April 9, 2019
Washington D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered an address at the North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning! Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for your very generous introduction, for those kind words and for your leadership on behalf of America’s working men and women.
On behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives, thank you to leaders and members of North America’s Building Trades Unions for the honor of joining you for your 2019 Legislative Conference. I accept your kind words on behalf of my unified House Democratic Caucus, which is there For The People: lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America.
For more than a century, you have been organizing, mobilizing – you paved the path for higher wages, better health care, safer working conditions and stronger retirement security for all. Always fighting for that.
Every day, you make a difference for so many – through Helmets to Hardhats and Women Build Nations.
Labor of Love and D.A.D.’s Day, and so much more. By the way, are there are any Californians here today?
Any Marylanders here today?
Welcome to all of you. America’s builders support America’s foundation, bringing into being the cities, town and landscape in which we live and work. Yet, America’s workers not only build the infrastructure of America, you build a stronger workforce, a stronger middle class and a stronger America. Because as we say, America’s middle class has a union label on it.
Your patriotism, pride and professionalism pave the way to a better future for all – and you deserve a steadfast partner in your purpose.
Our new Democratic House Majority was elected to restore transparency, accountability and unity to government and we will deliver results For The People: lower health care costs and the costs of prescription drugs, protecting the pre-existing medical condition benefit, increasing paychecks by rebuilding America with modern, green infrastructure, cleaning up corruption so America – so that Washington works for the public, not the special interest.
Build, build, build.
Build, build, build. Build the infrastructure of the future, build human infrastructure and build the infrastructure of a strong democracy for all.
Democrats have always believed in big, bold, job-creating investments to build the modern infrastructure that the greatest country in the world deserves and needs. As we know, the most expensive maintenance is no maintenance. Our Democratic Majority is ready to get to work, advancing an historic, at least $1 trillion plan to –
It has always been bipartisan until recently but, now, hopefully again, it will be nonpartisan and, at least $1 trillion. Investing in our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems; and modernizing our ports and airports. Rebuilding our children’s schools to provide safe, modern learning environments. Reconstruct our aging public housing so we can revitalize our neighborhoods. Bring broadband internet to every corner of the country. Build the sustainable, resilient energy infrastructure of the future – in a way that protects clean air, clean water and good-paying jobs.
We must also fix our broken water systems, so that every family has access to clean, safe drinking water. America’s water systems have earned a D rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Across America, many families still are drinking from wooden water pipes that are hundreds of years old, some still covered in bark. Even in our nation’s capital, we still use pipes dating back to the Civil War!
Let me just say this – your President mentioned this morning about a green new deal, I think we should have a green ideal. Take the best of what we all have to offer to build the infrastructure in a green way to preserve our planet, that creates jobs – creates jobs for the future and, also, maintains the commerce that goes with creating a green ideal. Not one that subtracts as it adds but one that adds. What did you call yours?
Oh, the real deal! The real deal. Now I said ideal, so I think we’re coming together on that.
We’ve had our conversations about that and when I was Speaker the first time, my flagship issue was the climate issue and how we build and preserve the planet for future generations. We saw it as a health issue, a public health issue. Clean air, clean water, reducing air pollution by making these changes, but also by building mass transit so we take more cars off the road. Improving the quality of life so that those in cars will have a shortened time in their cars.
Of course, providing Congress jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. We saw that as a way for the American people to transition to a world of green technologies. So all in a positive vein.
As a national security issue, generals and national security experts tell us this has to happen. Let’s do it in a way that, again, creates good-paying jobs. Jobs for the present, jobs for the future. And these are not just temporary jobs.
If we build infrastructure from sea to shining sea, just think of the change that will make in our society. Rebuilding homes where children can grow, schools where children can learn, water infrastructure to keep children happy. Everything’s about the children.
So, I thank you for the role that you have played over time in all of this. And as we work together to formulate the best deal possible for how we go forward. We must go forward. We must go forward.
And for the $4-5 in deficit for our infrastructure. $4-5 trillion in deficit. If we spend one and a half, two trillion dollars – we have to leverage it – so we get the most mileage out of – mileage literally and figuratively, but also mileage in terms of jobs.
And also, a moral responsibility. I believe it is God’s creation and we have to preserve this land. We must be good stewards of it. Even if you don’t share that religious belief, we have to agree that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to pass on the planet in a better way and who better else to do that than the builders of America, each and every one of you. Thank you for your leadership.
Building a better future also means building up the human infrastructure of the America. You set the gold standard of apprenticeships and workforce training – which help America’s workers climb the ladders of opportunity.
The House applauds your quality registered apprenticeship initiatives, which ensure that no worker is left out or left behind in the 21st Century. Thank you for that.
You provide the tools they need to succeed by supporting community standards like collective bargaining, prevailing wage laws, Project Labor Agreements and fair workforce policies.
We must continue to stand firm in our defense of the critical Davis-Bacon Act – and stand firm for the family-sustaining wages of workers, particularly in the construction industry, which is one of the largest and most dangerous industries in America. Workplace safety, OSHA and worker’s protection is under assault. Democrats will always support your right to join a union.
Now, I’m going to talk a little bit about immigration. Some of you around the country have the leadership – I’m told that comprehensive immigration reform is a priority for you.
Right now, we must have order on the border. This is a sad thing that people have – separation of families, children being taken from their parents in the name of the American people. That’s not who we are.
But in addition to addressing that, I would like – we gave the President the tools in a bipartisan way, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate sent the President a bill that said, ‘This is how we want to protect our border. Here are the resources to do that.’
The President has rejected that, but however we deal with this and we must – because this isn’t a formality.
As a mother of five and grandmother of nine, the idea of taking children from their parents and then saying it may take two years to restore those families – to reunite those families – that’s not the American way.
But in addition to that, and overlaying all of that, we must have comprehensive immigration reform. It was passed in a bipartisan way a few years ago in the United States Senate.
The President said he would support such a thing. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate made a proposal to him, but he didn’t act. I call on the President to come back to the table. He seems to agree when we talk about it, but then something else happens behind the scenes.
We must have order on the border, and we must have comprehensive immigration reform so that we can bring people out of the shadows, into the workforce, helping to grow our economy as well as reduce our deficit by having them pay into the system and that’s what they would like to do.
They do not weaken our country. We cannot strengthen our country by weakening working people!
Finally, we must build a stronger democracy together. America’s middle class and those who aspire to it are the foundation of our nation. The middle class is the backbone of our democracy. And we have to take urgent action to address the disparity of income in America, which is at the root of the crisis of confidence felt by so many.
We have heard from too many families who wonder, in this time of innovation and globalization, if they have a place in the economy of tomorrow. We must remove all doubt that they do, and say to them: we will have an economy that works for you. For you. For you. For you.
This Congress must work with you to accelerate a future that advances America’s preeminence in the world, and opens up opportunities for all.
Building an economy that gives all Americans the tools they need to succeed in the 21st Century: public education, good-paying jobs, secure pensions and more.
Democrats are hard at work to protect your pensions and your right to a secure retirement. We hope to do that in a bipartisan way.
I particularly want to acknowledge Mr. Donald Norcross, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Building Trades Caucus, for his leadership on this urgent priority.
The men and women of the building trades have always been on the frontlines of the fight to build a stronger America in every way. We cannot succeed in our inside maneuvering without the outside mobilization. We can only go so far – your being here at this important conference, your weighing in on Capitol Hill about your priorities is essential. Keep showing up. Keep making your voices heard.
As Walter Reuther said, ‘There is a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.’ We cannot let that happen. We have to be aware of the threat.
I am part of a club, I started this new club, it’s called the ‘too hot to handle’ club – we need you to keep mobilizing and keep making these issues too hot to handle. It must be pushed to the forefront. They must be voted upon. As I said, in an open and transparent Congress, the public sees what is at stake and what is not on the table. That helps us get it on the table and get a vote and get it in a very bipartisan way so it can be signed by the President. That, again, is making it too hot to handle.
You know better than anyone else the power of solidarity. What we do is only effective if we do it together.
I say to my Caucus, ‘Our diversity is our strength, our is unity is our power.’ And you know that unity and solidarity makes all the difference in the world.
Let’s build a stronger America together, in unity. Let’s do so in as bipartisan of a way as possible. Taking heed from our Founders, ‘from many one.’ The guidance, always remember, ‘E Pluribus Unum, from many one.’ They couldn’t have known how many we would be or how different we would be from each other, they knew we would always have to strive for oneness. Oneness.
We choose our priorities: building the infrastructure of America, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, they are all unifying priorities for the President, the Democrats in the House, some of the Republicans in the House. We’re trying to find a path that unifies rather than divides.
So, thank you for gathering here. On behalf of the Congress of the United States, I congratulate you and wish you well. God bless the Building Trades and God bless America!