“Passage of the $447 billion American Jobs Act will put people on the bench back to work,” proclaimed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood from the platform of the St. Paul’s Union Depot Central Corridor Light Rail project. He was joined by FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, elected members of Congress Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, along with newly elected Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Twin Cities mayors Rybak and Coleman. Oh, not overlooked were hundreds of White construction workers.
“People on the bench get back to work” has been the rallying cry chanted in unison by those lobbying for infrastructure projects, advocating the creation of tens of thousands of construction jobs for Minnesota’s “people on the bench” who need to “get back to work” by re-building and expanding America’s light-rail systems, deteriorating roads and bridges.
“People on the bench get back to work” refers to union construction workers who are laid off. The photo of the event says a thousand words. The only African American was Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison; noticeably absent were currently employed Black “dirty jobs” workers.
The Re-Build America construction strategy is not the answer for the millions of well-educated Blacks who attended the Congressional Black Caucus’s Job Tour. The corporate-attired in suits and ties with résumé in hand need not apply for the Re-Build America dirty jobs. Laid-off Black professionals are not the “people on the bench get back to work” who passage of the American Jobs Act will reach.
With the union rolls absent of their names, laid-off corporate Black Americans require something other than the passage of the American Jobs Act as currently proposed by President Obama. They are more appropriately labeled “people on the couch.”