Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the SMART Leadership Conference

Aug 2, 2023

Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the SMART Leadership Conference
Wed, 08/02/2023 – 10:57

ICT Supply Chain
Workforce Development


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Office of Public Affairs

Don Graves

Thank you, Michael, for that introduction. Hello everyone! I couldn’t be more pleased to be here with you, General President Coleman, and all the dynamic and diverse SMART members gathered here today.

The work of sheet metal, rail, and transportation workers is integral to our nation’s infrastructure. For more than a century, you have connected America to itself, from small rural towns to bustling neighborhoods in cities across the country.

Now, thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are making the once-in-a-generation investments that are essential for ensuring that your work can continue for decades to come, and that our economic and national security remain as strong as ever.

Make no mistake: we believe in the American worker. We believe in the strength that unions like yours bring to the U.S. economy. And we believe that SMART members are going to be at the forefront of these investments.

I know that our friends over at the Department of Transportation are playing a critical role in distributing much of the funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and those efforts are deeply needed and appreciated.

Now I know a lot of people, when they think of the Commerce Department, they say it’s the Department of Business. But under this President, we are also the Department of people, communities and American workers.  And at Commerce, we’re also doing our part by overseeing billions in new federal funding. As we deploy this funding, we have one overarching goal: to improve America’s competitiveness so that our workers – like the over 200,000 members of SMART – the businesses that employ those workers, and the communities where those workers live can thrive in the 21st century global economy.

That new funding includes $50 billion from the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act that President Biden signed into law last year. With that funding, we will spur hundreds of billions of $s in private capital and investment, supporting thousands of good-paying union jobs while we’re at it.

[We are also prioritizing the recruitment, training and retention of a large, skilled and diverse workforce that will be critical to implementing America’s semiconductor ecosystem and unlocking the next generation of American innovation.

The construction jobs that we’ll create have the potential to change lives, offer family-sustaining benefits, and lead to long-term career pathways. You know this.  Jobs in the trades are some of the highest paying jobs for those without college degrees.

But the only way we’re going to have enough workers to turn these plans into meaningful action is by investing together in our workforce, as well as diversifying it.

We need to bring in those workers who for too long have been kept on the sidelines, including women and people of color. And we won’t forget those living in communities that have been passed by as our economy changed.  Those that believed their country forgot about them.

That’s why Secretary Raimondo and I are calling on companies to work with unions, high schools, and community colleges to train 100,000 new technicians through apprenticeships, career and technical education, and other career pathway programs over the next decade.

And that’s why we in the Commerce Department and the entire Administration want to work with you to ensure that underrepresented workers can partake in the unprecedented opportunities that these investments are bringing.

We have been asking – and will continue to ask – companies to collaborate with you to build the workforce that we need, and that includes ensuring that our workers are treated fairly.

First, we’re requiring that companies submit workforce development plans that align with the Good Job Principles we developed in partnership with my good friend Secretary Su, which include giving workers the free and fair opportunity to join a union. Companies need to engage with community partners, including labor unions, in developing their workforce plans. In fact, we have already convened meetings with the major chip manufacturers and leading unions to start building those relationships.

Also, every project using these funds needs to pay prevailing wages. In addition, we’re strongly pushing for Project Labor Agreements, which are an important[F(4]  tool for construction projects of this scale and complexity to stay on track.

We’re working to realize the most inclusive economy in American history, that grows – as President Biden says – from the bottom up and the middle out. This is our chance to usher American workers and communities into a new era of economic prosperity. And if we do this right, everyone – workers, communities, unions, contractors, and businesses – will benefit.

Thank you again for your exemplary work and providing the bedrock on which this country’s economy can flourish. We at the Department of Commerce are excited to work with you in the months ahead.

Bureaus and Offices

Economic Development Administration


Don Graves
Gina M. Raimondo


Secretary Gina Raimondo

Read the full report from the U.S. Department of Commerce: Read More