As Wisconsin Operating Engineers Local 139, we work on some of Wisconsin’s major infrastructure projects – roads, bridges, schools, wind farms and occasionally pipelines. Not all of those projects are popular, and we understand that. But we care about our safety, our coworkers’ safety and, equally as important, the safety of the people who oppose the projects we work on, along with the environment.

Increasingly, hard-working construction workers have come under some form of attack as people protest projects we’re working on. That is unacceptable. In recent years, critical infrastructure worksites in the Midwest have seen millions of dollars of construction equipment set on fire, hydraulic lines punctured, and other property vandalized. Physical and verbal intimidation of workers is on the increase. And individuals breaking into facilities and turning off major pipeline valves is becoming more common and risks causing a serious environmental disaster.

Sabotaging our equipment, blocking our movements in a restricted construction zone or vandalizing infrastructure only serves to put workers and demonstrators in harm’s way. We deserve a safe work environment. We deserve to return home to our families at the end of the day or week. We care deeply about our livelihood, our families and the communities we serve.

That is why we also fully support the rights of all American citizens to peacefully oppose projects and speak their mind about issues important to them.

We appreciate Sens. Janet Bewley and Patty Schachtner’s support of Senate Bill 386 – the Worker Safety and Energy Security Act.

This act doesn’t create new laws to protect us, rather it expands existing statutes that protect other critical infrastructure to include pipelines of any description – petroleum, renewable fuel, chemical and water. We work on these pipelines and we need to be safe.

We also staunchly defend the rights of all Americans to exercise their free speech. Contrary to what some people are claiming, the act would not infringe on the right to peacefully protest, organize or otherwise speak out. Those rights are specifically, unequivocally preserved in the act. What is not, and should not be, protected under the act is criminal behavior that threatens lives and the environment.

We ask all legislators to please pass SB 386.

Karl Magerl, Poplar, Wis.

Operating Engineers Local 139 member

Harry Wickman Jr., Mason, Wis.

Operating Engineers Local 139 member