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In Michigan, AFSCME, members of Congress urge passage of Build Back Better plan

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AFSCME Council 25 member, Lorna Davison.

Over the last week, Michigan AFSCME members have joined the growing chorus of voices pushing Congress to pass President Joe Biden’s entire $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan to reinvest in America’s physical and human infrastructure.

Tony Williams and Lorna Davison, both members of AFSCME Council 25, joined virtual press calls with Council 25 President Lawrence Roehrig and Reps. Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence.

They detailed the cascading challenges facing America that would be addressed by the infrastructure bill that passed the Senate and is pending in the House and the rest of the Build Back Better agenda, which passed the House but is pending in the Senate.

“There are big problems we need to tackle,” said Davison, a victim’s advocate in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. “Too many lifesaving medications are priced out of reach for working families. Too many workers don’t have paid sick and medical leave. Workers who want to organize for a voice on the job face retaliation from employers.”

These challenges often hit working families the hardest. Williams, who represents 2,800 University of Michigan workers as president of Local 1583, spoke from personal experience with workers who are struggling to find and afford child care while also dealing with the long-term effects of COVID and the stress of having to work mandatory overtime at understaffed departments.

The American Rescue Plan, which averted a looming catastrophe by providing $350 billion in federal aid to states, localities and schools, was an emergency measure, and just the beginning of what is needed to ensure this temporary crisis doesn’t become a permanent emergency. AFSCME members played in big role in getting that package passed through Congress.

“The ARP is working,” said Roehrig, who is also an AFSCME vice president. “Families are receiving relief, cities and states and townships are bringing back important public services.” But, he noted, the ARP was “a necessary emergency rescue bill, not the end. We need to build back better so we don’t get in this position again.”

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Rep. Brenda Lawrence.

The next step, Lawrence said, is “creating good paying jobs, investing in our infrastructure, lowering the cost of child care, health care and prescription drugs” – all things included in the Build Back Better agenda.

The infrastructure bill must pass Congress first. Dingell detailed the benefits that passing just the infrastructure bill would have on Michigan.

“As it stands now, Michigan will receive $8 billion for highway and bridge infrastructure projects and $1 billion for Great Lakes cleanup programs so we can ensure safe water and protection for our environment,” she noted. “This is our moment. Together, we can do it.”

It wasn’t just Michigan AFSCME members who urged Congress to do the right thing. The call also came recently from Arizona, from AFSCME members and from Rep. Tom O’Halleran. O’Halleran said funding the Build Back Better agenda through a fairer tax system makes sense.

“Asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes – it’s about time,” O’Halleran said.

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