- For LIUNA Leaders
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012, Nashville, TN
It is truly a privilege to be here today on behalf of the half-million members of LIUNA – men like Shawn Whitt of LIUNA Local 818, our proud apprentice of the year. On behalf of all members of LIUNA we congratulate and salute you on your achievement.
Shawn, like thousands of other LIUNA members, is hard at work every day building TVA, building the Tennessee Valley and building America.
I want to acknowledge some of the leaders with us this morning starting with conference cochairs Peyton Hairston and George Jones … TVA Director Barbara Haskew … TVA Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Janet Herrin … as well as all of the outstanding contractor representatives who are present.
I must salute my fellow union brothers and sisters, Building and Construction Trades President Sean McGarvey – a friend and a dedicated, committed, and passionate trade union leader; a man who understands the need to adapt to changing times and who is on the forefront of leading building trades unions to a brighter future … and BCTD Secretary Treasurer Brent Booker, a Laborer by birth and someone we’re proud to see take a leadership role with the national Building Trades.
With us today are three LIUNA leaders with roots in this region. LIUNA Vice President and Regional Manager Robert Richardson - a key member of our union’s General Executive Board, a powerful advocate for working men and women, a trusted advisor and my right hand man. Robert does a great job for all the men and women of the Ohio Valley and Southern States Region, some of whom work right here in the Tennessee Valley. And Steve Farner, who serves as Assistant Regional Director to Robert … whose first job in our union was at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant and who has his finger on the pulse of the needs of contractors and workers, and who works tirelessly to meet those needs. And retired LIUNA Vice President and Regional Manager and the current Secretary-Treasurer of the Tennessee AFL-CIO, James Hale. James is
a warrior for the working class. He and his family are lifelong friends and the Hale name is a name of significance not only in this region but throughout our entire International Union. There is no finer partnership, no better model for the future, no stronger example in our nation of labor-management cooperation than the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Through generations of hard work, of seeing the big picture, of bravely facing challenges headon and delivering for 9 million people across seven states, TVA remains the ultimate gold standard for partnership between government, labor, and the private sector. It’s a standard that was not easy to reach. TVA was borne out of the strife and struggle of the Great Depression.
It was but a concept, an experiment put forth by brave and courageous leaders of that time who
were willing to risk getting out of their comfort zone. They were leaders who didn’t back up and who wouldn’t back down in the face of political opposition to the idea of a public power company.
Since the day in 1933 when President Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, up through today, 79 years later, TVA has given working men and women hope, opportunity, and purpose, and provided safe jobs that support middle class families. It has lifted entire communities out of poverty and powered a large part of our nation as efficiently and as effectively as any other energy provider in the world.
Our partnership now, as it was then, is strong, proven and tested. Our tripartite structure means there are no “hands-off” – we are all hands-on, we are all in this
together as a government owner as private contractors and as workers and unions. It is fair to say that without TVA there would be no Laborers Union and no Building Trades in the Tennessee Valley.
And I think it is fair to say that without LIUNA and Building Trades unions there would be no TVA as we know it.
The 15 million work hours a year provided by TVA is a lifeline for 2,000 LIUNA members and thousands more Building Trades men and women.
Just as TVA was borne of struggle, TVA is facing challenges today, as are our contractor partners, and as are unions.
It is incumbent on each of us to understand what the other faces and to act collectively in the best interests of our partnership.
From its earliest days, LIUNA and the Building Trades have strived to address the needs of TVA and its contractors.
We partnered to create world-class skills training - willing to break the mold when necessary and to continually improve it. We were united in recent years as TVA determined its future strategy in the market, working to ease the pain of the Clean Air Act and its impact on coal plants, and redirecting TVA to be a leader in the production of clean energy. We will diligently and relentlessly work together to develop a rational and reasonable 21st
century solution to America’s energy needs.
Across our country today there are two movements. One stands with President Obama and holds the position that our country’s energy future lies in an all-of-the-above strategy, that the key to energy independence isn’t a magical silver bullet. It’s not relying on one energy sector but the solution is in utilizing all forms of safe energy production. The other is an extreme view: that all coal is bad, all nuclear is bad, all natural gas is bad, and all oil is bad – and, would leave us standing in the sun tilting at windmills.
This extreme view poses a real threat in the form of delays, over-regulation, lost jobs, and in the end it poses a threat to America and our quest for energy independence.
We agree that wind and solar hold promise as a piece of the clean energy puzzle and TVA to its credit has added those to the mix. We also believe nuclear energy is clean energy, that natural gas is clean energy, that hydro electric is clean energy, and that we can’t get to energy independence, or reduced carbon emissions, without all of them.
Just as we are united and determined to bring to market a reasonable “all of the above” energy policy, collectively we are the voice of reason against those who preach the ideology that government has no role in the market place or in energy production.
I’m not here to make a partisan political speech, but to those who say government has no role in the marketplace, I say this: TVA is America’s largest public power company and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
TVA’s economic impact has contributed to more than 300,000 new or retained jobs and $32 billion in business investment in the region since 2005.
TVA is raising tens of thousands of dollars for veterans who need work through the Building Trades Helmets to Hardhats program.
Its energy sales are ranked first in the nation. Its power rates are lower than the national average and the authority paid the equivalent of $530 million dollars in taxes last year.
Those who slam government’s role, who say partnerships with unions and the private sector are ineffective, need to leave their think tanks and offices and come to the Tennessee Valley and visit TVA, and get used to 79 years of being proven wrong.
I will end with this: The measure of success for an individual or an organization is whether you’ve left a place better than the way that you found it. And by that measure TVA, our government, contractors, and the union men and women who make it all work, are profoundly successful.
There is no match, there is no entity, that even comes close. Brothers and sisters, as we march forward together honoring what has been built before us and
stepping toward the future to create history anew for TVA … as TVA leads the nation to a comprehensive clean energy policy … to supporting and creating needed jobs, whether it’s through our continued fight for a rational energy policy or our continued partnership that
celebrates the role of government, labor, and the private sector working together, I ask that we always remember this: If we stand together, if we fight together, if we work together, and if we stay together we will win together.
We will win together, building on our proud shared history, building on the successes of the last 79 years of the Tennessee Valley Authority, leading the way to clean energy, to energy independence, to good jobs, and leading the way to an even stronger partnership. Thank you very much for the privilege of speaking to you today.