CANTON, Ohio – AFSCME President Lee Saunders and an AFSCME member who works at the Canton Water Department on Thursday praised the Biden administration’s $46 million investment in the facility.
The money, which comes from the AFSCME-backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, will help the city of Canton modernize the Sugar Creek Water Treatment Plant. The goal is to help the plant continue to provide high-quality drinking water and create dozens of good-paying public service jobs that operate and maintain the system for decades.
The plant supplies more than half of the community’s drinking water and employs a number of workers like Chuck Seifer, who is part of AFSCME Ohio Council 8. The city of Canton will invest an additional $26 million to build a collection and storage tank of safe drinking water and to renovate his service shop.
“I am proud that the skilled and dedicated workers at the Canton Water Department are members of the AFSCME family. They wake up every day focused on keeping Canton healthy and strong, ensuring local residents have peace of mind every time they turn on the faucet,” Saunders said at a news conference to announce the funding. “To them and to everyone 1.4 to AFSCME’s million members, public service is a calling. For everything these everyday heroes do, they deserve respect. And respect means investing heavily in their jobs and workplaces.”
Saunders praised the Biden administration and the bipartisan majority in Congress “for delivering on that promise, for realizing that infrastructure and infrastructure jobs are the lifeblood of communities across the country.”
Saunders, an Ohio native, also noted that AFSCME members and their allies fought hard to make sure the landmark infrastructure law “includes provisions designed to keep jobs in public sector infrastructure PUBLIC.”
“Too often and for too long, especially in water, the privatization of infrastructure has degraded our communities – compromising safety, driving up costs and destroying good jobs,” Saunders said.
Seifer, a member of Local 2937, is a Canton native who has worked for the city of Canton for 19 years, 15 of them with the water department. He maintains water pipes, repairs water main breaks and is part of the department’s 24-hour on-call repair team.
“Protecting the city’s water, keeping it clean and safe, making sure the pipes run smoothly, these are responsibilities we don’t take lightly. I know firsthand the chaos a broken water outage creates for the community,” Seifer said.
“A few weeks ago, my co-workers and I received two duplicate repairs while on call, working until the early hours of the next day. This is why investing in our city’s water infrastructure is so important. While water crews are always available to cantonment residents, day or night – the city’s water pipes and treatment facilities need to be improved,” he added.
Seifer also talked about the difference his union has made in his life.
“I can say without a doubt that this trade union job has helped me and my wife raise two children who are now adults. Thanks to my union contract, I have fair wages, affordable health care and a clear path to retirement,” said Seifer.
Others attending the event included Environmental Protection Agency officials Bruno Pigott, Debra Shore and Anne Vogel; Local US Representative Emilia Sykes; and Canton Mayor William V. Sherer II.
Under the Biden administration, the infrastructure law — which also provides critical funding for roads, bridges, transportation systems, pollution control and related infrastructure projects — earmarks $50 billion for water infrastructure, the largest investment of its kind in history. American of this country. More information about the law can be found here.