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‘Everyone Wants a Good Job’: The Texas Unions Fighting for a Green New Deal

By Dharna Noor - Gizmodo, August 18, 2021

The myth that climate action kills jobs is dying. Study after study shows that serious environmental policy spurs job creation. Most recently, a July report found that meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals could create 8 million positions globally by 2050.

Organized labor still opposes some environmental policies, though, particularly building trade unions looking to protect their members’ jobs in the fossil fuel industry. The sector isn’t a great employer, with oil and gas companies slashing thousands of non-unionized workers in recent years. But by and large, jobs in coal, oil, and gas pay more than those in clean power and are more frequently unionized.

But labor and climate organizers are aiming to ease fossil fuel workers’ concerns, with an increasing push to make sure the climate jobs of the future are unionized and pay as well as their fossil fuel counterparts. They’re also putting the need to protect workers at the forefront rather than treating labor as an afterthought. The growing climate-labor movement could be the key to making sure decarbonization actually happens in a speedy and fair manner, and it’s making inroads in some surprising places.

A Just Transition in Texas

At the Texas AFL-CIO’s annual convention last month, 121 unions—including those representing fossil fuel workers—voted in favor of a resolution for a green jobs plan. The resolution didn’t just pass, it did so with overwhelming support. The proposal was written by the Texas Climate Jobs Project, a project of the state labor federation and Cornell University’s Worker Institute in consultation with 27 unions statewide. It would create more than 1.1 million jobs to decarbonize Texas over the next 25 years if implemented.

“It really gives a clear guideline of how we create just jobs, and we do it in a way that saves our planet,” Jeremy Hendricks, assistant business manager of the Southwest Laborers District Council, a part of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said.

Texas is the biggest energy-producing state in the nation. Currently, the majority of that energy comes in the form of planet-warming fossil fuels. Under the new plan, the state would change that distribution by tripling wind capacity and increasing solar capacity by sixfold. Using federal data, the authors estimated this could create 790,400 new jobs alone. For context, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows 450,000 people worked in the state’s fossil fuel industry in 2019, and that number has almost certainly fallen due to the pandemic. Under the plan, these positions would all be represented by unions within the Texas AFL-CIO.

Read the entire article here.

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