“The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers, IBEW members, installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own the electric car market", "For too long we've failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs” said International President Lonnie Stephenson.
Over the last few decades, the American economy has boomed creating virtual things: the internet, logistics, housing bubbles and banking innovations. But all of that is built on the real world: ports, roads, fiber optic cables and transmission lines. And that real world has been crumbling, year after year, president after president. "On a symbolic level, President Biden laying out this proposal with one of our own members introducing him was really important," said Stephenson. "But presidents have said nice things about us before and stabbed working people in the back. The American Jobs Plan is different.
Nearly every forgotten corner of the American economy — and every branch of the IBEW — will be transformed for decades by this proposal if it passes, and it is backed by the strongest "Buy American" and labor protections ever proposed.
"Nearly 90% of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree. Seventy-five percent don't require an associate degree," he told a joint session of congress. "The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America."
The largest section of the proposal includes more than $600 billion for roads, bridges, ports and highways. There are 300 shovel-ready projects that would begin the day after the bill is signed. But unlike the 2009 infrastructure program passed while Biden was vice president, funding goes beyond shovel-ready projects to the deep, lasting transformational infrastructure that solves not only today's problems but the ones that are coming.
The story is much the same across America, where roads, bridges, rails, airports and waterways have been left to crumble for decades.
"This plan will reverse all of that if we can get it passed," said Political Director Austin Keyser. "We're talking about an investment in America's future, much of it in communities that have felt forgotten for a very long time, that will be transformational."
Huntington, W.Va., Local 317 sits squarely in coal country and Business Manager Shane Wolfe said his people are desperate for work and investment.
"There is a lot of flat ground, rail and river near here and there is always a different rumor of facilities coming in: a tire recycling plant, coal gasification and gas generation, and nothing ever happens. We have the gas. We have space. We have the men and women ready to do the work. We just need someone to kickstart it," he said. "If the president's bill would pass, life would change here, and it's about time it did."
Modernizing the Grid and Expanding Broadband
After roads, bridges and ports, the next largest section of Biden's plan is a $511 billion investment in the electric grid, broadband internet and the water system. At least $300 billion is targeted specifically for grid modernization, including thousands of miles of new transmission lines to connect new generation to load, all to meet the president's goal of carbon-free power generation nationwide by 2035.
The Americans for a Clean Energy Grid report estimates that there are at least 22 shovel-ready transmission projects that would be funded by this plan alone, creating more than 600,000 jobs related to transmission and another 640,000 jobs related to renewable energy.
The jobs plan would also transform the excruciatingly slow approval process for transmission, creating a Grid Deployment Authority at the Energy Department to focus development along existing rights-of-way — primarily roads and railways.
Clean energy tax credits would be extended for a decade and paired with strong labor standards.
Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean said it is hard to overstate the jobs that would be created if the need was realized in actual projects.
A single project with two 525-kilovolt HVDC transmission lines will put 4,000 IBEW members to work and will open vast stretches of Nevada to new development of solar and geothermal generation.
"Western states need more generation, but there is limited capacity on the grid," he said. "This job in Nevada, we need this across the whole country."
The plan also funds 15 demonstration decarbonized hydrogen generation plants and 10 large-scale carbon capture retrofits for steel, cement and chemical production facilities that could spur the expansion of the technology nationwide.
All of the government-supported projects will have "Buy American" requirements and strong labor standards with a "free and fair choice to join a union and bargain collectively."
On top of the unprecedented grid investment, the president proposes to spend $100 billion for broadband expansion in underserved rural communities with no access to high-speed internet. Vice President Kamala Harris will be in charge of the broadband rollout and she spoke about its importance during a visit to Dover, N.H., Local 490's hall on April 23.
"We're not going to say, 'We're going to take it slow' and 'One day at a time,'" Harris said. "We say, 'Let's be big.' When we set the bar high, the very nature of American aspiration is that we always jump for it and we do it."
And to make sure the nation has the workers with the skills to do these new jobs, there is $100 billion for workforce training, including nearly $50 billion to support pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs specifically targeting areas of the country and populations most harmed by the move to a fully carbon-free economy.
"If we're going to build back better, we have to invest in skills development of the workforce," Harris said. "To do that, if we are going to get the greatest return on our investment, let's invest in the IBEW.