Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Secretary Buttigieg Remarks at Worldport Louisville, Kentucky

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Thank you very much, Justin, appreciate your remarks and appreciate your story and the kind introduction. 

Thanks to all of you who have welcomed me and my colleagues from DOT for today's visit. And thank you, of course, for everything that you do, especially in this very, very busy time of year. 

I am so proud of the partnerships that we have with so many who are here today. 

I want to recognize and congratulate Congressman-elect McGarvey. Congratulations to you. Really looking forward to working with you and we've got a lot of work to do back in Washington to keep things moving forward and keep building back America. 

And of course, we have appreciated the support of Congressman Yarmuth on a number of efforts. And I'd be remiss visiting Louisville if I didn't say a word about the late Congressman Ron Mazzoli, who recently passed away -- who's just one of a kind, a very kind, wise and generous mentor, who I learned an awful lot from when he was a fellow up at the Institute of Politics, and I was trying to figure out which way was up as a student. 

I want to congratulate Mayor-elect Greenberg. We had a great conversation earlier. I continue to believe that mayors are the tip of the spear in getting so much done. You're arriving at a remarkable moment of opportunity for Louisville, and so many of the decisions about what we're working on federally are actually made at the local level. And I know that you and your team are going to have a terrific set of opportunities in front of you. So, thanks very much. 

And I know Mayor Fischer's abroad, but had a great chance to speak with him and he has an awful lot to be proud of here. Jim Gray -- lost track of Jim -- but thanks to Jim, to everybody from the DOT, and to the governor for his leadership. All of us value the relationship with the state more than ever. Because again, whether we're talking about electric vehicle charging stations, or we're confronting the epidemic of roadway deaths, we know that the states and the decisions that are made there are going to be vital. 

And I brought along some friends including notably our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Robin Hutchison. Thanks for joining us, Robin, and thanks for all you do to keep everybody on the road safe. 

So, we've got so much good stuff going on in Kentucky. We've got over $1.8 billion just in the last two years alone, just for roads and bridges alone – to give you a sense of the scale of the President's commitment to upgrading infrastructure. Right here in Louisville, helping to reimagine 9th Street and helping to create a long-term vision for Broadway. 

But today, we are here to talk about supply chains. 

And hard to think of a place that would be better than standing next to this semi, with that 747 behind us, to talk about what it actually takes to get things where they need to be. 

I want to thank Carol Tomé and all of your colleagues at UPS. One of my first visits as Transportation Secretary was to a distribution center in March 2021 in Landover, Maryland where we went to meet the drivers delivering those vaccines -- who stepped up then, and the drivers and workers of UPS stepped up again when we needed you during those peak supply chain disruptions last year. You and your colleagues, Carol, were at the table from the very beginning, when the President asked us to get ahead of what eventually became headline-grabbing issues in our supply chains later on last year. And we pulled through it thanks to the partnerships that we've built. 

Those drivers, of course, in Maryland were Teamsters, and I want to thank Sean O'Brien -- great to be with you again-- and great to be with so many leaders and workers from the Teamsters who literally helped America to survive the pandemic. Teamsters moved medicine and vaccines and medical supplies, helped small businesses stay afloat when they needed to quickly shift to online sales. And I'll have a little more to say about Teamsters in a minute. But to begin with, I just want to emphasize, when they write the histories of our time, yours will be one of the most important chapters. 

So, let's talk about supply chains. First thing that has to be said is how far we have come, even just in the past year. So, I want to just be the Ghost of Christmas Past for a minute here, just to remind us of where we were a year ago in that holiday season. 

Americans were wondering if we would be able to get basic goods, not to mention things like Christmas presents when we needed them. The pandemic had pushed our global supply chains to the breaking point. About 100 container ships were bearing down on the Ports of LA and Long Beach on any given day. Some in the media were proclaiming that Christmas was going to be "canceled." 

But that didn't happen. We as a country stepped up. Our administration brought together players from across the supply chains of our country -- notably including UPS. And together, we found ways to address many of the biggest disruptions. 

People got almost 99% of their packages on time or with minimal delays from major shippers. You all worked your magic and Christmas came right on time. Matter of fact, the ports of this country moved a record number of goods last year and retail sales hit an all-time record high. 

Now fast forward to today, a year later. Right now, at worst, the number of ships waiting at anchor in the Ports of LA and Long Beach is in the single digits. And we're often seeing that backlog completely gone, at the same time as we just saw record sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Some of the Pacific Ocean shipping rates are down 80%, which ought to help lower prices that Americans are seeing at the store in a moment where we're fighting inflation with everything that we've got, and helping people to get what they need without delays. From medical supplies to toys and everything in between, things of great importance and great meaning move in your hands to the places and the people that they're meant to reach. 

Like millions of Americans, a few weeks from now, I will be sitting with Chasten and our toddlers, opening presents under the Christmas tree -- and I bet some of them will have come from right through this facility.

And I know so many gifts for the holidays -- engagement rings arriving in New Year's Eve, and countless other physical items that make this time of year special for people -- will come through here. Over 3 million packages processed here every day, which is what makes Worldport such a great place to talk about why supply chains are so important to our economy and our daily lives. 

Then again, I think when I see my kids opening the wrapping paper -- and I'm guessing they'll actually be more excited about the wrapping paper and the box than whatever's in it -- what I'll be most excited about, even though I'm a supply chain buff, is just the joy that that brings to them. And the thing about the business that you're in -- transportation and supply chains in particular -- is when it's going well, most people don't have to think about it. You handle these essentials and worry about getting them where they need to go so other people don't have to. So that they can concentrate on whatever means most to them: their loved ones, their education, their businesses, all the things they don't have to invest energy in worrying about because you are on top of it. 

Now, even reindeer have their limits and I've got to say it is the workers we met today, the longshoreman I met in Los Angeles, the rail workers I've been with in New Jersey who are actually delivering. So, thank you. 

Later today I'll be riding with a truck driver and supervisor to hear more about the day-to-day work there and any lessons we can bring back to Washington to help make trucking the strongest career it can possibly be. 

And I know that there's a lot we can learn from UPS and Teamsters. I want to recognize you all for a driver-safety rate more than two times better than the national average. And for the track record that you are building creating a strong and diverse workforce. You demonstrate that when workers are treated fairly, when businesses and unions are both strong, when a driver can make a living but also a real opportunity, if she wants to, to start as a driver and work her way into management or headquarters roles as so many of your colleagues have done, that is the stuff of the American Dream. 

And I'm very proud of the middle-class careers created here. I'm proud of the work that the Biden-Harris Administration is doing to help more people enter and stay in that middle class. 

And we know that the holidays can feel very different for people when they don't have a job or when their job doesn't pay enough to support their family. That's why we're proud that we've helped to create over 735,000 good American manufacturing jobs in less than two years. It's why we're fighting global inflation so hard with every tool at our disposal, which is part of why inflation is lower on our shores than many of our peer countries -- and is slowing down. It's why President Biden pushed for and signed the Covid recovery law, the infrastructure law, the climate-jobs law and so many more -- leading to the strongest record of creating employment in the first two years of any administration ever. And some of the strongest employment numbers ever recorded in many states around the country. 

It's also why it was so important that Congress acted to prevent a rail shutdown that would have put almost a million people out of work right away, increased prices for gas and food, and endangered the safety of tap water in towns across the country. We're glad that freight rail workers are going to see a long overdue and well-deserved 24% pay increase, that the two-man crew will be protected, that healthcare and other benefits will be improved. But I want to be clear. We do not believe that this is where things should end. And now that we've avoided a national catastrophe for our economy, we will continue to push for paid leave for all workers because it is the right thing to do. 

Our work here isn't just about fixing immediate supply chain issues and concerns. It's about making sure our workers are treated well and our supply chains are more resilient with costs coming down for families, and a more competitive economic picture for the future. And we're making thousands of investments around the country to do just that. 

At the Port of LA, we're helping build a new truck overpass over the freight rail line, so that both trucks and freight can move more efficiently. We're fixing bridges, like ones I saw in Pennsylvania, Arizona, that are all around the country, that if they do not, God forbid, collapse, still have these load limits that make it impossible for a truck -- or for that matter a school bus or an ambulance -- to get on. That means long and costly detours. 

Last week, we celebrated the opening of a state-of-the-art aircraft de-icing facility at Memphis International Airport, the largest cargo facility in America. Because again, you know, reindeer can only do so much. And our aircraft, in the wintertime, need a little help. And our supply chains are so connected that something as specific as a de-icing delay at one stage can impact things all the way down the chain. 

And perhaps most importantly, we're doing everything that we can to improve the careers in the professions that power our supply chain. We're building new truck parking, so that drivers can get safe rest. We've launched the Women in Trucking Advisory Board, because we can't leave half of America's talent on the table and miss out on a generation of great drivers because women aren't supported in the career. We're investing to help my fellow Veterans get opportunities to enter the transportation workforce debt-free. And we're helping states cut out the red tape and increase their capacity to issue commercial driver's licenses, so that we have enough drivers to handle the strong and growing economy. And I'm thrilled to announce today that we are on pace to well-exceed last year's CDLs, with 67,000 more issued during the first three-quarters of this year compared to last year. 

Good progress is being made. And that's just a snapshot of what we're up to. A flavor of what President Biden's vision for building a better America looks like. 

As proud as I am of the good work going on in terms of investment in our transportation, the truth is the pandemic also created some of the hardest years for transportation in decades. And yet, you have pulled through the worst of them, at the same time that we're making those generational investments to modernize every mode of transportation. And I know that the private sector is doing the same. 

The key to all of it, the key to the entire transportation system of the country, is the people who get it done. The workers who fly and drive and sort and fix equipment, who build -- literally build our infrastructure -- so that all Americans can live, and study, and work, and eat. 

And while so many are getting ready for a well-deserved rest, you all are getting ready for your absolute peak season, which I hope will be followed by some well-deserved rest because we're going to be counting on you more than ever as we undertake the economic growth that this nation has ahead. 

So again, thank you for everything that you do to get us what we need on time, and in good shape. Have a wonderful holiday, thanks for everything you do to make everyone else's holidays joyous, and I look forward to seeing the new heights that you're going to reach at this facility and across the operations of this firm and this economy.

Thanks very much.