For many, Labor Day marks a ceremonial end to the summer season — and for parents and kids alike, the beginning of a new school year.
With no shortage of “end of summer” sales and thankfully, over the past several years, plenty of baseball here in town to still follow, the Labor Day holiday should serve as a day of reflection and an opportunity to extend our collective gratitude to those who helped build the foundations of our great nation.
From the discovery of oil to coal, timber, steel and now natural gas, Pennsylvania’s resources and our world-class workforce have and continue to better lives around the world in unthinkable ways.
Pennsylvania has a proud legacy of contributing to the historic Revolutionary War and World War victories, which preserved freedom and liberty. The commonwealth’s industrial and manufacturing strength was characterized by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the “Arsenal of America” during WWII.
Over the decades, the region’s building and construction trades have contributed to big, bold and great achievements across the commonwealth, including western Pennsylvania’s rich manufacturing and infrastructure culture and history.
While there’s no question that our region, and middle-class working families in particular, have faced painful economic hardships over the past several years through one of the deepest downturns in a generation, coupled with one of the most anemic recoveries on record, history is beginning to repeat itself.
Enabled by shale development, and the infrastructure needed to safely move these abundant, affordable and clean-burning resources to market, as well as the many new power generation construction projects underway, our region’s building trade and construction unions have established themselves as a key industry supply chain partner.
“When we needed jobs most – during a generational crisis – shale delivered,” said Jim Kunz of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, who called the natural gas industry “a godsend” that’s “helping to boost jobs with family-supporting pay and good benefits.”
Likewise, the Laborers’ International Union of North America’s Dennis Martire has described shale as “a lifeline to family-supporting jobs.”
In fact, according to one study, nearly 45,000 union and building trade construction jobs are supported by or tied to shale development across the Appalachian Basin.
Labor unions leaders also understand that we need common-sense policies, including tax policies that encourage job growth and continued investment, to ensure that we maximize these middle-class benefits.
North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey has made clear that “our leaders must continue to support domestic energy exploration, which is proving our nation’s strongest job-growth engine.”
On a swing through western Pennsylvania last year, Vice President Joe Biden offered his insight: “You all know about the Marcellus Shale — I think you heard of that, right? There’s an energy boom that’s changed the paradigm of manufacturing” in America.
Indeed, President Obama has also touted the undeniable benefits tied to America’s natural gas revolution, which is being led by Pennsylvania and our labor unions.
“Our 100-year supply of natural gas is a big factor in drawing jobs back to our shores,” the president has said, underscoring the fact that “many are in manufacturing – the quintessential middle-class job.”
Our industry is deeply grateful for the critical and growing partnership with our region’s union and building trades. Their grit and talent is helping to positively reshape the commonwealth’s energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure future. Most of all, this generational opportunity is creating promise for hardworking middle-class families.
David Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. Visit www.MarcellusCoalition.org to learn more.
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