Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger once termed it the “stuff [I] used to blow up in the movies.” But America’s vital infrastructure—highways, railways, bridges and thruways—now face a doom worse than the Terminator ever imagined. That’s the destruction from the rust, decay and corrosion of trillions of dollars worth of elderly tracks, canals, ports, structures and causeways that carry our trade and traffic all over the United States.
Sixty-one thousand bridges, located mostly in local jurisdictions, are potentially dangerous. That U.S. rail systems are about $60 billion behind on maintenance (as of five years ago) was tragically illustrated by the recent fatal Pennsylvania Amtrak disaster, blamed on the delayed installation of a new control system. Last month’s burst oil pipeline in Santa Barbara County also underscored the deterioration of even private infrastructure. Both tragedies demonstrated that continued neglect comes with a fast rising cost in both money and lives. For more than a decade,
Since 2011, the Construction Careers Coalition has secured agreements with public agencies to bring good jobs and benefits to local community members through public construction projects. These agreements are bearing fruit: At each of the six public agencies, we have exceeded our hiring goals for local residents, which means that more families can support themselves and more money flows back into our local economy.
The coalition has used a key tool, the Project Labor Agreement (PLA), to create public accountability and good middle-class jobs for local residents. A PLA is an agreement between a government agency and construction unions in which both sides offer concessions to ensure that construction work is completed on time and on budget. The Construction Careers Coalition has focused on adding a Construction Careers policy to PLAs here in L.A. as a way to create green infrastructure that employs local people. At each agency, the policy has set goals to hire local construction workers,
The promise of employment comes from the groundbreaking Construction Careers policy passed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Metro became the first transit agency in the country to ensure that projects are completed using skilled workers and creating training opportunities for economically disadvantaged residents. Since then, the Construction Careers coalition – an alliance of worksource centers, youth-engagement and veterans groups, and community groups – has embarked on an ambitious effort to reach out to as many communities as possible about opportunities in the construction industry, in advance of groundbreaking on major projects that will be covered by the policy, including the Crenshaw/LAX line, the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector. This sort of outreach is crucial as South L.A. is one of the communities hardest hit by unemployment.
John Hariel has an electric personality – perfectly appropriate for a man who is helping to wire Los Angeles.
A general foreman with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 11, Hariel – known to everyone as Big John – has spent the last two decades building L.A.’s infrastructure. He’s a natural leader blessed with an entrepreneurial mind, an activist heart and the body of a Mac truck.
Big John has deliberately reached out to women and men from disadvantaged communities, mentoring them to become strong leaders, parents and citizens. Frying Pan News recently got a chance to talk with members of his wonderfully eclectic electrician crew, all of whom are working on the Martin Luther King Jr. hospital renovation in Watts, which is covered by a project labor agreement and local hire agreement. The team included several women electricians and members from all ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the impressive diversity of L.A.’s construction workforce.