Driving up pressure on the House to accept a Senate-crafted transportation bill, a leading labor union has unveiled a chilling campaign that features a Russian Roulette radio ad and a mass mailing on surviving a bridge collapse.
“Russian Roulette,” by the half-million-member Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), accuses Congress of forcing Americans to play Russian Roulette when they cross structurally deficient or obsolete bridges. The ad’s soundtrack echoes with a game of Russian Roulette.
|The labor union accuses Congress of playing Russian Roulette with U.S. bridge safety.|
The ad will air in House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio district, which includes Dayton, as well as in Columbus and Cincinnati.
The union is trying to persuade House Republicans to drop their opposition to the Senate’s surface transportation bill (S. 1813), known as MAP-21. The two-year, 599-page, $109 billion bill was introduced in November and passed the Senate on Wednesday, (March 14) on a 74-22 vote. The measure has two Republican and two Democratic sponsors.
Unhappy with the Senate bill, however, House Republicans unveiled their own five-year, 847-page, $260 billion package, the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7), on Jan. 31.
Congress is facing a March 31 deadline on the bills. Congress has not passed a long-term highway and transit authorization bill since the $244.1 billion so-called SAFETEA-LU package of 2005. SAFETEA-LU has been extended eight times since Sept. 30, 2009, and is set to expire March 31.
Bridge Collapse Advice
Many unions fiercely oppose the House bill, contending that it would slash jobs, mandate privatization, undermine transportation investment, and roll back longstanding worker and public safety protections.
In addition to the Russian roulette radio spot, LIUNA is running one called “America’s Bridges are Falling Down,” sung by children.
|A mailing offers sobering advice to Ohio motorists. About 27 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.|
The group is also mailing 100,000 brochures titled “How to Survive a Collapsing Bridge: Inspired by House Speaker John Boehner” to the Speaker’s constituents. The sobering brochure features real advice from the U.S. Army Survival Guide on bridge collapses.
Also, on Monday, a flatbed truck carrying a giant roll of duct tape and labeled the “Emergency Bridge Repair Team” began traveling Ohio to raise awareness about the highway bill standoff.
The union had similarly targeted constituents of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but it has pulled the ads, anticipating the Senate agreement. “The House, however, has been handcuffed by extremist Republicans attempting to slash investment,” LIUNA said in a statement.
1 in 4 Bridges Deficient
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, one in four bridges—nearly 150,000 nationwide—has been deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete by Federal Highway Administration inspectors.
About 3,580 U.S. bridges are closed to all traffic because they are unsafe, while about 77,000 “create a chokehold on commerce because they are obsolete and can’t handle the weight of commercial vehicles,” according to LIUNA.
The union also cites a study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation that found poor road conditions to be a factor in 53% of traffic deaths.
“Stalling the Highway Bill and forcing Americans to, in effect, play Russian Roulette every time they cross a deficient bridge doesn’t just endanger lives— it puts a chokehold on our economy and on jobs,” said LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan.
“Politicizing the Highway Bill is bad for America. Speaker Boehner should lead his party to passage of a bipartisan bill.”