House Democrats recently unveiled the Moving Forward Act, a bill that would invest $1.5 trillion to modernize America’s physical infrastructure.1 The legislation would get millions of Americans back to work and ensure that communities can make long-overdue improvements to highways and rail and transit systems. In addition, it goes even further to support economic recovery by investing in health care, airports, clean energy, broadband, education, and drinking water infrastructure. As the country emerges from the global pandemic, such a major infrastructure investment will be critical to the nation’s economic recovery.2
Moreover, the proposed package takes several positive steps to ensure that its investments support high-quality jobs. In order for any infrastructure package to create widely shared economic benefits, Congress must also ensure that all companies benefiting from infrastructure spending create good jobs that are accessible to Americans of all walks of life. At a minimum, the government should require all private sector employers receiving federal infrastructure spending to:
- Pay decent wages and provide quality benefits.
- Prevent discrimination and comply with equal pay protections.
- Expand access to apprenticeship and targeted hire programs.
- Respect workers’ rights to join a union.
- Comply with existing workplace laws.
- Adhere to “Buy America” rules that create jobs in the United States.
Federal COVID-19 response must safeguard workers and restart the economy through critical infrastructure investment
Due to the public and private efforts to minimize the incidence of the pandemic, large swaths of the U.S. economy are temporarily shut down. Approximately 21 million Americans, or 13.3 percent of the total workforce, applied for unemployment benefits in May.3 And unemployment rates among Latinx, Black, and Asian workers were much higher—17.6 percent, 16.8 percent, and 15 percent, respectively—compared with white workers, at 12.4 percent.4 Yet without further government intervention, short-term closures could have long-term consequences, and too many jobs could disappear for good. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that U.S. unemployment rates will remain above 8 percent through 2021 and that this recession will lead to a loss of $15.7 trillion in gross domestic product by 2030.5