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The Climate Change Scoping Plan Must Directly Address the Concerns of Labor

By various - Labor Rise for Climate, Jobs, Justice, and Peace, July 14, 2022

We are writing to you as rank-and-file California trade unionists to request revision of the 2022 Draft Scoping Plan to incorporate the California Climate Jobs Plan based on “A Program for Economic Recovery and Clean Energy Transition in California.” 

While making frequent references to equity, the Draft Scoping Plan fails to present a credible roadmap for the massive economic and social transformation that will be required to protect and promote the interests of workers and communities as California confronts the climate crisis and emerges from the fossil fuel era.

Four years ago, United Nations scientists reported that it would take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to limit increasingly catastrophic changes to the global climate. Among these rapid and far-reaching changes, the redesign of our economy requires an honest accounting and plan for the tens of millions of California workers whose lives will be changed dramatically in this decade and beyond. If there is to be a plan for transformation, it must center the aspirations and possibilities for working people. 

In this aspect, the Draft Scoping Plan falls short. Labor is treated as an externality. The draft lacks any discussion of public funding to create green jobs or protect workers and communities who depend on fossil fuel industries for their livelihood. The only union mentioned in the 228-page draft is the European Union. The draft’s abstract commitments to a job-rich future are based on crude economic modeling rather than concrete planning. We need more than vague assurances that economic growth guided by corporate interests will provide for the common good.

Unions Respond to the Climate Crisis

Labor is aware of California’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2045. Three visionary labor unions sought answers for how these goals could be achieved while providing a future full of opportunity and social well-being. 

In 2021, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, California Federation of Teachers, and United Steelworkers Local 675 commissioned a team led by the distinguished economist Robert Pollin, professor and director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, to prepare a study on how to advance a recovery from the COVID-19 recession that would be economically robust and ecologically sustainable. Instead of giving credence to the “climate versus jobs” antagonism, the team’s charter was to create a climate plan that is also a jobs plan. 

The report was published in June 2021 with 19 initial union endorsements including unions representing fossil fuel workers:

  • Alameda Labor Council
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 57
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees United Domestic Workers
  • California Faculty Association—San Francisco State University Chapter
  • California Federation of Teachers
  • Communication Workers of America District 9
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21
  • Service Employees International Union California
  • Service Employees International Union Local 721
  • Service Employees International Union Local 1021
  • Service Employees International Union Nurse Alliance of California
  • Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West
  • United Auto Workers Local 2865
  • United Auto Workers Local 5810
  • UNITE HERE Local 30
  • United Steelworkers Local 5
  • United Steelworkers Local 675
  • University Professional and Technical Employees—Communications Workers of America 9119

Over the past year, a number of other unions have endorsed the plan which has become known as the “California Climate Jobs Plan” (or, more simply, the “Pollin Report”). 

In a nutshell, the California Climate Jobs Plan calls on the State of California to:

  1. Invest $70 billion in state and federal funds annually in renewable energy, energy efficiency, infrastructure, manufacturing, and organic and ecological agriculture;
  2. Establish a California Equitable Transition Fund to provide safety nets for displaced fossil fuel workers and support communities to maintain and expand critical services;
  3. Fund a robust public sector including public education and universal healthcare;
  4. Require pro-worker policies for all public investments such as the right to organize a union through card check, as well as targeted and local hire provisions for communities.

Unlike the 2022 Draft Scoping Plan which relies heavily on speculative accomplishments in future decades, the California Climate Jobs Plan emphasizes our choices in the present decade. Achieving California’s 2030 goal, along with upgrading the state’s infrastructure and agricultural economy, will require $138 billion per year in combined investments in clean energy, manufacturing, and displaced worker relief programs. This is only 3.8% of California GDP, a reasonable investment to avoid a world on fire. Assuming the public and private sectors split the total equally, $70 billion per year of public funding – state and federal – will be needed. A realistic California climate plan requires nothing less.

Benefits of the California Climate Jobs Plan

These are some highlights of the benefits that the California Climate Jobs Plan will bring to a substantially revised 2022 Scoping Plan:

Job Creation in California’s Clean Energy Transition

  • Investing $76 billion per year in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in California over 2021 – 2030 will generate 40% of new jobs, an average of 418,000 jobs per year in the state.
  • Investments will dramatically expand the supply of clean renewable energy—including solar, wind, and geothermal— and improve energy efficiency in California’s buildings, automobiles, public transportation systems, and industrial production processes.
  • Private sector would account for 90% of clean energy investments, public sector 10%.
  • New job opportunities will be created in a wide range of areas, including construction (electricians, carpenters, plumbers, laborers, welders), public transportation, engineering, sales, management, production, and office support.
  • Current average total compensation in these occupations mostly ranges between $70,000 and $95,000 per year.

Job Creation in Manufacturing, Public Infrastructure & Agriculture to help meet emission reduction targets

  • Investing $62 billion per year in manufacturing, critical infrastructure upgrades, land restoration and agriculture will generate 60% of new jobs, an average of 626,000 jobs per year in California.
  • Investments include universal broadband access; expansion and upgrading of public buildings, including schools and university campuses; water management; repairing leaky gas pipelines; closing orphaned oil and gas wells; regenerative agriculture; farmland conservation and resources for marginalized farmers.
  • Major areas of job expansion will be in freight moving (30%), construction (24%), and public sector employment (14%). Jobs will expand for electricians, pipelayers, drivers, water treatment plant operators, educators, recreation workers, administrative assistants and bookkeeping clerks, and for farm, forestry, and conservation workers.
  • Compensation in these occupations span a wide range, from $150,000 - $190,000 per year on the high end for work remediating oil wells and repairing gas pipelines, to the mid-range of $85,000 per year for water systems work, to the lower end of $26,000-30,000 per year for farmworkers and recreation workers.

Public Sector Job Creation: Almost 100,000 new jobs

  • A robust public sector is critical to ensure safe and effective build out of clean energy, manufacturing and infrastructure upgrades across the state. These jobs tend to be good jobs with higher-than-average unionization rates.
  • In total, about 96,000 of the 1 million new jobs created will be in the public sector, or about 9.6 percent of total job creation.

Just Transition for Fossil Fuel-Dependent Workers and Communities

  • Budgeting $470 million per year to provide a comprehensive transition package for the 112,000 California workers employed in fossil fuel-based industries including pension-guarantees, health care coverage, re-employment guarantees, wage subsidies to cover income losses,as well as retraining and relocation support.
  • The total cost of this package is equal to about 0.02% (two one-hundredths of one percent) of the state’s average GDP.

By expanding the horizons of the Scoping Plan to include a climate jobs plan, California can make this project real to the working people who will make or break California’s efforts to decarbonize. The California Climate Jobs Plan provides an inclusive vision that can garner labor support for the challenging transition ahead. A key point is expanding the concept of climate jobs. Carpenters, electricians, and machinists work at climate jobs, and so do community college teachers preparing students for green careers, city planners managing infrastructure build out, and nurses who are an essential support for communities as climate chaos impacts health. Fossil fuel workers decommissioning and cleaning up aging and obsolete oil and gas infrastructure also work in climate jobs. Janitors know the buildings they work in better than anyone else; since buildings are a major source of fossil fuel emissions, janitors can be trained as energy efficiency experts, raising wages in a lower wage workforce of predominantly black and brown workers while protecting the planet.

Like the climate and environmental justice organizations that have produced thoughtful critiques of the Draft 2022 Scoping Plan, we strongly support Governor Gavin Newsom’s call for California to “do everything possible to accelerate our climate targets and increase the pace of action to transition to a low-carbon future.” “Everything possible” includes a just and equitable transition for workers and working class communities.

Such a transition will not arrive by technocratic proclamation. It will be fought for and won by working people committed to a decent future for ourselves, our children, and generations to come.

To this end, we urge incorporation of the California Climate Jobs Plan into the 2022 Scoping Plan.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author.

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