America’s much needed infrastructure investment offers a way to tackle inequality and rebuild the middle class
Jeremy Mohler, (202) 429-5091, firstname.lastname@example.org
Across America, chronic underinvestment has left roads, bridges, public transit, school buildings, and other critical infrastructure in need of serious repair.To fund this infrastructure gap, some cash-strapped municipalities have turned to public-private partnerships, also known as “P3s,” which use private capital to finance public projects.
A new report released today by In the Public Interest and the Partnership for Working Families (PWF) outlines best practices to ensure that P3 infrastructure projects help tackle inequality and rebuild America’s middle class. Like publicly financed projects, P3s have the potential to create middle class pathways for disadvantaged communities if they include policies regarding job quality and equity.
“Regardless of how an infrastructure project is funded, policymakers can’t lose sight of maximizing both economic and social benefits for their communities,” said Donald Cohen, Executive Director of In the Public Interest. “If governments are paying a higher cost of capital through private financing schemes, it is even more critical that they demand that the resulting projects provide benefits, especially quality jobs for disadvantaged communities.”
The report, Building America While Building Our Middle Class, identifies successful projects across the country that provided needed infrastructure and created opportunities for disadvantaged communities to acquire jobs, skills, and long-term careers in the construction and operation of transit, water systems, public buildings, and other critical public assets.
The report also offers recommendations for ensuring that P3 arrangements follow these examples to build the middle class while building communities with safe infrastructure. Some of these recommendations include:
- Incorporate job quality and equity policies, like prevailing wage standards and apprenticeship utilization requirements, into P3 enabling legislation and/or project contracts.
- Incorporate targeted hire programs into the construction, operations, and maintenance of infrastructure to ensure that disadvantaged communities, like low-income families, women, people of color, and those with a criminal record, have real opportunities.
- Create Community Workforce Agreements (CWAs) that establish targeted hiring goals, training opportunities, and jobs for communities of need.
- Establish boards or other advisory bodies for oversight of equity programs and policies.
"One of the strongest tools cities have in the fight against inequality and racial injustice is the ability to leverage control over major infrastructure projects for the public good," said Nikki Fortunato Bas, Partnership for Working Families Executive Director. "When done properly, cities can ensure that major development projects result in good jobs for the local community and disadvantaged workers. There's no reason that cities should miss the opportunity to improve the lives of their residents just because they choose a different funding mechanism."
The report also shares case studies from projects across the country that have successfully utilized job quality and equity policies. These include the Oakland Army base redevelopment, which is estimated to create as many as 6,000 jobs over the next 20 years, and the Elliott Bay Seawall Replacement project, the largest project in Seattle’s public works history.
In the Public Interest is a nonprofit research and policy center committed to promoting the values, vision, and agenda for the common good and democratic control of public goods and services.
The Partnership for Working Families (PWF) is a national network of leading regional advocacy organizations who support innovative solutions to our nation’s economic and environmental problems.