Will Rahm Emanuel keep it "Made in America?"
Recently, the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) put up billboards in Northern California to declare that the center span of the Oakland Bay Bridge was made with "100% foreign steel."
As the New York Times has explained of the Bay Bridge, "The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans. But construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them are a Made in China affair."
The bridge was made in China because of loopholes in California law utilized by the last administration. Put simply, the last governor refused federal money for the center span of the bridge because he would have had to comply with Buy America laws. Instead, the center span was outsourced to China.
The Bay Bridge offers a relevant example for the growing debate on whether infrastructure projects like bridges and rail transit will be Made in America, or will be outsourced to foreign manufacturers. Simply put, who will build the America of the 21st Century?
One important story to watch in terms of infrastructure work is Chicago. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, has announced a "Building a New Chicago" program. Overall, his plan could involve up $7 billion, spent over a 3-year span.
United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard has sent a letter to Mayor Emanuel, urging that the program source its componenets from American manufacturers and their workers whenever possible:
Our members work in industries making many of the products and goods that will be needed to fulfill the promise of the Building a New Chicago program. From the steel, rubber, glass and countless other basic commodities to the water infrastructure pipes, fiber optic cable, rails and other industrial products that will be utilized in your 3-year program, and beyond that, the members of our union stand ready to fulfill the City’s needs. Many of our members work in the City and surrounding communities and would be proud participants in helping to rebuild Chicago. Your city stands at the crossroads of America’s industrial heartland. As you know, Buy America programs have a long history in this country and, as shown by the ARRA, can put Americans back to work quickly and effectively. We have the domestic capacity to supply the City’s needs and we hope that, as the City develops its contracting plans, it will aggressively implement Buy America program guidelines.
Gerard's point is simple: America's manufacturers can build the new Chicago.
Let's hope Mayor Emanuel will see to it that taxpayer money is spent on quality USA-made components as much as possible.
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