Sherice Workman’s union job has given her a stable career, helped her buy her own home, and provides security for her family. In an op-ed, she touts the benefits of organized labor and the importance of President Biden’s embrace of unions.
President Biden’s decision to join the UAW picket lines last week proves he’s got our back. While some Republican politicians claim to support UAW members, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats continue to pass legislation that actually protects and strengthens unions. Take a look at one of the 37,000 infrastructure projects happening across the country, and you will see union workers like me turning this legislation into action.
I joined the Carpenters’ Union 14 years ago, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. At the time, I had just gotten out of a toxic relationship. I was a single mom on welfare and living in public housing. When I got the opportunity to join a pre-apprenticeship program offered through the Philadelphia Housing Authority, I knew this would be the stepping stone for me to get my family out of public housing and into our own home.
The pre-apprenticeship program paid apprentices while we learned and worked. I saved everything I could during the first few years. After living in public housing for 12 years – half the time most people spend there – I bought my own home on December 31, 2017.
Apprenticeship programs like the ones I joined are a vital path to the middle class that don’t require taking on student debt. The Biden administration’s infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act include funding to boost apprenticeship programs, diversify the workforce, and incentivize employers to use registered apprentices on job sites. Not only will these laws help develop the next generation of skilled labor, but they will extend opportunities for high-paying jobs with great benefits to people who might not have had those opportunities previously.
Unions produce the best quality work and nowhere was that more obvious than Philadelphia’s I-95 bridge repair. I worked alongside hundreds of other union workers, with our members working 24/7, to reopen the bridge in just 12 days. It’s work like this that makes me proud to be a union carpenter. But we should have never gotten to the point where a vital piece of infrastructure fails to fix it.
Fortunately, with the historic increase in infrastructure funding, carpenters like me have decades of work ahead repairing and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. With 3,353 bridges and over 7,540 miles of highway in poor condition across Pennsylvania, the estimated $13.2 billion in federal funding is a boost to safety and the local economy.
For me, the infrastructure law means work, steady work. It means I will be able to take care of my family. As long as we are funding infrastructure, I’ll have a job. But being part of a union means you aren’t just looking out for yourself. I know my brothers and sisters will have work, and the kids coming up have work. Passing that bill created more jobs and opportunities for people who look like me & come from the communities I come from.
The great thing about unions is that they provide great pay and great benefits. On my union salary, I could buy my home on my own where my kids are comfortable, safe, and stable. Stability – that’s probably been the most gratifying part of being in the union.
And Joe Biden understands that supporting unions means supporting the middle class. It’s why he passed legislation that boosted unions. It’s why he’s at the picket lines fighting alongside UAW members. Biden has been and will always be a union man.