Teamsters, DFL keep up pressure to fund roads, bridges

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On the eve of a state budget forecast expected to bring bad news, Teamsters Local 120 representatives stood shoulder to shoulder with DFL leaders to call on Governor Tim Pawlenty to support investments in transportation and jobs.

The Minnesota Department of Finance will make its budget forecast Friday morning. The forecast will shape the debate for the 2008 session of the Minnesota legislature.

Teamsters and DFL leaders expressed fears that Pawlenty will use the gloomy forecast that’s expected to continue his opposition to job-creating investments in transportation infrastructure. Earlier this year, Pawlenty vetoed a transportation bill passed by the state Legislature with bi-partisan support. Immediately after the 35W bridge collapse, Pawlenty expressed support for a special session to address transportation but then backed away from that support.

“Governor Pawlenty, it is time to work across the aisle… to pass a comprehensive transportation bill,” said Brian Melendez, Minnesota DFL party chair.

“Transportation is the lifeblood of Minnesota,” said Rhys Ledger, representing Teamsters Local 120, the largest Teamsters local in the state.

“Governor Pawlenty, please do something to fix Minnesota’s transportation system,” pleaded Tom Reak, Teamsters Local 120 member and a 20-year truck driver.

“My coworkers and I do everything we can to earn our money and grow the company, but things like traffic jams and bridge collapses are beyond our control — and they are becoming all too common,” Reak said. “They are making our company uncompetitive, forcing layoffs and risking lives.” (One of the people killed when the 35W bridge collapsed was Teamsters member Paul Eickstadt, driver of a Sara Lee Bakery delivery truck).

Melendez noted that an additional $1 billion per year — for 20 years —is needed for the state’s transportation infrastructure, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

State Senator Tarryl Clark, assistant majority leader, said the transportation bill Pawlenty vetoed this past spring would have created 50,000 jobs. “Those jobs he vetoed would have translated into more revenue,” she added. “This is about creating economic activity.”

“The Governor has been the one saying ‘no,'” Clark said. “That doesn’t help us build new bridges, that doesn’t help us make our roads safer.”

Steve Share edits the Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council. Visit the CLUC website, www.minneapolisunions.org

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