Acting Labor Sec. Julie Su: Going to move 'heaven and earth' to help respond to bridge collapse

President Biden set to travel to Baltimore on Friday to the side of the collapse. Francis Scott Keybridge, acting secretary. Acting Labor Secretary Julie Sue was there just yesterday. The secretary joins us now to talk about the economic impact of the disaster for Baltimore’s port and beyond. Good morning. Thank you for joining us. What did you see and what is the true state of play at this moment? Well, thank you so much for having me. So, you know, President Biden has been very clear that we are going to move heaven and earth to help respond to this catastrophic accident with this. Something like this has a very profound impact on workers. First, you have the obviously the families of the workers who tragically lost their lives. You know, they were working overnight, doing the often invisible work of helping to, you know, keep our country going. The 2nd is the workers who are there now and who are going to be there to help make sure that the cleanup gets done and then to do the rebuild as necessary. We want to make sure to do that in a way that is that is efficient and that is responsible. And then the third are the workers that I met with workers who are impacted by temporary closures in their workplace. And there’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of fear about you know how long is this gonna take to rebuild and when I when I gonna go back to work and we want to make sure that they have as many supports as they need all the federal funds that that that are available to them and making sure that they feel some sense of economic security during this rough time. Let let’s talk about that and and the cost and the federal funds, ’cause I think there’s a a big debate about that. At least that’s being whispered about in Washington, if not more loudly than about frankly, how much federal funds should be spent on this. Whether the public and the taxpayers should be on the hook for this, whether you think the insurance companies that insure some of this and industry should be paying. It appears at the moment that President Biden said that he almost that there’s a blank check to fix this. Some of the estimates could be 2 billion dollars, $4 billion more. So we have to understand the importance of of what we’re talking about here, right? The the, the port in Baltimore is an entryway, right? It’s for our economy. There’s, you know, I think before the last few years most people didn’t think very much about supply chains and and you know, and the ports frankly, but they’re an incredibly important economic driver, not just for Maryland but for the country as a whole and it’s impact on working people and businesses. There’s about 15,000 workers directly employed at the port and another 140,000 indirect and then that doesn’t count the number of businesses that small businesses included that get affected by everything that comes in and out. And so this is all hands on deck moment. You know the President has been very clear. We are going to stand with Maryland, stand with the working people there and make sure that we are there every step of the way both for the clean up and for for for for the important work of rebuilding back. I know it’s maybe early to ask this question but what are the lessons of of of this this disaster and and perhaps what needs to happen frankly in other parts of the country as well to to prevent these type of things from happening in the future or and or to set up both accountability and ensure the cost against these type of events. Right. That’s such an important question. So you know without getting ahead of the National Transportation Safety Board that is still doing its investigation. The president set up a unified command structure from the beginning right between the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the State of Maryland. And part of that assessment is still going on. One of the things that you know that that that I’m concerned about that we’re looking at is how do you make sure that there is a safety net for workers during times like this who are going to be out of work temporarily through no fault of their own. You know, the Small Business Administration issued a federal disaster and there will be small business loans that go out. We want to make sure that working people also have that sense of security. The other thing is making sure that you know, you know against six workers lost their lives and we want to make sure sure that workers who are doing the often invisible work that they have notice of these kinds of things so that we can keep them safe. You know these were Latino workers and in 20218 point 2% of the entire employed workforce in California was Latino, 14% was the number that were involved in a work related death. And so we have to make sure that we keep working people healthy and safe and that everybody comes home at the end of the work shift. Madam Secretary, the owner and manager of that cargo ship that rammed into the bridge filed yesterday in court to try and limit their liability on all of this. They’re saying that they think it shouldn’t be any more than $43.6 million that they’re responsible for. Any thoughts on that? I mean again the investigation is ongoing and I’m going to defer to what comes out of that. We are really focused right now on getting people, you know obviously getting things back to normal and and and and getting that Channel cleared. You know the weather is not going to be our friend on this. And so we know that the the faster that happens the better it is for everybody involved including for for the important role that for the the movement of goods, right. That port is literally one of our connecting points to the rest of the world. So, OK. So finally then for those who are watching, who are, who are either moving those goods or trying to move around this, this, this problem, what does the timeline look like to you at this point? We don’t have a timeline yet, but you know obviously the the effort has been mobilized very quickly. This is a massive, massive effort. I was there yesterday as you noted and and it’s you know there’s there’s what we can see, there’s what what we can’t yet see. And so all of that work has to be done in a way that is coordinated and responsible and make sure that the workers who are involved in that effort are also kept, kept safe during it. So, so we will continue to be transparent about about the efforts, but we also are very committed to getting that port reopened as quickly as possible.

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