President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure plan is rightly garnering headlines. Biden wants to rebuild America through big public investments that will create many thousands of good-paying union jobs and help drive an economic boom after Covid-19.
From decaying roads to creaky bridges, much of our country needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Biden’s plan is smart and popular, but to be effective, it must boost all communities, especially low income communities of color ravaged by economic and racial injustice.
In its announcement of the infrastructure plan, the White House focused on “creating good-quality jobs” in “safe and healthy workplaces,” with an emphasis on helping workers of color who have been historically excluded from economic opportunity. The Biden administration even specically mentioned “training for formerly incarcerated individuals.”
These are steps in the right direction. But individuals with criminal records need more than training to be able to compete for and obtain the infrastructure jobs of the future. They need the barriers to meaningful, higher-wage employment removed. That means ending the employment discrimination and exploitation that Black and brown Americans so often face after getting released from behind bars. Mass incarceration has effectively put millions of Americans in a caste system in which they are perpetually stuck in low-wage jobs, if they can find work at all.