No Broadband, No Education

No Broadband, No Education
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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.

COVID-19 this spring forced tens of thousands of students in the Fontana, Calif., Unified School District (FUSD), like students across the nation, to learn from home. So the district—including members of USW Local 8599—leapt into action to help ensure all students could log into class.

The district established a private network to deliver high-speed wireless internet to students and teachers in their homes, while USW members in the technology and library departments distributed laptops to all 36,000 students.

The massive undertaking—condensing a project originally slated for three years into just three months—demonstrates the power of committing to widely-needed infrastructure projects that can quickly and efficiently provide students with the broadband access that is now every bit as essential as electricity. 

Yet, local solutions can only take the nation so far, as millions of other students and educators across the country still struggle to get online. Only a national effort, initiated and funded by Congress, can provide the universal broadband access required for education in 2020.

So far, congressional Republicans and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have done little to solve the broadband divide issue for students, forcing superintendents to scrape together funds and find piecemeal solutions. 

Numerous Democratic bills, including the Moving Forward Act, passed by the House in July, and the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, recently introduced in the House and Senate, include plans to fund broadband infrastructure. But the Republican Senate has dragged its feet on these and other important coronavirus relief bills. 

The 12 million American students without internet at home will continue to fall further behind as universal broadband is delayed.

The Fontana school district proved that expanding broadband infrastructure is not only possible, but is necessary for the future of education. Now, thousands of other school districts around the country need resources for similar projects. 

It is time for Congress to commit to long-range broadband investments that will help students learn and keep the nation connected.

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