Tom Melcher – Business Manager, Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council and Co-Chair of Pittsburgh Works Together
The year 2021 has brought renewed hope to Americans through a number of new developments. After a challenging year of lockdowns, schools are reopening and restaurants are welcoming customers again. For Pennsylvania’s skilled trades, Labor Day is a time to celebrate all we have done and will continue to do, and the future opportunities we see ahead.
A thriving middle class was created through the labor movement. In the construction industry, the highest-skilled and best-trained workers are always union members.
Progress on the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill provides us with optimism for the future. The state of our infrastructure across the country has never been worse. Roads and bridges must be maintained to remain safe for use. We are proud that it is looking like the U.S. is going to start revamping our infrastructure. Not only will this be positive for Americans who depend on our nation’s infrastructure each and every day, but this will create jobs and help get people back to work on the backside of the pandemic.
Pennsylvania has a long history of energy production. The first oil strike was in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859. About 60 years prior to that, coal mining began in the commonwealth. Both set up Pennsylvania to be a manufacturing powerhouse.
Today, Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas-producing state in the country. While some might find this controversial, nobody can doubt the positive benefits this industry is providing Pennsylvania every single day.
Natural gas is a cleaner energy source as compared to others. In fact, with the increased use of natural gas for power generation, Pennsylvania has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent. The economic benefits for our commonwealth undoubtedly have proven to have a positive impact on Pennsylvania residents as well as our regional neighbors.
Throughout the past, more access to energy resources has stood as a long-term goal. Today, it is a reality. Access to affordable energy sources reduces our reliance on foreign sources, particularly countries that are not friends of the United States. As the second-largest natural gas-producing state, we should be able to provide the energy needed to support not just Pennsylvania but our neighbors as well.
Within this industry, we must also commit to building the infrastructure necessary to ensure the safe transport of the product from the field to the end user. Pipelines are over four times safer to transport energy resources than rail, which is safer than transport by truck. A pipeline in operation for a single day removes 75 2,000-barrel railcars and 750 semi-trucks from our highways. That is an immense amount of congestion running through our communities, not to mention the toll taken on existing infrastructure, eliminated.
Through the many sectors we operate in, labor unions have served as an integral part of the economic landscape in Pennsylvania ― a fact that remains true today. At the Laborers’ Union, we think of ourselves as builders. There is never a large construction project being developed where we and/or our union brothers and sisters aren’t employed. Our members work hard to earn a living wage to support our respective families and communities.
We look forward to the work that Build Back Better will bring; the Biden administration’s commitment to invest in our nation’s infrastructure is evident. That is the future. In the meantime, we continue to support projects like the Mariner East pipeline and the Shell cracker. They aren’t just ensuring affordable energy resources for Pennsylvania for years to come, but for us, these projects drive our careers and support our families and livelihoods.
Labor Day weekend is often a time for folks to get together, fire up the grill and celebrate what has been another fun summer. For those of us in the labor movement, it is a day to celebrate progress made for workers over the years. Through Pennsylvania’s energy industry, we continue to thrive.