Press Release

Gillibrand, Bass Introduce Landmark Legislation to Make Bold Reforms to American Infrastructure Investment to Raise Wages and Labor Standards, Train a New Generation of Workers, Put Low-Income Communities First, and Help End Decades of Failed Federal Policies That Have Isolated Communities of Color

Jul 31, 2019

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-CA-37), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), today announced new landmark legislation to make bold reforms to federal infrastructure programs that would help create family-supporting jobs rebuilding the country while working to right the wrongs of decades of disinvestment and exclusionary federal policies that have cut off communities of color and marginalized populations from opportunity in urban and rural areas alike. The Build Local, Hire Local Act would ensure that federal infrastructure investments put low-income communities first and prioritize local workers and disadvantaged businesses.

This legislation would help create a comprehensive set of reforms to raise wages and labor standards, strengthen unions, invest in American manufacturing, create new opportunity for Americans who are struggling to get high-quality jobs, and strengthen communities that have been hurt by crumbling infrastructure and failed federal policies. These reforms would be applied to the nation’s estimated $100 billion in annual infrastructure spending across a series of industries. Build Local, Hire Local also lays out a blueprint for the values and priorities that must be reflected in any infrastructure package Congress may develop in order to ensure that any major investment in the country creates high-quality jobs and opportunity across every community.

“Too much of our nation’s infrastructure is in disrepair, and we urgently need to get to work rebuilding it,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But when we do, we also need to make sure we’re not repeating our government’s mistakes from last century and building barriers between marginalized communities and everyone else. That’s why I’m incredibly proud to introduce the Build Local, Hire Local Act with Congresswoman Bass. Our groundbreaking new bill would make sure that when we get to work on rebuilding our nation’s highways and other infrastructure, we are building up and repairing all of our communities – including the marginalized ones that got passed over the last time we were supposed to do the job. It would also make sure that we are hiring from those same communities to get the job done, with better wages and better working conditions. It’s time to bring new life and new energy to our communities, it’s time to bring new opportunities and new chances to the people who live in them, and it’s time to make it the highest of priorities that taxpayer dollars be spent on projects that adequately pay and protect our workers, expand worker rights, and rebuild American manufacturing. With this bill, we will take a massive step toward all of those goals. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this bill, and I encourage all New Yorkers and people across the country to join me in fighting to pass it too.”

“When a new infrastructure project is started in South Los Angeles, it should be our community who gets the first shot at the new jobs associated with completing the project,” said Representative Bass. “It’s a common-sense step for our government to make it easier for companies to generate jobs in the very counties and states where their transportation projects are located. Communities shouldn’t have to wait for infrastructure projects to be finished to benefit from the investment. That’s exactly what this bill helps address.”

Specifically, the Build Local, Hire Local Act would do the following:

  • Create high-quality local construction jobs for people who need them most through targeted hiring practices that use registered apprenticeships and coordinate with state and local workforce development boards.
  • Rebuild our infrastructure with new opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses.
  • Encourage the use of best-value contracting, registered apprenticeships, and neutrality in union organizing to ensure projects place a premium not just on the bottom line but also on the quality of jobs, safety, equity, climate resiliency, and environmental justice.
  • Dedicate investment to struggling areas and connect communities to greater opportunity through new performance measures and data on accessibility to transportation and a new $25 billion Connect Communities Grant Program to redevelop marginalized communities.
  • Provide pathways to careers in construction, specialty trades, and other infrastructure jobs through a new $5 billion Building American Infrastructure and Careers Program to support training partnerships led by unions, community organizations, and education and training providers.
  • Improve labor standards and working conditions and strengthen worker power by using Davis-Bacon and Service Contract Act wage protections, exposing bad actors in contract bids, requiring the use of workforce diversity programs, creating transparency in pay, employment status, and wage rates, ending forced arbitration, and ensuring that funds are not used for union-busting.
  • Protect and expand domestic manufacturing by establishing a new Buy America Bureau that would help build American supply chains and bring transparency and coordination to the Buy America waiver process, and by encouraging the use of U.S. Employment Plans that prioritize existing and new American manufacturing and service jobs when building the nation’s infrastructure.
  • Ensure that the communities where infrastructure projects are taking place are the first to benefit from the job and training opportunities that those projects provide.

“Competing in the 21st century means investing in infrastructure and recession-proof jobs that can’t be shipped overseas,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Local Hire Programs help cities like Los Angeles lift hardworking people into the middle class with employment that transforms the foundation of their communities, families, and future,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“The National Urban League applauds Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Karen Bass on their introduction of the Build Local Hire Local bill,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The National Urban League has for many years advocated for federal investments in both our human and physical infrastructure through the concept of a Marshall Plan. One of the central features of our current Main Street Marshall Plan calls for major investments in our nation’s infrastructure, including local hire provisions, minority- and women- owned contracting opportunities, and skills training for infrastructure jobs, all with a priority for underserved populations. The Build Local Hire Local bill aligns squarely with our Main Street Marshall Plan in these key policy areas,” Morial said. “Additionally, the bill provides key opportunities for intermediary organizations like the National Urban League and local nonprofit community-based organizations to access funding to deliver job training services through the bill’s new Building American Infrastructure and Careers Program,” said Morial.

“The Build Local Hire Local Act is a twofer for communities all across America: it recycles hard-earned taxpayer dollars right back into the local economy while building badly-needed infrastructure,” said John D. Porcari, former Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the Obama Administration.

“Major investment is urgently needed to rebuild America’s physical infrastructure, expand access to broadband, invest in clean energy, and create middle-class jobs. Yet, previous federal infrastructure investment has often excluded and even displaced communities of color and low-income and otherwise disadvantaged communities. Moreover, conservative and corporate interest groups are increasingly attacking standards that help ensure that jobs funded through federal spending pay good wages, include protections to prevent discrimination, and ensure workers are able to exercise their right to form unions. Sen. Gillibrand and Congresswoman Bass’s bill will help ensure that future infrastructure investment lifts up communities of color, low-income communities, and those that are otherwise struggling. It will also help guarantee that working Americans from all walks of life—no matter their race, gender, disability status, or the ZIP code they come from—can access good jobs that pay decent wages, afford them with respect on the job, and provide pathways to the middle class,” said Karla Walter, Director of Employment Policy at the Center for American Progress.

“The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is excited to support Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Bass’s Build Local Hire Local Act,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director at Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “Our nation’s crumbling infrastructure has left many low-income communities without the public transportation, broadband access, child care services, affordable housing, and educational facilities necessary to obtain long-term, family-sustaining jobs. Additionally, infrastructure investment has historically left out communities of color, further increasing racial inequities in employment and wages. CLASP is proud to have worked on the Build Local Hire Local Act because it would create high-paying jobs that offer labor protections, promote stable career pathways through work-based learning, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships, and promote racial equity and inclusion in hiring and federal contract bids. We applaud Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Bass for recognizing the country’s growing infrastructure needs and taking action to address them.”

“If there was ever a proposal with the power to unite urban, suburban, and rural communities, this is it,” said George Goehl, Director of People’s Action. “The Build Local Hire Local Act would put people back to work, build the infrastructure our communities need, and bring opportunity to those who need it most.” 

“The goal of our transportation system should be to safely and efficiently connect people to jobs and services,” said Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America. “For too long, we have treated vehicle speed as a sufficient measure for this goal. Yet it fails to capture walking, cycling, and transit trips, and inaccurately measures vehicle trips. Transportation for America commends Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Bass for this innovative legislation to measure and judge performance by what really matters in transportation: access by all modes of travel.”

“We have called on our nation’s leaders to invest in making just and fair inclusion our reality, and this legislation to build and repair our infrastructure is a strong response. It holds tremendous promise to expand opportunity for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet in today’s economy,” said Michael McAfee, CEO and President of PolicyLink.

“The Build Local Hire Local Act isn’t a bandaid measure or an empty promise: it’s a real-world pathway to building the infrastructure of our future and a stronger, more inclusive America,” said Madeline Janis, Executive Director at Jobs to Move America.

“Build Local Hire Local will enable more workers to access training and support services they need to succeed and empower business to hire a more diverse workforce for 21st century jobs,” said Katie Spiker, Director of Government Affairs at the National Skills Coalition. “Our economy’s future success relies on investing in workers and communities. This bill is an important step toward achieving that goal.”

“We know that there is both a huge need to repair and modernize our infrastructure and that fixing these failing, outdated systems can create good-paying, local jobs in every community in our nation,” said Mike Williams, Interim Co-Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “The Build Local Hire Local Act will help us seize that opportunity and make sure the investments the federal government makes in our infrastructure systems benefit the workers in the communities in which they are made. We thank the Senators for their leadership to repair America’s infrastructure systems the right way.”

“Smart Growth America believes every American, no matter where they live or who they are, should be able to reside in a community that is walkable, healthy, and full of opportunity. But for far too long, communities continue to struggle with decades of disinvestment, discrimination, and displacement.  SGA and our LOCUS coalition of responsible real estate developers believes that Sen. Gillibrand and Congresswoman Bass’ proposed $25 billion competitive grant program is a major step towards reconnecting America’s communities, and providing them with much needed resources to transform neighborhoods and towns into economically vibrant and socially inclusive walkable communities,” said Calvin Gladney, President and CEO of Smart Growth America.

This legislation has been endorsed by AFL-CIO; America Walks; Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living; BlueGreen Alliance; Center for American Progress; Center for Law and Social Policy; Center for Neighborhood Technology; Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF); Diversify NY, LLC; GA Trade-Up; Georgia Stand-Up; Green For All; JFF; Jobs to Move America; Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA); LivableStreets Alliance; Local Initiatives Support Corporation; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Madison Area Bus Advocates; Moving People Transportation Coalition; NAACP; National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD); National Skills Coalition; National League of Cities; National Urban League; New Rochelle, NY, Mayor Noam Bramson; New York State Senator Rachel May; North America’s Building Trades Unions; People’s Action; People for Mobility Justice; PolicyLink; Sierra Club; Smart Growth America; The U.S. Conference of Mayors; Transportation Choices; Transportation for America; Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO; United Steelworkers (USW); Urban Jobs Task Force; and Workers Center of Central New York.

Find detailed specifics about the legislation here.