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Electrical, iron workers show muscle of investments in federal infrastructure

| GSA Blog Team
Post filed in: Climate  |  Public Buildings Service

GSA is working to support good union jobs in America through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. The latter is investing $3.4 billion to make federal buildings nationwide more sustainable and efficient. Altogether, the laws are estimated to create over 15,000 jobs and at least $2.8 billion in labor income.

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan visited two union training sites in Pittsburgh last week, where ironworkers and electric workers are learning more about low-embodied carbon construction materials and electric vehicle charging technologies, respectively. 

Iron worker event image

Many union training centers across the country are gearing up to work with cleaner construction materials – including some types of glass, concrete, asphalt, and steel – that agencies like GSA want to buy. These materials are helping GSA build, modernize, and maintain more sustainable, energy-efficient, and high-performing facilities as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. 

While in Pittsburgh, Carnahan announced $16 million for improvements to the Joseph F. Weis Jr. U.S. Courthouse, where these building materials (which emit fewer greenhouse gasses in the manufacturing process) will help rebuild the courthouse’s extensive loading dock. She also visited the Ironworkers Local Union 3 Training Center, where she heard about rigging, concrete reinforcement (rebar), and installing curtain walls. This included learning how the ironworkers have used their skills to help with projects such as the new Sylvia H. Rambo U.S. Courthouse in Harrisburg and the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Monroeville. 

Also in Pittsburgh, Carnahan announced $25 million in investments for electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). More than 780 charging ports will be installed across 33 federal buildings nationwide. At the IBEW Local 5 Pittsburgh Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee center, Carnahan spoke with apprentices in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union about electric-vehicle charging-station installation, building automation, and equipment calibration. Through its Electrical Training Alliance, the IBEW Local 5 in Pittsburgh  was among the first to train apprentices in EV charger installation and has certified more than 300 apprentices to date. 

Carnahan praised the IBEW workers she met for helping speed the installation of EV chargers in the region, an effort that aligns with goals such as electrifying the federal fleet. She also recognized the workers as being key to reaching GSA’s goal of a net-zero federal footprint, as hundreds of buildings will use Inflation Reduction Act funds to be retrofitted to use less energy and transition from fossil fuels after their upgrades. 

At both IBEW and the Ironworkers training facility, Carnahan talked with students who are learning the ins and outs of their trade, combining on-the-job training and classroom time. The students and instructors were passionate about their work, and Carnahan discussed how the Administration is working to support more highly skilled union jobs through investments in infrastructure, both within and beyond the federal footprint that GSA maintains. 

Carnahan’s visit with union workers emphasized GSA’s focus on the President’s Executive Order to expand the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) in federal construction projects. Specifically, GSA is playing a role in implementing the new Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements for PLAs on construction projects at or above $35 million.

In addition, GSA recently published helpful details surrounding current Inflation Reduction Act projects across the nation that are anticipated to use - in total - over $2 billion in clean construction materials, such as low-embodied asphalt, concrete, glass, and steel. The site includes  information about which types of workers will be needed for many of the projects we’re undertaking.

GSA is working hard to rebuild America’s infrastructure and reinvest in our communities and our people, working with organized labor for a triple win: creating good jobs, saving taxpayer dollars, and creating a healthier planet for our kids.