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Why Bill Clinton Came to 'Talk Windows' at the AFL-CIO

It began with a simple conversation over water and dinner rolls in a restaurant in Davos, Switzerland. After the annual world economic forum held in Davos, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and President Bill Clinton discussed what should be done to create jobs and take on the challenge of climate change—and how working people could step up and invest where banks and Wall Street had failed.  

Upon discovering Clinton and the AFL-CIO were working on separate but similar tracks for years, the two decided to join forces.

In 2011, the labor movement committed, as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, to help facilitate $20 million in investment in energy-efficient retrofits. Today Clinton joined Trumka, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) President Sean McGarvey for a ribbon-cutting ceremony as work begins on an energy efficiency retrofit of the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Through a partnership with Electrical Workers (IBEW), the AFL-CIO headquarters will improve the energy efficiency by more than 20%, create more than 30,000 hours of skilled construction work, lower carbon consumption and improve the functions and comfort of the building. 

The retrofit will replace and upgrade the existing windows and deploy a new lighting system, and the AFL-CIO will operate the building and its utilities more efficiently. 

"We have to find ways to get the jobs engine going again and also to try to change the job mix so average wages start going up," said Clinton. "This is a big deal. We can create jobs that pay above-average wages—to do things that need doing—that will be benefiting the next generation for 30 or 40 years, that actually have a self-financing mechanism."

The commitment announced two years ago is intended to encourage both workers' capital and skilled labor to contribute to large-scale investments in the reconstruction of America's built environment. These projects, the AFL-CIO believes, will result in at least $10 billion in workers' capital invested in this area within five years, stimulating job-creating infrastructure projects across the country.

The AFL-CIO also committed to at least $40 million to stoke the development of a commercial and industrial energy efficiency retrofit market, as well as a commitment to upgrade the skills of 100,000 tradespeople and enroll 40,000 new apprentices.

As part of these commitments and through a partnership with the IBEW, the AFL-CIO committed $4.8 million in financing to retrofit its own headquarters. The retrofit, managed by McKinstry, a nationally recognized energy services corporation, will increase the federation headquarters efficiency by 20%, save more than $125,000 per year in utilities and create more than 30,000 hours of skilled construction work.

"This is another powerful example of America’s workers making a difference in the lives of the people and communities they serve,” said Weingarten. “Harnessing the strength of the pension funds of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other workers to rebuild our roads, schools and bridges and create the infrastructure America needs is not just a financially sound investment—it creates jobs, accelerates our economic growth and invests in the future of our nation."

McGarvey said he looked forward toward working with President Clinton's task force on infrastructure to discuss what is needed in cities and states all over the United States.

And by partnering with the Building Trades, not only do we provide the safest and most skilled workforce anywhere in the world through our jointly managed training programs, we can also bring our financial resources to bear during this time of tight federal, state and municipal budgets.

At the end of the day, this is all about the workers. Trumka said:

Working people believe in the promise of America. We’re investing our time, our energy and our resources into American projects for America’s future, because that’s how we make that future come true. And we have a lot of work to do. Our nation’s infrastructure deficit is $3 trillion and counting. Millions need work.  Pension funds need returns. All of us—workers and our unions, our pension funds, government—all need to step up and do our part.

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