Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009: Green Jobs Can Be Good Jobs

On Earth Day 2009, there is a growing recognition that green jobs will play a key role in fighting global warming, creating energy self-sufficiency, helping the nation recover from the current recession and moving workers into stable middle-class jobs.

During a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing this morning, David Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance, a partnership of four unions and two environmental organizations, said in this economic crisis, creating jobs is a priority, and by passing climate change legislation this year, we can start putting America’s workers back to work building the clean energy economy.

To protect the environment and increase our energy independence, climate change legislation must focus on creating and retaining good, family-sustaining green jobs across the United States.

The Blue Green Alliance recently announced its principles for comprehensive climate change legislation. You can read the policy statement here.

Foster’s comments come one day after Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told a Senate committee that “we don’t want [green] jobs that don’t go anywhere. We want jobs with a career path.”

These are jobs that will provide economic security for our middle-class families while reducing our nation’s dependence on imported energy. These are also jobs that traditionally cannot be outsourced.

To promote the growth of good green jobs, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have embraced projects ranging from making their own buildings more energy efficient to taking the lead on large-scale public policy issues.

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO, together with the leadership of its new Center for Green Jobs, announced a plan to reduce energy consumption, cut down waste and reduce the carbon footprint of its national headquarters.

In February we launched the Center for Green Jobs, with $1 million from the Working for America Institute, (WAI), the AFL-CIO’s workforce and economic development arm. The center will partner with affiliated unions to help pave the way to good union jobs in a variety of the country’s unionized and greening industries. The center also will spread the lessons of AFL-CIO affiliates who have successfully joined the green economy, especially in manufacturing.

We recently set up a Green Jobs website, which includes an interactive map that shows how much a state could receive for green jobs under President Obama’s economic recovery plan and how it would affect that state’s employment. Click here to check out the site.

Here are some other actions where the AFL-CIO unions are taking the lead to create a greener future:

  • To ensure the green jobs created under the Obama economic recovery bill are family-supporting jobs, the WAI and the Center for Green Jobs have created standards to help community-level unionists assess the quality of jobs created under the Recovery Act. They also are urging the forming of new partnerships among employers, government, labor, community groups, environmentalists and other stakeholders to make sure the standards are carried out. Click here to find out more about the standards.
  • The Mine Workers (UMWA), Boilermakers (IBB), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council (IUC) are aggressively promoting the use of coal-generated electricity to provide jobs and help clean up the environment. Along with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the unions earlier this month released a study showing that using advanced clean coal technologies that capture and safely store carbon dioxide will create millions of high-skilled, high-wage jobs for U.S. workers. You can read the study here.
  • UAW members, who have long pushed for more domestic production of fuel-efficient cars, last year produced environmentally friendly vehicles or components in plants in 30 cities in 14 states.
  • The Machinists (IAM) work in a number of industries that are critical to reducing energy consumption and pollution, from energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems and appliances to components for modernizing energy distribution systems in buildings.
  • Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) manufacture wind turbines at several plants in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the proliferation of wind turbines is beginning to revive shuttered steel mills across the country. In Gary, Ind., two closed steel mills have been reopened to help meet the demand for steel plate to be used in wind turbines. The ore for these mills is mined by USW members and shipped on boats crewed also by members of the United Steelworkers.
  • BCTD members are building more green buildings that use renewable energy to run more efficiently. One example is the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, site of the AFL-CIO’s upcoming 2009 convention. Built with union labor, it is the only entirely green convention center in the country.
  • The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders working to create a clean energy revolution in America, has developed Make It In America: the Apollo Green Manufacturing Action Plan (GreenMAP), a series of policy recommendations aimed at revitalizing America’s manufacturing sector by investing significant federal funding in the domestic manufacture of clean energy components.
  • Last year, the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) unveiled its Green Training Trailer that is touring the country to introduce UA apprentices, journeyman-level workers and green building expo participants to renewable energy technologies and sustainable building concepts. Take a virtual tour of the trailer at the UA website and click on “The UA has Gone Green” icon.

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