Keeping Motorists Alive

Keeping Motorists Alive
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From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

Used to delineate traffic lanes and illuminate hazards, reflective signs and road markings help keep motorists safe in poor driving conditions.

But because of America’s long failure to invest in its crumbling infrastructure, these protective devices aren’t as prevalent—or saving as many lives—as they could be.

Rebuilding America’s dilapidated roads and highways with the latest in reflective technology would not only keep drivers secure but also support American workers, like the United Steelworkers (USW) members who manufacture reflective materials at the 3M operation in Guin, Ala.

“Our members take pride in their work and realize that what they do is important for safety on the roads and highways,” said Local 9-675 President Phillip Markham. “This work also keeps our small, rural community alive.”

Local 9-675 represents 210 workers who produce reflective sheeting, an adhesive-backed film with tiny, glass beads that reflect light back to the driver’s eyes. This sheeting is used around the world on traffic signs and vehicles, such as ambulances, to improve visibility.

Markham and his co-workers also manufacture a wide range of pavement marking tapes to brighten roadways and help motorists see where they are going. These features especially protect older drivers and out-of-town motorists struggling to navigate unfamiliar roads in bad conditions.

Each year, thousands of Americans die in crashes on wet roads, many of them during periods of reduced visibility.

But the kinds of safety materials produced by Local 9-675 members have been shown to reduce injury-involved crashes in rainy conditions.

Incorporating reflective technology into a major upgrade of America’s roads would enable the skilled workers at 3M to help more motorists safely find their way.

Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work