Jill Biden and Whitmer attend listening session Build Back Better, discuss creation of jobs in Michigan

Sunday, July 19, 2020 - 8:06pm

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Courtesy of Navya Gupta

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign, Biden for President, hosted a virtual listening session called “Build Back Better” also the name of his economic recovery plan Friday morning via Zoom. The session was led by Dr. Jill Biden, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and

 the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, which represents bricklayers, masonry restorers and recycled-crafts workers.

 

The session commenced with Tom Ward, an apprentice coordinator and training director at BAC’s Metro Detroit training center, discussing the union’s aims and giving viewers a tour of the Metro Detroit training center facilities. He said the union created good jobs with benefits for those interested in bricklaying and craft working.

 

“My journey in masonry began (with being) engaged in meaningful training that not only provides good opportunity but hope for the future,” Ward said. “I’ve never worked an hour of my adult life without benefits to my pension plans or my health care. (Members) work hard and we own our job from the day we start till the day we retire.”

 

Chuck Kukawa, president of BAC Local 2 Michigan, said the union has been serving its members since 1884 and now represents nearly 4000 members in Michigan. Kukawa iterated the union has been providing members with above-average wages, quality health insurance, well-structured pension plans and educational scholarships for their children.

 

“The work that our members perform is timeless and is something that will last beyond their lifetimes,” Kukawa said. “We are proud that our union is able to offer not just a job but a lifelong career.”

 

Whitmer also spoke about Joe Biden’s plan to help Michigan’s workers and businesses. She said BAC helps mobilize talent in Michigan by providing real opportunities and creating jobs for the middle class, leading to a stronger and more resilient economy.

 

“What’s going on in training facilities like this (is) how you change lives,” Whitmer said. “They’re not just jobs. They are good jobs. Jobs that you can raise a middle-class family on.”

 

Jill Biden said unions play an integral part in building a safer and more sustainable country by creating good jobs. She commended the union for finding ways to support the members even during the pandemic.

 

“Over the last few months, our nation has suffered incredible losses,” Jill Biden said. “We have also seen incredible courage and resilience during this time.”

 

Jill Biden also spoke about former Vice President Joe Biden’s plans to enable students to pursue higher education without debt, fund federal infrastructure projects that hire workers who have been trained in federal apprenticeship programs and help unions create a strong, well-trained force of members.

 

Damari Covington-Woods, a student in BAC’s apprenticeship program, spoke about how the program not only taught him the fundamentals of being a bricklayer, but also taught him important life skills.

 

“I had a job offer immediately after I finished my courses,” Covington-Woods said. “(I learned) how to carve myself into someone who appreciates life. It’s a great feeling”

 

Charisma Carlisle, a second-year apprentice, said she believes that BAC needs to spread awareness about the apprenticeship programs so women know that bricklaying and masonry are fields they too can be a part of.

 

“It’s hard being a woman in the field,” Carlisle said. “It’s male-dominated and there are a lot of obstacles.” 

 

The session came to an end with Whitmer emphasizing the need for awareness regarding the options recent high school graduates have in finding their path to prosperity and the benefits of the apprenticeship program.

 

“You’ve got job security, you’ve got good wage (and) you’ve got health care,” Whitmer said. “What you don’t have (is) debt. There’s a path for everyone. Ensuring that everyone understands what the various paths are is critical.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.