Mt. Braddock PA, where I joined the U.S. Commercial Service (U.S. Department of Commerce) to present the International Liners Co. with the Export Achievement Award. This award is part of the agency’s efforts to recognize small and medium-sized enterprises that have successfully entered the international marketplace. After the award presentation I had the opportunity to tour their facility, seeing their manufacturing process first hand. International Liner manufacturers truck bed liners through a special heat molding process. I was pleased to learn that International Liner buys all of its manufacturing materials in the United States.
International Liner serves as an example of what can be done by a small U.S. company with the right drive and assistance. I hope other businesses in and around western Pennsylvania will follow their lead and will take advantage of the resources available to them through the U.S. Commercial Service.