AFT Resolution

RECLAIMING THE PROMISE OF A SAFE AND MODERN U.S. INFRASTRUCTURE

WHEREAS, the United States and our forebearers built a world-class infrastructure in the 20th century that was once the envy of the world and helped create the conditions for America's postwar prosperity. That network of roads, bridges, levees, tunnels, water systems and electrical grids has now systematically been underfunded and neglected; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. is now globally ranked 14th in infrastructure adequacy and is running an investment deficit of approximately $3.6 trillion through 2020; and

WHEREAS, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 "Report Card for America's Infrastructure" gave U.S. infrastructure an overall grade of D+. Despite recent efforts on the part of states and cities and the short-term federal infusion of funds from the 2009 stimulus package to repair or replace the most endangered bridges, the overall state of the U.S. infrastructure is dire; the ASCE estimates that investing $157 billion a year in infrastructure can prevent a $3.1 trillion loss in GDP and create 3.5 million jobs and result in $3,100 in annual personal income; and

WHEREAS, much of the drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are approximately 240,000 water main breaks per year in the U.S. There is a critical need to invest over $200 billion in fixing and expanding sanitary and storm sewer pipes to curtail hazardous sanitary sewer overflows into schools, public structures, hospitals, commercial buildings and residences; and

WHEREAS, one in nine of the nation's 607,380 bridges is rated structurally deficient. The national Federal Highway Administration estimates that $20.5 billion a year is needed to address the backlog of bridge maintenance and replacement—far short of the $12 billion that the federal government annually budgets; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. electrical grid is an aging and leaking patchwork of generation facilities, high-voltage transmission lines and local distribution systems—in some locations the facilities date back to 1880. Line losses or "leakage" over power lines doubled between 1980 and 2006; utility customers have shouldered the cost for this leakage—over $12 billion. Despite some investment in the electrical grid in the last decade or two, spending has not kept pace with the need to further reduce the incidence of service disruption to schools, hospitals, businesses, government and households; and

WHEREAS, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy exposed our vulnerability to severe weather events. Those two events alone accounted for hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to bridges, roads, power lines, schools, hospitals and water systems. Climate change will increase the probability of more extreme weather events to threaten infrastructure; and

WHEREAS, the Utility Workers Union of America reports that UWUA's 8,000 members who worked to restore essential utility services after Superstorm Sandy found that equipment failure and lack of adequate staffing stalled the recovery efforts. According to the UWUA, there were cutbacks to the utility workforce prior to Sandy; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. natural gas pipeline system consists of more than 2 million miles of pipe, much of which is in a hazardous condition. Cast iron pipelines in place since the 1830s still make up a significant part of natural gas delivery systems in major metropolitan areas, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. These systems are vulnerable to corrosion and breakdown potentially releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change; and

WHEREAS, millions of Americans remain unemployed or underemployed since the Great Recession; and

WHEREAS, strong investment in the country's infrastructure is vital to support healthy, vibrant communities and public institutions, and to reclaim the promise of an American democracy that works for everyone:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will join the AFL-CIO, the BlueGreen Alliance and other allies to advocate for resources at the federal and local levels to rebuild resilient, modern and safe infrastructure systems; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate for massive investment in energy conservation, public transportation, genuine renewable energy such as wind and solar, ecological restoration, and other measures that reverse environmental degradation and create healthy, diverse ecosystems and a healthy environment for people, recognizing that such investment will not only enhance quality of life but also create good American jobs; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate for a national infrastructure bank that will develop innovative ways to fund and build the vital projects that will improve the competitiveness of our economy, efficiency of our services and safety of our built environment, and create good American jobs; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with all constituencies to educate our members and the communities we work in about the dire status of our local and national infrastructures and the critical need to reclaim the promise of a world-class U.S. infrastructure.

(2014)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.