Trainor and Nunez: Build Back Better offers Oregonians hope
The ongoing impacts of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and income inequality are plain to see. You need only to look out the window to see workers toiling in wildfire smoke, and communities suffering from decades of divestment in infrastructure and public health. These impacts are felt first and worst by Oregon's workers and frontline communities.
It is vital that our leaders seize every opportunity to drive union job creation and economic recovery through investment in climate action and the care economy. The "Build Back Better Act" under consideration in Congress right now is an unprecedented opportunity to do just that.
The $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act focuses investment in disproportionately impacted communities and would put Oregon back to work with good-paying union jobs in clean energy, support families with paid family medical leave and childcare relief, fight the climate crisis by reducing pollution, and build a more equitable economy for all.
Investments in the Build Back Better Act put us on a path to cut emissions in half by 2030, which is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The proposal will expand clean energy tax incentives and transition the U.S. power sector off fossil fuels — driving projects in renewable energy, like solar and wind. A strong final bill must modernize and address inequities in our transportation system, by fixing the historic damage of urban highways and providing opportunities for rural Oregon communities to electrify their transit systems. By strengthening our nature-based infrastructure, it will promote carbon sequestration and wildfire mitigation, while supporting our natural resource economy.
A just transition to clean energy must be prioritized to ensure Oregonians working in the fossil fuel sector can maintain not only their economic security, but also their dignity. This means creating good-paying, clean energy union jobs that Oregon workers can raise their families on and that keep their children and grandchildren safe from climate change.
Congress must also build our communities back better through direct investments in family care resources, the professional care workforce, affordable and accessible childcare, 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, and more coordinated systems. Together, family leave, good union jobs, and child care fundamentally help parents work, help children get a strong start, and help our economy grow.
But don't just take our word for it: 75% of Oregon voters support the Build Back Better plan according to Data for Progress.
Thankfully, Oregon has a number of strong leaders fighting for these investments, including Sen. Ron Wyden and Congressman Peter DeFazio, who have key committee leadership roles in bill negotiations. Likewise, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici continue to champion priority proposals on climate change, job creation, and childcare, remaining steadfast on the need to enact the top-level $3.5 trillion funding amount.
It is therefore all the more disappointing that Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader has not yet recognized this opportunity to represent his constituents who overwhelmingly support big, bold investments in climate, jobs, and justice.
By creating family-wage jobs, modernizing our infrastructure, supporting Oregon's working families and reducing harmful climate pollution, the Build Back Better agenda can pave the way toward a better, more equitable future.
We need Oregon's full federal delegation to support the Build Back Better agenda and get the reconciliation package across the finish line.
Graham Trainor is president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. Diana Nunez is executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council. Their organizations co-chair the Oregon BlueGreen Alliance.
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