Biden’s Diversity Push in Trades Sparks Union, Industry Tension

Written by: Rebecca Rainey
Published on: Jul 7, 2022

diversity in construction
Photo credit: Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

Biden administration plans to create a high-skilled, diverse workforce to complete the billions of dollars of infrastructure projects expected over the next decade has largely hinged on siphoning federal dollars toward contractors and grant applicants that partner with labor organizations.

But the administration also will need buy-in from businesses and Republican-led states, which say some of the steps President Joe Biden has taken actually could limit access for women- and minority-owned businesses.

The idea is that if the federal government encourages job training programs in certain industries such as electric vehicle production—and aims the opportunities at communities and groups that typically have been left out of the largely White, male-dominated trades industries—the administration can deliver on its promise for an equitable recovery while also repairing damaged roads, bridges, and pipes.

Women only accounted for about 10% of the construction workforce in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The problem: Industry groups and labor unions disagree on how to get there.

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