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Representatives from two MTD affiliated unions participated with nearly 40 other people in the White House Champions of Change Roundtable on Transportation on May 16.

Joining MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan for the 90-minute gathering were MTD Western Area Executive Board Member Robert Roach of the Machinists, Seafarers Piney Point (MD) Port Agent Patrick Vandegrift, Machinists Local Lodge 2339-H Representative Rosalie Canton and Machinists Local 754 Chairman Andrew Sandberg.

The session included union and non-union attendees from the maritime, air, rail, trucking and bus industries as well as infrastructure and environmental groups. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari hosted the discussion, which also featured a visit by Presidential Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

Maritime issues were among the many topics discussed. Vandegrift and others outlined how the Jones Act has been valuable to the U.S. economy for job creation for mariners, shipbuilders and other associated fields. A push to commit more resources for waterway transportation also was made.

The overall discussion focused on job creation. Representatives from the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union spotlighted cutbacks in public transportation at a time when more and more commuters are looking for alternatives to driving their own cars because of rising gas prices.

The Air Line Pilots Association emphasized that the spike in energy costs is hampering efforts to increase hiring at the airlines.

All the unions pointed out how they have worked with government agencies and their industries to create apprenticeship programs to prepare the next generation of transportation-related workers. Many of the participants – both union and non-union – urged the government officials to look into more job training programs at the high school level because not all students will go to college.

All contributors agreed that infrastructure spending is needed in order to improve America’s transportation systems.

The Transportation Department staff thanked the attendees for their suggestions and ideas. They noted this is planned to be the first of a series of meetings to work on job growth and the problems within the industry.