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AFSCME president, Council 8 member praise Biden investment in Canton, Ohio, water plant

AFSCME President Lee Saunders speaks at a press event in Canton, Ohio, where he praised the Biden administration for investing $46 million to upgrade the city’s water plant. Photo: Ezra Kane-Salafia
AFSCME president, Council 8 member praise Biden investment in Canton, Ohio, water plant
By AFSCME Staff ·
AFSCME president, Council 8 member praise Biden investment in Canton, Ohio, water plant
Ohio Council 8 member Chuck Seifer, a 15-year employee of the Canton Water Department, speaks at the event. Photo: Ezra Kane-Salafia

CANTON, Ohio – AFSCME President Lee Saunders and an AFSCME member who works at the Canton Water Department on Thursday lauded the Biden administration’s $46 million investment in the facility.

The money, which flows from the AFSCME-backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help the City of Canton modernize the Sugar Creek Water Treatment Plant. The goal is to help the plant continue delivering high-quality drinking water and create dozens of good-paying, public service jobs operating and maintaining the system for decades.

The plant supplies more than half the community’s drinking water and employs a number of workers like Chuck Seifer, who are part of AFSCME Ohio Council 8. The City of Canton will invest an additional $26 million to build a reservoir for collecting and storing safe drinking water and to retrofit its service shop. 

“I am proud that the skilled, dedicated workers at the Canton Water Department are members of the AFSCME family. They wake up every day focused on keeping Canton healthy and strong, ensuring that local residents have peace of mind every time they turn on the faucet,” Saunders said at a press conference to announce the funding. “For them and for all 1.4 million AFSCME members, public service is a calling. For everything these everyday heroes do, they deserve respect. And respect means robust investment in their jobs and their workplaces.”

Saunders praised the Biden administration and the bipartisan majority in Congress “for delivering on this promise, for understanding that infrastructure and infrastructure jobs are the lifeblood of communities across the country.”

Saunders, an Ohio native, also noted that AFSCME members and their allies fought hard to make sure the historic infrastructure law “includes provisions designed to keep public sector infrastructure jobs public.”

“Too often and for too long, in water especially, infrastructure privatization has degraded our communities – compromising safety, jacking up costs, and destroying good jobs,” Saunders said.

Seifer, a member of Local 2937, is a Canton native who has worked for the City of Canton for 19 years, 15 of those with the water department. He maintains water pipes, repairs water main breaks and is part of the department’s 24-hour on-call repair crew.

“Protecting the city’s water, keeping it clean and safe, making sure the pipes run smoothly, these are responsibilities we do not take lightly. I know firsthand the chaos a broken water main break creates for the community,” Seifer said.

“A few weeks ago my co-workers and I took on two back- to-back repairs while we were on call, working well into the early hours of the next day. That is why investment in our city’s water infrastructure is so important. While water crews are always available to the people of Canton, day or night – the city’s water pipes and treatment facilities need to be upgraded,” he added.

Seifer also spoke about the difference that his union has made in his life.

“I can say without a doubt that having this union job has helped me and my wife raise two children who are now adults. Thanks to my union contract, I have fair wages, affordable health care, and a clear path to retirement,” Seifer said.

Others who attended the event included Environmental Protection Agency officials Bruno Pigott, Debra Shore and Anne Vogel; local U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes; and Canton Mayor William V. Sherer II.

According to the Biden administration, the infrastructure law – which also provides critical funding for roads, bridges, transportation systems, pollution control and related infrastructure projects – allocates $50 billion for water infrastructure, the largest investment of its kind in U.S. history of this country. More information about the law is available here.

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