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Making a Living on a Living Planet
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The Green New Deal from Below and the Future of Work

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 10:20

By Jeremy Brecher,
Senior Strategic Advisor, LNS Co-Founder

Listen to the audio version >>

While protecting the climate will require millions of jobs, there is no guarantee that those jobs will be good jobs. The local and state Green New Deals that have sprung up around the country are not only creating new jobs, they are also addressing low wages, lack of opportunities for training and advancement, de facto exclusion from access to good jobs, and other dimensions of job quality. They are making it easier for workers to organize. And some of them are moving toward providing a “jobs guarantee.” Taken together, these initiatives are laying the foundations for a transformation of the world of work.

Making Green Jobs Be Good Jobs

Simply creating a larger number of jobs is not a solution to the problem that so many jobs are underpaid, insecure, dangerous, dead-end, and otherwise degraded. Many climate related jobs, for example installing solar panels, are often low-paid and insecure with abusive labor practices. The Green New Deal program has not only proposed to create millions of jobs, but to implement health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards as part of creating a green workforce.

Local Green New Deals, especially at the state level, have taken the problem of job quality head-on. In the course of these Commentaries we have seen many cases where coalitions, often led by unions, have successfully incorporated job protections and standards into Green New Deal and other climate protection legislation. For example:

  • The Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act requires prevailing wages for all non-residential projects. Utility-scale solar and wind projects must establish project labor agreements. State rebates for electric vehicle infrastructure depend on payment of prevailing wages.
  • In 2019 Maine passed a Green New Deal Act which requires grid-scale power generation projects to employ people from an apprenticeship program. Legislation also required a project labor agreement on the state’s first offshore wind project.
  • Connecticut legislation requires renewable energy developers to partner with approved in-state apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. It requires prevailing wage for non-residential utility-scale or grid-connected projects that are assisted by the state.
  • New York State’s 2021 budget required prevailing wage and project labor agreements for construction on renewable-energy projects and labor peace agreements for operations and maintenance work.[1]
Making Green Jobs Be Union Jobs

In 2022 the proportion of wage and salary workers who were members of unions was 10 percent – barely half the rate in 1983.[2] The weakening of organized labor has been a major cause of both the degradation of work and of growing inequality. The Green New Deal has identified the strengthening of the labor movement as a central means of reversing both job degradation and the broader pattern of economic inequality.

In his 2020 campaign Joe Biden promised to “ensure federal contracts only go to employers who sign neutrality agreements committing not to run anti-union campaigns.” This promise has never been fulfilled, and the Biden administration has provided massive contracts to Amazon and other notoriously anti-union corporations.

The ability of states and municipalities to require union recognition or even employer neutrality in union elections is severely limited by law. Nonetheless Green New Deal-type legislation and policy initiatives are making it easier for workers to organize. For example, the 2022 Fast Foods Accountability and Standards Recovery Act gave bargaining rights to California’s half-million fast food workers. It establishes a fast food council made up of workers, franchise owners, and franchising companies like McDonald’s which will negotiate employee wages, hours, and working conditions. And new legislation allows farmworkers – whose unionization efforts are often impeded by geographical dispersion and mobility – to vote to unionize by mail rather than just in person. These rights continue to be contested by employers.

Unions are encouraging a wide range of policies to make it easier for workers to organize. For example, IBEW local 569 has proposed that employers and other entities:

  • procure power from union-generated sources
  • employ unionized customer service representatives
  • sign Project Labor Agreements on each Power Generation Project
  • sign Project Labor Agreements on Energy Efficiency Projects
  • agree in writing to neutrality in the event employees or subcontractor employees wish to unionize

Public policy can make a significant contribution to expanding workers’ rights and their ability to organize in “green” industries and elsewhere. For example, in 2023 after a three-year organizing struggle, workers who manufacture school buses for Blue Bird in Fort Valley GA voted to be represented by the Steelworkers union. Blue Bird is the second-largest bus manufacturer in the country. Steelworkers organizing director Maria Somma said, “It’s been a long time since a manufacturing site with 1,400 people has been organized, let alone organized in the South, let alone organized with predominantly African American workers, and let alone in the auto industry.” (Only 4.4 percent of workers in Georgia are represented by a union.)

Brittney Linton at the Southern Company Shareholder Meeting At the shareholder meeting of mega-utility Southern Company on May 24, GWA member and renewable energy worker Brittney Linton raised concerns about workplace conditions on renewable energy projects built by contractors for Southern Company. New CEO Chris Womack committed to talk to their contractors–and we will hold them to this! Watch video >>

The federal Clean School Buses program, which subsidizes Blue Bird’s electric bus production, prohibits recipients from using funds to campaign against unions. Enforcement is weak, but the federal policy nonetheless has had a deterrent effect. According to Somma, “This is an employer that would have fired workers. This policy allowed us to calm the employer’s union-busting down.”[3]

Meanwhile, workers in the “green economy” are organizing themselves and becoming a force for building the Green New Deal from Below. The recently formed Green Workers Alliance is a worker organization made of current and aspiring renewable energy workers demanding more and better green jobs. It is currently focusing organizing the 100,000 workers on utility-scale solar and wind projects.

Matthew Mayers and Lauren Jacobs of the Green Workers Alliance explain its goals: “We need a strong, worker-led movement that supports the Green New Deal and a just transition to a renewable economy.” Their work addresses not only those currently employed in the green sector, but also the millions of jobless and underemployed workers who would benefit from such a program. The program must include “access to green jobs and paid training for everyone” with an emphasis on “reducing the huge income disparities between white workers and workers of color, especially Black workers.”[4]

The Green Workers Alliance has largely focused on clean energy workers in the South and Southeast because their working conditions are the worst in the country. Over the past year they have connected with hundreds of these workers in Facebook groups and during listening tours in Texas and Virginia. The Alliance has won back lost wages and supported workers being mistreated by temp agencies and other employers. In 2022 it launched a petition drive targeting utility companies Dominion, Duke, and AEP Renewables demanding that they move to 80% renewables by 2030.[5]

Ohio Green Worker Alliance activist Felicia Allen says,

We will fight for better wages, better job practices, and fight for the necessary training us renewable workers so desperately need to advance in our careers. We will help lower our carbon footprint for future generations. If we can’t lead the change the whole world needs, what message are we sending to our future generations? What will we be leaving them behind when we are gone? What will our legacies say about us if we won’t fight for the greater good of our families, and our planet? I believe if there ever was a time to unite and stand for something that affects all of us in some way, that time is now.[6]

Green Jobs for All – The Next Frontier?

A centerpiece of the original Green New Deal resolution is a “jobs guarantee,” ensuring jobs with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all who want them. It envisions a federal program somewhat like the original New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) that would provide funds for non-profit organizations, local governments, and other agencies serving the public to employ anyone who wants a job.  In addition to climate protection, workers in the jobs guarantee program could also provide for a wide range of needs that could help reduce injustice and create a better way of life for all. These range from education to housing to protection and care for the environment. The WPA produced schools, parks, post offices, and other amenities that we still celebrate; a climate jobs for all program could do the same today.[7]

A climate jobs guarantee would provide much of the labor power needed for an emergency mobilization to transition to a fossil free, climate safe economy, as well as to meet a wide range of other public purposes. In this it resembles the home front mobilization in World War II which provided millions of workers for the war effort. It would provide work experience and training that would allow its participants to move into higher skilled, higher wage jobs in the private and public sectors.

Sen. Booker, Reps. Watson Coleman and Omar Introduce Bicameral Bill to Create Federal Jobs Guarantee Program | Photo Credit:

Senator Cory Booker introduced a Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act which would guarantee that all adults in 15 high unemployment communities who want to work can have a job that pays a living wage and provides benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave.[8]

Could a jobs guarantee program work at a local or state level? So far nobody seems to have tried. There are proposals to create them, however. As part of his 2022 campaign for mayor, Washington, DC City Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr. proposed a jobs guarantee to ensure that everyone who wants a job can have one. Some jobs would be created by the government, some by industry incentives, and others through government contracts.

White pitched the program as a means both to counter climate change and to address the city’s burgeoning crime rate. “This monumental program will drive down violence by giving people a real alternative to crime while addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time, which is climate change.”

For many people, the streets offer more opportunities than our government does. Violence occurs when people feel that engaging in crime has more benefits than the alternative of living within the bounds of the law. Given a choice between violence and a stable, good-paying job, most people will choose the job.

The program would produce up to 10,000 new city positions, a nearly 30% increase in the size of the city’s current workforce of 33,000. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion a year, roughly equal to the city’s annual budget increases in recent years.[9]

White said,

Working in partnership with our labor unions, we could use apprenticeships to build skills and technical expertise. One example: crosswalk repainting jobs that would kick off apprenticeships that would lead to traffic engineer positions which focus on pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Another example is tree planting jobs that lead to apprenticeships for those interested in becoming arborists charged with managing and replacing trees. We could give community members professional training so they could effectively promote energy efficiency, protect our waterways, ensure food justice and remove environmental hazards. Other jobs could include clearing gutters, installing solar panels and green roofs, housing maintenance, rodent and mosquito abatement, weatherization, installing heat pumps, stormwater infrastructure, urban agriculture and removing lead pipes.

In April 2023 Philadelphia City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Helen Gym proposed to guarantee a job to every person 30 and under as part of a comprehensive plan to fight violence and crime.[10] Her proposal includes paid work for youth both in summer and through the school year. It would prioritize young people in the zip codes most impacted by gun violence with a goal of increasing youth employment 50% during the plan’s first summer.

The plan would expand Philadelphia’s pioneering PowerCorpsPHL program to provide a pathway to city employment, including work with land care programs to clear vacant lots that increase crime and to increase neighborhood greening as part of the city’s tree plan. It would partner with local businesses, institutions, and organizations and provide tax incentives and grants for hiring, training, and mentoring youth, and ensuring that these businesses and organizations receive technical support around youth mentoring, youth development, and trauma-informed professional supervision. It would partner with the Building Trades and initiate a pilot class of 100 young people completing pre-apprentice and apprentice programs with a guaranteed track to employment by leveraging resources from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

While guaranteeing climate jobs for all who want them will surely require federal resources, local and state job guarantee programs may provide a future target for Green New Deals from Below. They could sharply reduce poverty and unemployment, help meet community needs, and create the workforce necessary to protect the climate.

A Vision for Jobs

Like many of its proposals, the Green New Deal’s jobs program combines concrete policies with a vision of social transformation. Job corps that would create a pipeline to good jobs for young people from impoverished and discriminated against communities could create new opportunities for those who have been excluded from them. A massive expansion of jobs to meet climate and social needs could create full employment and strengthen the bargaining power of workers. Elevated standards for wages, job security, health and safety, nondiscrimination, and rights on the job could provide a baseline level of decency and dignity in the workplace. Enforcing the right of workers to organize and engage in collective action on the job would shift the balance of power between workers and employers both in individual workplaces and in society as a whole. A program of jobs for all could eliminate the scourge of unemployment and create an economic sector where workers could dedicate their labor to the public good.

Such measures could also open a vision of a different future for young workers. Maria Brescia-Weiler is an organizer for the Young Workers Project of the Labor Network for Sustainability, which is conducting a Young Workers Listening Project. She says,

We always ask young workers how they ideally envision their life and work 20 years from now. This question is almost always met by a blank stare, or some kind of sigh or groan and a long pause. But after that long pause, they paint pictures of a beautiful future, where we all have more time off to care for our loved ones and grow sustainable local food, where union construction workers have made public buildings like schools and post offices into community resilience hubs run on green energy, where they have access to safe, clean and reliable public transportation but there’s so much affordable housing in their community that they can walk to work. And they truly believe this future is not only possible but absolutely necessary. The key word is always IF – IF we can create a just transition from fossil fuels, led by the workers and community members who are most impacted.[11]

Taken together, the initiatives of the Green New Deal from Below point the way not only to correcting the inequalities, injustices, oppressions, and abuses of the world of work, but also toward creating a more beautiful working world in the future.

[1] Climate Jobs New York, “Statement on New York’s Historic Renewable Energy Job Standards,” April 6, 2021.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release: Members Summary, January 19, 2023,

[3]  Luis Feliz Leon, “Union Win at Bus Factory Electrifies Georgia,” Labor Notes, May 16, 2023. “Union Win at Bus Factory Electrifies Georgia”

[4] Matthew Mayers and Lauren Jacobs,  “Organizing for the Economy We Want,” The Forge, September 8, 2020.

[5] Lauren Kaori Gurley, “Shifting America to Solar Power Is a Grueling Low-Paid Job,” Vice, June 27, 2022.

[6]  Green Workers Alliance, New NWA Brochure.

[7] For background on climate jobs guarantee programs see Jeremy Brecher, “Climate Jobs for All: Building Block for the Green New Deal,” Labor Network for Sustainability, December, 2018.

[8] Cory Booker, “Sen, Booker, Reps. Watson Coleman and Omar Introduce Bicameral Bill to Create Federal Jobs Guarantee Program,” September 12, 2019. Other proposals for a federal jobs guarantee have been introduced subsequently.

[9] Martin Austermuhle, “Robert White Pledges to Tackle Public Safety with Massive Green Jobs Program,” dcist/WAMU, April 22, 2022. and Robert C. White, Jr., “WHITE: My Jobs Guarantee Program Would Reduce Violent Crime and Foster Greater Hope,” Washington Informer, June 15, 2022.

[10] Helen Gym, “A Community Safety Plan to Restore the Village to Philadelphia,”

[11] Maria Brescia-Weiler, “Young Workers Face the Climate Future,” Making a Living on a Living Planet, April, 2023.


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The Green New Deal from Below Means Jobs

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:36

By Jeremy Brecher,
Senior Strategic Advisor, LNS Co-Founder

Listen to the audio version >>

Despite opposition to a national Green New Deal by rightwing politicians and the fossil fuel industry, many “Little Green New Deals” are under way at the local and state level – and they are already expanding the number and improving the quality of jobs. This Commentary starts with the youth jobs corps that have developed in Green New Deal cities and others with climate protection programs. It reviews the jobs that are already being created by state and local Green New Deal from Below programs and evaluates how many could be created by a fully developed Green New Deal. The next Commentary will examine how the Green New Deal from Below is making green jobs be good jobs.

While the Green New Deal is often thought of as a remedy for climate change, a central part of its focus has always been on jobs and economic inequality. The original Green New Deal resolution noted a “4-decade trend of wage stagnation, deindustrialization, and antilabor policies.” That had led to “hourly wages overall stagnating since the 1970s”; the “erosion of the earning and bargaining power” of workers; and “inadequate resources for public sector workers to confront the challenges of climate change” at local, state, and federal levels. There was “the greatest income inequality since the 1920s” with a difference of “20 times more wealth between the average white family and the average black family” and a gender earnings gap that results in “women earning approximately 80 percent as much as men.”[1]

While the US unemployment rate has gyrated between record highs and record lows over the past two decades, the condition of US jobs has consistently deteriorated. More and more jobs have become low-paid, insecure, and contingent. They are often temporary, part time, dead-end, with few or no benefits. While difficult to quantify, harassment, discrimination, speed-up, arbitrary punishment, and threats of discipline and dismissal are reported by a growing proportion of workers.

The Green New Deal proposed a mobilization to create millions of jobs protecting the climate. But it also proposed to use climate mobilization as a vehicle to transform the world of work. It included as part of its plan[2]:

Quality jobs: high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires local workers, offers training and advancement opportunities;

Job guarantee: guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people;

Worker rights: the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment; and

Labor standards: labor, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors.

While many of these objectives require action by the federal government, Green New Deals and similar initiatives around the country are making building blocks for them at local and state levels.

Civilian Climate Corps in Cities

Nurturing Tomorrow’s Workforce| Workforce development programs don’t always live up to their mission. PowerCorpsPHL exceeds theirs | By Jessica Blatt Press, Feb. 11, 2020

One of the most famous agencies of the original New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) which provided jobs and training for three million young Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930s. A Civilian Climate Corps has been a central proposal of the Green New Deal – and such corps are actually being developed by the Green New Deals from Below. They are often centered in the poorest neighborhoods and have as their objective, along with climate protection, the reduction of crime and violence through youth employment.

When Boston’s Green New Deal wanted to establish a youth green jobs corps, they looked to PowerCorpsPHL for a model. PowerCorpsPHL was established in 2013 by Philadelphia city agencies and AmeriCorp. More than 600 young people have been through its programs. A new cohort of 60 enter the Corp each spring and fall. 60 percent of them have adult criminal records.[3] To join the Corps they must have a GED or high school diploma.

During the first phase of the program, which lasts 17 weeks, new Corp members are paid $10 per hour to engage in work-readiness, career-exploration, and team-building activities like planting trees. During the second phase, which lasts 19 to 46 weeks, graduates of Phase 1 receive training in “industrial academies”: The Urban Forestry Academy, the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Academy, and the Solar and Electrical Academy. They are paid $11 per hour and work with mentors from government agencies, nonprofits, and industry.

Attrition is 25% in phase one and only 15% in phase 2. Philadelphia’s criminal recidivism rate is 45 percent; for PowerCorpsPHL members it is 8 percent. PowerCorpsPHL connects more than 90% of its graduates to jobs or higher education – and 92% of them succeed.  The Corp maintains a full-time social worker to help with needs like access to medical care and childcare and provides lifetime support services for all graduates.

Cashmir Woodward, a single mother with a juvenile record, was a low-paid home health aide. She heard about PowerCorpsPHL from a friend and signed up. A staff member helped her get childcare, social security benefits for her son, and expunging of her criminal record. She was trained in green stormwater infrastructure. She says,

I felt like what I was doing before PowerCorpsPHL wasn’t enough, and now I can have a real impact on our city and its future. I want other young people, including those with records, to know that PowerCorpsPHL will accept you without judgement and work with you, no matter what.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces New York City’s Green New Deal at Hunter’s Point South Park on Monday, April 22, 2019. | Photo Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography

In April 2019 Mayor Bill de Blasio announced New York City’s Green New Deal. It promised investments, legislation, and action to reduce emissions nearly 30% by 2030.[4] In 2021 the New York Mayor’s office of Criminal Justice provided a $37 million grant to create a Civilian Climate Corp. The mission of the Corps is to help create the workforce needed for the city’s climate protection program by providing training and jobs to people in neighborhoods affected by gun violence.[5]

New York City’s Civilian Climate Corp is run by BlocPower, a start-up founded in 2014 by Donnel Baird, a former Brooklyn community organizer. By 2021 BlocPower had retrofitted more than 900 multifamily apartment buildings, houses of worship, and small businesses. And it had trained more than 800 prospective heat pump and solar panel installers from the same communities where it was conducting retrofits.[6] According to Baird,

We are going into the lowest-income communities, where folks are at risk of gun violence—personally, their families, their communities—we’re training them on the latest, greatest software to install green infrastructure in urban environments, in rural environments. That’s going to solve not only crime rates in low-income communities in New York City, it’s going to solve the business problem of the shortage of skilled construction workers across America.

The Civilian Climate Corps recruits workers from low-income communities with high rates of gun violence. They receive $20 per hour during their training. The Corps provides one month of classes in workplace etiquette and business communication followed by two months of technical training, including low-voltage electrical work, HVAC installation, and workplace safety training. Most workers then continue with on-site apprenticeships. By 2023, 1,700 people, 80% of whom had been unemployed or underemployed, had graduated from the Corps’ training program. More than 400 participants secured jobs in related fields, and 60% had completed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration training program, often required for such employment.

One of those graduates is Robert Clark. Perhaps because of a felony conviction for burglary, Clark had been unable to find any but low-paid, dead-end jobs. Then he was recruited to the Civilian Climate Corp where he was paid $20 per hour to learn how to install electric heat pumps, take care of electric vehicle charging stations, and conduct 3D image modeling of buildings due for renewable energy retrofits. He has received a certification for his work with the Corps and hopes to go back to school in engineering.

In October 2022 New York City announced a $54 million expansion of the program, which will allow 3,000 more New Yorkers to participate in the following year. BlocPower is exploring replications in Ithaca NY, Menlo Park CA, and elsewhere. It hopes its program can “serve as a model for future national programming.”

Civilian Climate Corps in States

California Climate Action Corps in San Jose| Credit: California Volunteers

States are also developing climate corps. In September 2020, California launched the California Climate Action Corps, the country’s first statewide corps of its kind with the mission of empowering Californians to take meaningful action to protect their homes, health, and communities against the impacts of climate change. This initiative engages Californians through a variety of levels and activities, from an hour at home to a full year of service.[7] It includes Youth Jobs Corps in more than 25 California cities and counties.[8]

In September 2021 Colorado established the Colorado Climate Corps to place AmeriCorps members in 55 counties across the state to protect public lands and help low-income communities brace for the climate crisis.[9] In 2022 the Colorado Climate Corps placed the first 633 AmeriCorps members of the Climate Corps on the ground. They focused on wildfire mitigation and water and energy efficiency. The program rapidly expanded to include supporting local governments and non-profits in planning for and addressing sustainability and climate change issues.[10]

These climate jobs corps are creating models that can be greatly expanded for other cities and states – and for the US as a whole. They offer a foothold for those who have been marginalized in the labor market. They provide opportunities in communities that have been plagued with high unemployment and resulting crime and violence. And they deliver the training and experience necessary for a greatly expanded workforce able to meet the objectives of climate protection and the Green New Deal.

Green New Deal Jobs

The shift to a climate-safe economy is happening too slowly, but it is happening. It is happening in part because fossil fuels keep getting more expensive relative to renewable energy. It is happening because many local communities refuse to tolerate the devastation wrought by fossil fuel extraction and burning. And it is happening because of climate protection efforts by governments and civil society.

A frequently asked question is this: How many jobs will the Green New Deal and the shift to a climate-safe economy produce? Renewable energy and energy efficiency create far more jobs than fossil fuel energy. A study by the World Resources Institute found that:

  • Investing in solar PV creates 1.5 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per $1 million.
  • Building efficiency creates 2.8 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per $1 million.
  • Mass transit creates 1.4 times as many jobs as road construction per $1 million.
  • Ecosystem restoration creates 3.7 times as many jobs as oil & gas production per $1 million.

So the result of a shift from fossil fuels to climate-safe energy is undoubtedly more jobs.[11]

How to quantify actual and potential job creation is, however, a difficult and uncertain matter. While economists make estimates of the job creation effects of various policies all the time, they generally must rely on unproven – sometimes unprovable — assumptions. They also necessarily disregard unpredictable factors like wars and trade wars, booms and busts, pandemics, regime change, and policy shifts. Results are also affected by the hopes and fears of those who conduct the studies – and those who commission them. Having personally supervised a number of such studies, I can testify that those conducting the studies are selected in part on the basis of the sponsors’ expectations of their results, and that the researchers are well aware of these expectations. While I will cite the results of several such studies below, I encourage readers to treat their results with appropriate skepticism.

There is no question that local and state Green New Deals are creating thousands of jobs. The exact number is almost impossible to calculate, but we have seen examples just in the Green New Deals described in this series of Commentaries:

  • The Los Angeles Green New Deal plan laid out 445 initiatives estimated to create 300,000 green jobs by 2035 and 400,000 by 2050.
  • The Ithaca Green New Deal planned to create 1,000 jobs in the region in in its first 1,000 days.
  • The Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act was expected to create thousands of new jobs. The solar industry alone expected to increase its Illinois workforce by almost 50% in 2022.
  • The “California Climate Jobs Plan” proposed by 20 California unions would create more than a million jobs, including 418,000 clean energy jobs per year and 626,000 additional jobs per year through investments in related areas such as water infrastructure, leaky gas pipelines, public parks, and roadways.
  • According to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the new laws passed in 2022 will create four million jobs.
  • IBEW 569 members have logged millions of work hours building more than a gigawatt of solar and wind projects, installing rooftop solar and electric vehicle charging stations at homes and businesses, and constructing large energy storage projects. Local 569 brought hundreds of local residents into the IBEW who were able to build renewable energy projects in their local communities.
  • In Portsmouth, VA, the Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa plans for 310 jobs to make preparations for a new offshore wind farm. 260 of them would be in a finishing plant where blades are painted and assembled. In New Jersey, Ørsted of Denmark and EEW of Germany plan to open a factory to build the steel foundations of turbines—called monopiles—that would provide up to 500 jobs. In New York, Marmen of Canada, Welcon of Denmark, and Smulders of Belgium are planning a plant to make steel towers for offshore wind turbines; it will employ up to 350 people.

These examples are part of a much more extensive growth of green jobs throughout the American economy. According to the annual report “Clean Jobs America 2022,”[12] more than three million Americans work in clean energy, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, storage, grid modernization, and clean fuels. Jobs building electric vehicles grew by a dramatic 26 percent in 2022. Conversely, fossil fuel jobs fell 4 percent. Clean energy and clean transportation now employ more than 40 percent of all energy workers in America. These numbers are based on U.S. government surveys, not on estimates or projections.

There have been a variety of studies that estimate how many new green jobs will be created by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. A study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst finds that the more than 100 climate, energy, and environmental investments in the Inflation Reduction Act will create more than 9 million good jobs over the next decade – nearly a million a year. That includes 5 million jobs in clean energy, 900,000 in clean manufacturing, 400,000 in clean transportation, 900,000 in efficient buildings, 150,000 in environmental justice, and 600,00 in natural infrastructure.[13]

Another study by the Energy Futures Initiative found that the Inflation Reduction Act will create 1.5 million climate and energy security jobs by 2030 – seven years from now. Over 100,000 will be in manufacturing, with 60,000 coming from battery production alone. Nearly 600,000 jobs will be created in the construction sector, for example constructing electrical transmission lines. The electric utility sector will gain 190,000 jobs.[14]

While these two studies illustrate how different economists can come up with different job projections even for policies already defined in legislation, they also indicate that the scale of job creation just from the Inflation Reduction Act is likely to be very substantial.

The Inflation Reduction Act represents only a fragment of what is necessary to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, let alone realize the full Green New Deal program. While specific Green New Deal proposals vary, there is no question that the number of jobs created by a national Green New Deal would be far greater. America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan, to take one plan among many, develops a scenario for the U.S. economy to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. It estimates that this will generate 4.2 – 4.6 million jobs per year between 2020 and 2050 – cutting the average unemployment rate nearly in half.[15] Another study by Mark Jacobson of the Solutions Project found that transitioning to 100% renewable electricity and heat by 2050 would create more than 4.7 million permanent jobs. And these studies don’t take into account the other job creation programs that would be included in a full Green New Deal.[16]

The next Commentary in this series, “The Green New Deal from Below and the Future of Work,” will explore how the Green New Deal from Below is making green jobs be good jobs.

[1]   H.Res. 109 – 116th Congress.

[2]  S. Res. –  118th Congress, 1st Session

[3]  Jessica Blatt Press, “Nurturing Tomorrow’s Workforce,” The Philadelphia Citizen, Feb 11, 2010.

[4] “Action on Global Warming: NYC’s Green New Deal,” City of New York, April 22, 2019.

[5] Michelle Ma, “This New York program has trained 1,700 workers for green jobs,” Fast Company, January 11, 2023.

[6] Ainsley Harris, “BlocPower is turning every home into the equivalent of a Tesla,” Fast Company, March 8, 2022.

[7]  “California Climate Action Corps,” Office of the Governor

[8]  “Californians for All Youth Jobs Corps, Office of the Governor.

[9]  Sam Brasch, “As Colorado Announces Its Own Climate Corps, Democrats Push for a Far More Expansive National Version,” CPR News, September 11, 2021.

[10]  “22 Annual Report Serve Colorado, Office of Lt Governor Dianne Primavera.

[11] Joel Jaeger et al, “The Green Jobs Advantage: How Climate-friendly Investments Are Better Job Creators,” World Resource Institute, October 18, 2021.

[12] “Clean Jobs America 2022,”  August 3, 2022.

[13]  “9 Million Good Jobs from Climate Action – The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” BlueGreen Alliance and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI).

[14]  “Jobs, Emissions, and Economic Growth – What the Inflation Reduction Act Means for Working Families,” EFI Foundation, January 17, 2023.

[15]   “America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan,” The Zero Carbon Consortium, 2020, Chapter 3, p. 51.

[16] Mark Jacobson et al, “Zero air pollution and zero carbon from all energy at low cost and without blackouts in variable weather throughout the U.S. with 100% wind-water-solar and storage, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University. Stanford, CA., 2021.

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Labor Joining September 17 NYC Climate March

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:34

By Maria Brescia-Weiler, LNS Staff 

On September 17 thousands of people will march in New York City calling on President Biden to make good on his promises to deliver a just transition for workers and our communities, to provide solutions to the economic and climate injustices we face, and to end fossil fuels. Five hundred organizations have endorsed the march. For more information on the March including list of endorsers visit

The Labor Network for Sustainability is coordinating a labor hub for the march, because it is essential that working class environmentalism is at the forefront of any true transition to a more sustainable economy. We welcome workers and union members who will be in New York on September 17th to come march with us! Sign up here.

Labor organizations that have endorsed the march include:

  • United Federation of Teachers 
  • AFSCME DC 37
  • Teamsters Local 1150 Pride Caucus
  • District Council 9 Painter and Allied Trades 
  • Rutgers AAUP-AFT
  • Professional Staff Congress – CUNY, AFT #2334
  • Columbia University AAUP Chapter 
  • Third Act Union 
  • Labor Network for Sustainability
  • New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
  • NYC Labor Chorus 
  • Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
  • Fordham Faculty United
  • The Architecture Lobby
  • Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs
  • CWA District 1
  • National Day Laborer Organizing Network
  • Progressive Workers Union
  • Workers United NY NJ Regional Joint Board
  • Boston Teachers Union

For labor organizations that want to endorse and participate in the march:

For general information about the march:

The post Labor Joining September 17 NYC Climate March first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

LNS Webinar: Where Is This Train Going?

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:31

By Bakari Height, LNS Transportation Organizer

 Ever wonder why train tickets are so high but service is so low? What is the cause of all these derailments? What can the public do?  Railroad Workers United has created a campaign to transfer this ownership of the Class 1 railroads to the public, but they need your support! Please join us for a webinar series where we will hear from: railroad labor members, environmental and climate justice partners, and transportation academics. They will uncover what the public doesn’t see and offer solutions for the future in a series known as – Public TransFormation.

The first webinar will focus on freight rail and will feature leaders in the labor, environmental justice, and climate organizing spaces!. Please join us on Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 8 PM EST. We invite you to share this event with your audiences, and please show your support for public ownership of railroads by endorsing the Railroad Workers United endorsement page.

 To register for the webinar:

The post LNS Webinar: Where Is This Train Going? first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

Climate Movement Stands with UAW

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:28

The Labor Network for Sustainability is spearheading a climate movement solidarity initiative for United Auto Workers (UAW) currently bargaining a union contract with Big 3 Auto companies (General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis). The initiative launched on August 14 with a Climate Movement open letter to Big 3 Auto CEOs, urging them to ensure that the auto industry’s clean energy transition is a just transition by accepting UAW’s contract demands. So far, the letter has been signed by over 70 organizations, including Sunrise Movement, Greenpeace USA,, Sierra Club, and Climate Justice Alliance.

The letter states:

Within the next few years — the span of this next contract — lies humanity’s last chance to navigate a transition away from fossil fuels, including away from combustion engines. With that shift comes an opportunity for workers in the United States to benefit from a revival of new manufacturing, including electric vehicles (EVs) and collective transportation like buses and trains, as a part of the renewable energy revolution. 

The EV transition cannot be a “race to the bottom” that further exploits workers. We call on you to honor the demands of the UAW.

Organizations: Sign the letter Here

The letter launch was followed by an August 17 UAW Solidarity Call cosponsored by over a dozen climate organizations. The webinar, which featured Third Act Founder Bill McKibben and UAW special guests, laid out the climate movement’s stake in the UAW contract fight and how climate activists could take action in support of workers building the clean energy future.

“UAW’s contract fight for good benefits, a just transition, union EV jobs with equal pay for equal work, and a clean energy transition that benefits workers and communities is the climate movement’s fight as well.” said LNS Staffer Sydney Ghazarian, during her opening remarks on the call.

During the call, Greenpeace USA Senior Campaigner Ben Smith led hundreds of audience members in leaving voicemails for Big 3 Auto CEOs, in solidarity with auto workers (leave your own voicemail by calling 318-300-1249. You can find talking points and more ways to take action in the UAW Solidarity Call Quick Action Guide here). 

“I am so proud and excited to see all of this support, because this a make or break moment for ensuring the clean energy transition is a just transition, and we need all hands on deck– tonight, in the next few weeks, and until we win a fair contract,” said Sydney.

UAW’s contract with Big 3 Auto expires on September 14, and a strike has been authorized by 97% of Big 3 workers voting in favor. Climate and social justice organizations have joined with LNS to continue organizing in solidarity with UAW, in pursuit of a fair contract.

The post Climate Movement Stands with UAW first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

Report on LNS Just Transition Convening

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:24

By Oren Kadosh, LNS staff

Over July 21st and 22nd, the Labor Network for Sustainability hosted a two-day convening in Denver, Colorado entitled: “The State of Transition: Lessons from Colorado and Beyond!” LNS convened labor, climate, environmental justice, and social movement allies to broaden and deepen an understanding of existing just transition efforts and to gain insights on how we can better support labor-climate organizing on the ground. 

Native nations, women in construction, scientists, teachers, Black parents advocating for clean air, ski patrollers, and many others attendees from a range of unions, sectors, and communities came to share their experiences, learn from each other, and educate LNS on critical topics such as: how different types of labor are being affected by the transition; the legacy and continued struggle of Indigenous and frontline organizing for environmental justice; and how public funding to implement green projects is being organized for by unions and community organizations. Union workers and officials from locals representing many sectors of work in Colorado attended, including IBEW, SEIU, AFSCME, LIUNA, SMART-TD, and many more. 

During the convening, it became clear that Colorado workers and surrounding communities have made incredible strides toward a renewable energy economy and a just transition. But it was also clear that there is much left to do, both for transitioning fossil fuel workers, but especially for Indigenous and frontline environmental justice communities still being too often marginalized and their urgent needs delayed. Challenging but important truths were surfaced about the lack of inclusion and meaningful collaboration between the labor movement and the environmental justice movement. As the private sector is infused with billions in taxpayer dollars to boost the energy transition, one big takeaway from the convening has been that de-siloing our movement spaces, and meaningfully addressing the needs of all stakeholding communities, is absolutely critical to building the people power necessary to win the urgent change we need. 

The post Report on LNS Just Transition Convening first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

LNS Supports Workers’ Demand to Build Green Locomotives

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:21

1400 workers in Erie, PA have been out on strike since June, demanding that their employer, Wabtec, start producing green locomotives. In a statement of solidarity, the Labor Network for Sustainability said:

The unions were denied their basic rights to strike over grievances, and most importantly, over the company’s refusal to move forward with worker-supported, environmentally necessary green locomotive production.   

 This strike may well represent the first instance ever of unionized workers striking to force their employers to make products to protect the climate. That’s historic. 

 The Labor Network for Sustainability supports the United Electrical Workers in their fight to manufacture more sustainable transportation. Their decision to strike represents their decision to prolong life on our planet by making lower emission locomotives to carry freight across this great country.  Their decision also upholds the livelihood of many communities that these railroads run through that face negative effects from the current engines.  

 The railroad industry is still behind with making the necessary steps in maximizing their efficiency with their right-of-way, including: electrifying the last-mile of their urban rail yards, sharing their tracks with electrified inter and intracity transit, and upgrading their locomotives to non-pollutant green locomotives, ones touted by the UE workers in Erie. 

The post LNS Supports Workers’ Demand to Build Green Locomotives first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

Amazon Workers Walk Out to Demand Climate Protection

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:18

Image Source: shark749-

Hundreds of workers at Amazon’s main headquarters in Seattle held a walkout May 31 to protest the company’s backtracking on its commitments to climate protection.

A statement by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice condemned the company’s recent admission that it had dropped its commitment to its “Shipment Zero” policy, which pledged in 2019 to reduce carbon emissions to net zero on 50% of its shipments by 2030.

A worker quoted in the statement said, “I’m appalled that senior leadership quietly abandoned one of the key goals in the climate pledge. It’s yet another sign that leadership still doesn’t put climate impact at the center of their decision-making. That’s why I walked out.”

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice accused Amazon of undercounting its carbon footprint, disproportionately locating pollution-heavy operations in communities of color, and working to undercut clean energy legislation.

The demonstration also protested Amazon’s mandatory return-to-office policies.

The post Amazon Workers Walk Out to Demand Climate Protection first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

Workers vs. Heat

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:16

Image Source: Quality Stock Arts-

UPS Workers Win Heat Protections Faced with a threatened strike – including “practice picket lines” — by its 340,000 union employees, UPS has agreed to a contract that provides major gains in wages and working conditions for its Teamsters’ members. The contract includes elimination of a “two-tier” wage rate; significant wage increases, especially for the lowest paid workers; and combining part-time jobs to provide new full-time jobs.

Sometimes lethal heat conditions have been a central issue for UPS workers. UPS has promised to equip all new package cars with air-conditioning and to install fans on older package cars. Section 14 of the contract states: 

All vans, pushbacks, fuel trucks, package cars, shifting units, and 24-foot box vans after January 2024 shall be equipped with A/C. Single fans will be installed in all package cars within 30 days of ratification and a second fan will be installed no later than June 1, 2024. Air-conditioned package cars will first be allocated to Zone 1 which is the hottest area of the country. All model year 2023 and beyond package cars and vans will be delivered with factory-installed heat shields and air induction vents for the package compartment. Within 18 months of ratification, all package cars will be retrofitted with heat shields and air induction vents. A Package Car Heat Committee will be established within 10 days of ratification for the purpose of studying methods of venting and insulating the package compartment. A decision must be made by October, 2024 or the issue will be submitted to the grievance procedure. The company will replace at least 28,000 package cars and vans during the life of the contract. 

The contract was overwhelmingly ratified by UPS union members on August 22.

“Not Just for Us” Eighty-four Amazon delivery drivers in Southern California have joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and negotiated the first union contract among any Amazon workers in the country. They have been on an indefinite strike since June 24. Driver Raj Singh says, “Sometimes it reaches 135 degrees in the rear of the truck and there’s no cooling system,” said Singh, who has worked the job for two and half years and through the height of the pandemic. “It feels like an oven when you step back there. You instantly start feeling woozy, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve actually seen stars.” Singh says, “We’re trying to get this done, not just for us but for every delivery driver that works for Amazon.” Teamsters are now picketing Amazon warehouses around the country in solidarity.

“Working Shouldn’t Be a Death Sentence” On July 28, construction workers, airport baggage handlers, letter carriers, and other outdoor workers traveled from Texas to the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC. They were joined by labor organizers and lawmakers for a “vigil and thirst strike” to protest a new Texas law that eliminates compulsory water breaks for construction workers – even if mandated by local governments. 

SEIU petition to OSHA: Pass Heat Rules Now! The Service Employees union is collecting signatures for a petition calling for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to immediately implement rules to protect workers from heat. It reads in part:

OSHA must implement heat rules immediately. Extreme temperatures could make thousands of farm workers seriously ill — and even suffer heat stroke and die. Outdoor workers need enforceable protections so dangerous incidents never happen. Heat deaths are preventable tragedies. The prevention is nothing complicated:  shade, cool water, rest, education and monitoring.

 To sign the petition:

Fighting Lethal Heat in California The California Green New Deal Network advocated and won funding for Community Resilience Centers in the California Budget, which are vital to providing life-saving relief to residents vulnerable to increasingly lethal extreme heat. But the funding was cut in last year’s budget. The Los Angeles Times estimated that high temperatures had killed nearly 4,000 people between 2010 and 2019 — more than six times higher than official state figures. The California legislature set a 2019 deadline for finalizing regulations for hot indoor job sites like warehouses and restaurants, but Cal/OSHA has so far failed to issue those rules. According to an article in POLITICO by Alexander Nieves,

Environmental justice and public health groups are hoping that the prospect of retrofitting housing and installing heat pumps will entice politically powerful labor unions to get involved. They’re looking to groups like a relatively new coalition of 13 unions, including SEIU California, the California Federation of Teachers and United Steelworkers, which is planning to release a policy platform this fall that will include extreme heat.

 The article quotes Amee Raval, policy and research director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, who says, “I think the work of this clean energy transition, in the context of worsening disasters and extreme heat, are absolutely jobs that we want to ensure are family-sustaining union jobs, and that there are pathways to organize our communities.” 

The post Workers vs. Heat first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

Montana Youth Win “Strongest Decision on Climate Change”

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:13

Image Source: Max Zolotukhin-

On August 14 Montana district court Judge Kathy Seeley declared Montana’s fossil fuel-promoting laws unconstitutional and enjoined their implementation. In a 103-page order, Judge Seeley said that by prohibiting government agencies from considering climate impacts when deciding whether or not to permit energy projects, Montana is contributing to the climate crisis and stopping the state from addressing that crisis. She found that every additional ton of greenhouse gas pollution warms the planet, and that harms to the plaintiffs “will grow increasingly severe and irreversible without science-based actions to address climate change”.

The case was brought by 16 plaintiffs aged five to 22, who argued that the state’s pro-fossil fuel policies violated provisions in the state constitution that guarantee a “clean and healthful environment.” While young people have been suing for a decade in state and federal courts for recognition of a constitutional right to a stable climate, this case marks the first time in US history that a court has ruled on the merits of the case that a government violated young people’s constitutional rights by promoting fossil fuels. Michael Gerrard of the Columbia University Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said, “I think this is the strongest decision on climate change ever issued by any court.”

The post Montana Youth Win “Strongest Decision on Climate Change” first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

Free Boris Kagarlitsky!

Mon, 08/14/2023 - 10:01

By Jeremy Brecher,
Senior Strategic Advisor, LNS Co-Founder

Listen to the audio version >>

Russian scholar and activist Boris Kagarlitsky has been jailed for a blog post on the Russia-Ukraine war. His recent writings range from a Ukraine peace plan to climate movement strategy. An international campaign is demanding his release from prison.

Boris Kagarlitsky, an internationally known scholar and a longtime political activist, was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service on July 25. Although a consistent opponent of terrorism, Kagarlitsky is accused of “justifying terrorism” under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation because of a blog post on the Russia-Ukraine war. He was ordered held until September 24; it is expected he will then be put on trial on charges that could bring a seven-year prison sentence. An international movement is demanding his release, not only to win justice for Kagarlitsky himself but to support the Russian movement against the Ukraine war, one of the few forces that can help halt the devastation of the Ukrainian and Russian people and the threat of even more devastating escalation.

Kagarlitsky’s arrest is just the latest of many efforts by the regime of Vladimir Putin to repress all opposition to Russia’s war against Ukraine by jailing thousands of protestors and driving many others into exile. It calls to mind the repression of the Vietnam war resistance under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon through the prosecution of such notable Americans as Dr. Benjamin Spock, Rev. William Sloan Coffin, and Daniel Ellsberg, as well as thousands of anti-war demonstrators and draft resisters. Kagarlitsky has undoubtedly put himself in harm’s way to help stimulate a similar resistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Kagarlitsky has described Russia’s war against Ukraine as “the insane adventurist plans of the government of the Russian Federation.” But he is no shill for NATO, the US, or Western imperialism; as he says, he has “consistently condemned the invasions of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yugoslavia for so many years, held protests against the bombing and interference in the affairs of sovereign countries and rallies of solidarity with the peoples of these countries.”[1] For decades he has been an analyst and critic of both the Russian state and of the capitalist West. He has the distinction of having been arrested previously for his scholarly and political activities by the Soviet Union in the days of Yuri Andropov; by the emerging Russian government of Boris Yeltsin in 1993; and under Vladimir Putin in 2021.

I first became aware of Boris Kagarlitsky in 1994 when I was researching the early use of the Internet for political activism. On the night of October 3, 1993, Moscow police arrested him and two other leading members of the Russian Party of Labor. They were systematically beaten to try to get them to confess to killing two policemen. The next night the wife of one discovered where they were and contacted a union officer. Within minutes, a message appealing for protest calls was posted on a series of international computer sites by means of that then-newfangled thing, E-mail. Kagarlitsky described what happened next:

We were watching from the cell as the phone calls came in. One of the first was from Japan. The police didn’t seem able to believe it. After that, the calls seemed to be coming from everywhere – there were quite a few from the [San Francisco] Bay Area in the United States.”

When police told callers that the prisoners had been released, the prisoners yelled at the top of their lungs that they were still being held. Within a few hours, most of the detainees were released and the frame-up charges were dropped.[2]

I met and got to know Boris Kagarlitsky when then-congressman Bernie Sanders brought him to Washington to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Banking Subcommittee. Rep. Sanders had forged a temporary coalition with a rightwing congressman to oppose US funding for the International Monetary Fund. Sanders identified the IMF as the engine of economic destruction in the third world countries subjected to “structural adjustment” and in a Russia subjected to “shock therapy.” Kagarlitsky, at that time a senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Comparative Political Studies and an advisor to the Duma, said IMF loans had not helped the Russian people. “The one thing we need from the West now is to leave us in peace,” he said. “We need it to stop imposing economic policies that are ruinous for us, while using the pretext of giving us aid.”[3]

Kagarlitsky is clearly no apologist for Western capitalist domination of Russia and Eastern Europe. He was shocked at the extent to which Washington, despite the fall of the Soviet Union, was still in thrall to a crude cold war mentality – notably when one congressman red-baited him for merely using the word “dialectic” in a statement that had nothing to do with leftism or Marxism.

While Kagarlitsky is best known today for his outspoken opposition to the Russian war on Ukraine, for decades he has been an outspoken critic of every Russian regime; an interpreter of the developing crisis of global capitalism; and an advocate of the old-fashioned – but perhaps also futuristic – idea that working people can and must join worldwide to stop the devastation wreaked by rival elites – devastation today represented by the Ukraine war, the threat of nuclear war, and the realities of climate change. It is worth taking a look at his recent proposals, ranging from a peace plan for the Ukraine war to a strategy for global action on climate change.

A Peace Plan for the Ukraine War

Ukrainian soldiers killed in the Russo-Ukrainian War in 2022 | Photo Credit: Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών, Flickr

Kagarlitsky acknowledges that there are sharply differing assessments on the left both of responsibility for the Ukraine war and what should be done about it. But he has recently tried to focus attention on how to stop it: “It is necessary to stop the bloodshed not only to correct the previous injustices, but also to prevent new ones.” He acknowledges this “won’t be easy or simple.” But “The peoples are tired of war, they want peace,” and therefore a plan is needed that will “stop the bloodshed and create conditions for the mutual laying down of arms, without fear of monstrous consequences for Ukrainians and Russians.” He advocates “an honest peace without territorial conquest or any further aggressive policy,” with remuneration for all the destruction “not from the pockets of the working people, but at the expense of those who unleashed this massacre.” He suggests a four-point peace plan:

  1. Stop fighting on both sides;
  2. Cessation of any supply of foreign weapons and ammunition to both Ukraine and Russia;
  3. Abandonment by the Russian Armed Forces of the territory of Ukraine as of February 1, 2014 (“zero option”);
  4. The UN and its peacekeeping forces are temporarily introduced to the territories left by the Russian Federation Armed Forces.

In order to avoid clashes and outrages on both sides, he proposes a “humanitarian corridor” in the territories left by the Russian troops for the unhindered exit of residents in both directions, and to temporarily deploy UN peacekeeping forces from among countries that are not directly or indirectly involved in the conflict.

He recognizes that the chances of this scenario occurring are extremely small. But looking at the reactions to this program will allow us to find out “what is actually more important to the elites and governments – is it land and territory, saving face (in fact, saving power and capital), or is it people’s lives?”[4]

Kagarlitsky’s approach has been attacked not only by the Russian government but by some Western leftists who portray it as supporting US hegemony and Western domination. Those of us who resisted the US war in Vietnam will be painfully reminded both of our repression by our own government and of the claims of liberals and even some leftists that we were acting as pawns for Communist world domination. Just as millions of people around the world supported the US anti-war movement that helped end the Vietnam war, support for the Russian peace movement can contribute significantly to ending a war that elites on all sides seem determined to perpetuate.

“The Main Challenge that Humanity Has to Face”

Kagarlitsky makes clear that the Ukraine war is taking place in the context of global climate catastrophe. Indeed, he presents the Russian-Ukrainian war as “just a specific aspect of a global transition process.” Already in the early 2000s, “the climate crisis began to be perceived as the main challenge that humanity has to face in the 21st century.” But he expresses skepticism about the willingness and even the ability of existing elites in either East or West to seriously address climate change.[5]

“No one in Russia publicly denies that there is a problem.” At the same time, “no one among top Russian politicians ever considers that to be anything serious.” The Russian elite believes “As long as we can continue to sell oil, the rest doesn’t matter.” This will continue for another decade or so, and “they do not care about anything that is going to happen in two or three decades from now.”

Western elites do understand that certain changes are necessary to address climate change. But the problem is “who is going to pay the bills” for the process of transition? Elites in the West do not want to pay. “They’re going to make someone else pay for the transition.” Unlike Russian elites, “who do not think the transition is possible or necessary,” western elites “understand that something has to be done,” but “somebody else, not them, has to pay the cost of the transition.”

Climate discussion has not been about “socio-economic transformation,” but about “technology and scientific theories.” But the main problem is “economic interests in one way or another affected by the environmental agenda.” Political and corporate representatives of the ruling class hope to use climate policy to promote economic growth “without sacrificing the fundamental principles of neoliberalism,” in particular “without changing the balance of power between labor and capital.” The corporate environmental agenda “presupposes sacrifice on the part of the working classes for the sake of preserving the efficiency of capital.”

Can this work? Not necessarily. Kagarlitsky believes we are going to face “a period of turmoil.” The problem for the elites is that “their policies are inconsistent with reality.” They are inconsistent with the objective process which is taking place in the nature of the planet.

As an alternative, Kagarlitsky calls for “eco socialist and democratic planning.” This is not to advocate “a Stalinist kind of centralized bureaucratic planning and autocratic political regime.” But “environmental activities should be combined with economic development and social development.” He cites the large and successful Russian reforestation program of the 1920s and 1930s as an example. “There was a serious effort to do things in a complex way to combine social, economic, and financial elements within one particular effort to achieve particular goals.” (This may also call to mind the reforestation program of the US New Deal in the Great Depression – and the proposals of today’s Green New Deal.)

How could this be accomplished today?

There are plenty of resources available. These resources are just in the wrong hands. These resources are in the hands of people who want things to stay exactly as they are now. So there must be some kind of global effort to expropriate the global oligarchy and to establish global environmental planning combined with social development.

Kagarlitsky calls for environmentalist social movements “to undertake a profound reorientation and connect with labor movements in the Global North and the Global South.” Ultimately, “this means building new internationalist movements.”[6]

Kagarlitsky was arrested for speaking truth to power – and, even more threateningly, speaking truth to the powerless. The international campaign to free Boris Kagarlitsky can be a vehicle for building those new internationalist movements.

To sign a petition demanding freedom for Boris Kagarlitsky:


[1] Boris Kagarlitsky, “My Peace Plan,” Portside, June 30, 2023.

[2] Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage (Boston: South End Press, 1994), pp. 130-131.

[3] Robert Lyle, “Russia: IMF Strategy Failed,” Radio Free Europe, September 9, 1998.

[4] Boris Kagarlitsky, “My Peace Plan,” Portside, Ibid.

[5] Boris Kagarlitsky interview, “Russia, Climate Crisis, and the War in Ukraine,” and Boris Kagarlitsky,  “Internationalist Movements? Climate Crisis, Working Class, the Means Of Production,” Le Club, January 26, 2023.

[6] Internationalist Movements? Climate Crisis, Working Class, The Means Of Production, Ibid.


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The post Free Boris Kagarlitsky! first appeared on Labor Network for Sustainability.

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