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Living Wages on a Living Planet!

By staff - Just Transition Partnership, October 6, 2022

JUST TRANSITION PARTNERSHIP STATEMENT ON CLIMATE JUSTICE, THE COST OF LIVING AND INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES

Soaring inflation has workers facing a real terms pay cut on top of years of stagnating wages. After a summer of heatwaves and drought, we are heading into a winter where millions won’t be able to afford to heat their homes.

Yet, as poverty and climate breakdown impact upon millions of people, the energy companies driving both crises are raking in massive profits. Workers are striking to defend wages and services while climate campaigners are stepping up their actions against profiteering companies. Both confront government policies which disregard the concerns of climate, environment and workers.

The solutions to these crises are the same:

We need a just transition that includes massive sustainable investment in renewable energy and provides secure work, affordable publicly-owned energy and protection from the volatility of energy markets – with plans to plough profits into renewables and high quality services using both taxation and legal duties on private companies; all delivered by well-paid, skilled and secure workforce.

These things won’t happen without workers in their trade unions organising to defend their wages, their jobs, their future and their rights through the power of collective bargaining. The workers’ movement and the climate justice movement need to build our collective power if we are to defend our future. That is why climate justice solidarity with workers on strike is growing and trade unions are backing urgent action for a Just Transition.

We’re Fighting for Our Future:

• living wages based on cost of living pay rises now

• cheap, accessible and clean energy

• green jobs

• a safe planet to live on

Industrial Policy Without Industrial Unions

By Lee Harris - The American Prospect, September 28, 2022

In August, as President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, pledging to build American semiconductor factories, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker posed on the White House lawn, flanked by the chief executives of vehicle companies Ford, Lion Electric, and Rivian. Thanks to billions of dollars in federal and state investments, Pritzker said, his constituents could expect a manufacturing revival, and “good-paying, union jobs.”

Illinois is refashioning itself as a center for electric vehicle (EV) production and a cluster of related industries, such as microchips. The state just passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, its flagship industrial-policy plan, and has passed MICRO, a complement to federal CHIPS subsidies. Pritzker is hungry for Chicago to host the upcoming Democratic convention and take a victory lap at factory openings.

But he may have to trot out non-union autoworkers at the ribbon cuttings.

Ford, a “Big Three” union automaker, boasts that the F-150 is a “legendary union-built vehicle,” but battery production is being outsourced to non-union shops. Bus producer Lion Electric is under pressure to use organized labor, but has yet to make public commitments on allowing a union election without interference. Electric-truck startup Rivian, which is 18 percent owned by Amazon, has been plagued by workplace injuries and labor violations. Illinois’s attorney general recently uncovered a scheme to renovate its downstate plant with workers brought in from Mexico, who were cheated out of overtime pay.

Democrats are giddy about the arrival of green industrial policy. With last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, CHIPS, and the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Congress has poured money into setting off green growth. The main messaging behind this policy is that government investment can create attractive jobs, and a new political base, by manufacturing the clean technologies of the future.

If you squint, you could almost mistake the IRA’s robust Buy American provisions for worker protections. They are often mentioned in the same sentence. But while new spending is likely to onshore manufacturing, it largely lacks provisions ensuring that those new jobs will adhere to high-road labor standards, let alone that they will be unionized.

Instead, the political logic of the bill is a gamble. The energy sector is still dominated by oil and gas. To accelerate the transition, it will be necessary to create large countervailing industries. After decades of offshoring, the first aim for green manufacturing is to make sure that it happens here at all. The IRA alone could produce as many as nine million jobs over the next decade, according to an analysis by University of Massachusetts Amherst and the labor-environmental coalition BlueGreen Alliance. Many of those jobs will be in old Democratic strongholds where the party is now hemorrhaging support, like mining in Nevada and auto production in the Midwest.

Supporters hope that once new green jobs are created, a mass labor coalition could follow. As Nathan Iyer, an analyst at the climate consultant RMI, told the Prospect in a recent podcast, “It’s hard to have a workers-based movement, and build workers’ power, if there are no workers.”

Biden Promised “Good-Paying Union Jobs,” But It Will Take Organizing to Get Them

By Leanna First-Arai - Truthout, September 27, 2022

Since the historic and controversial Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law in August, the economy has begun showing early signs of shifting and recalibrating beneath our feet. Honda Motor Company and LG Energy Solution have announced plans for a lithium ion battery plant, with their sights on Ohio; hiring has ticked up at a small business in Texas that builds wind and solar power plants; and the state of Connecticut is soliciting applications for millions in funding for community-led climate adaptation plans in anticipation of IRA funds to come, plus funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law signed last year. The IRA set aside $369 billion in climate and energy spending, which researchers estimate will translate to 9 million jobs over the next decade.

But as cities, states, nonprofits, industry groups and corporations all scramble to sweep up a slice of that funding, the degree to which these jobs will live up to being the Biden administration’s promise of “good-paying union jobs” remains to be seen. So too does whether and how those positions will be made available to the frontline and fenceline communities of color that have suffered the most from decades of disinvestment, pollution and manipulation at the hands of the fossil fuel industry, as well as to those working in the industry itself.

“Having that stuff in the federal bill is great, but unless we are organizing to bring these things into reality, it’s not going to happen,” said Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL-CIO at a Climate Jobs Summit earlier this month. Levy warned that Republican-led state officials and contractors could be wary over accepting clean energy grants and tax breaks from the federal government, given the labor protections and training stipulations the money is contingent upon.

The Socialist Green New Deal

By Green Left - London Green Left Blog , September 26, 2022

In this document, we trace the development of a Green Socialist New Deal (GSND) from its origins in the ‘New Deal’ of the 1930s, to the more recent Green New Deal.

We believe that the latter can only be effective in tackling the multiple crises of finance, climate change, environmental degradation, social and global justice and peace through an eco-socialist alliance of workers and trade unions that challenges the current capitalist order.

We outline a set of interim policies in our GSND, concluding that these medium-term changes would reduce climate change and also enhance our democracy and human welfare.

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Strategic Orientation

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Building Climate Jobs Campaigns

Global Climate Jobs Conference 2022: Jonathan Neale on the meaning of Climate Jobs

The Promise and Perils of Biden’s Climate Policy

By staff - European Trade Union Institute, September 15, 2022

The recent Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is properly recognised as the largest climate policy in US history. In this short essay I will first summarise and comment on its provisions, then outline the reactions to it, with a focus on labour unions, and will close by providing my own thoughts.

The IRA allocates around $370 billion over a period of ten years. About 75% of that is in the form of incentives (rather than direct investments or regulatory mandates) to advance the transition to ‘clean energy’ that includes renewables but also nuclear power, biofuels, hydrogen, and carbon capture and sequestration. These incentives focus primarily on advancing the production of clean energy but also on stimulating its consumption. Smaller energy investments focus on tackling pollution in poorer communities and on conservation and rural development.

The IRA also authorises as much as $350 billion of loans to be disbursed by the Department of Energy. While such loans have been around since the Bush Administration, the amounts and the likelihood that they will be used during the Biden Administration are much higher. Finally, its main regulatory provision is the designation of carbon, methane and other heat-trapping emissions from power plants, automobiles, and oil and gas wells as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, one of the bedrocks of US environmental legislation, which the Environmental Protection Agency implements. Overall, it is estimated that by 2030 the IRA will help reduce emissions by around 40% of 2005 levels, compared to the about 25% reduction projected without it. 

However, the policy mandates that renewable energy siting permits cannot be approved during any year unless accompanied by the opening up of 2 million acres of land or 60 million acres of ocean to oil and gas leasing bids, respectively, during the prior year (for more details see 50265 of Act). In either case, the amount of actual leasing and drilling is subject to market dynamics rather than regulatory limits, while the Act also streamlines the permitting process for pipelines. The growing transition to electric vehicles will lessen the market for oil but the strategic repositioning of natural gas in energy production (as well as plastics) suggests that it (along with nuclear power) will be a long-term source of energy, including in the production of hydrogen. Nevertheless, overall, it is the prevailing view that the IRA will decisively transition the US into renewable energy as part of a broader energy mix.

Democratising Work in the 21st Century

By Isabelle Ferreras - Green European Journal, September 14, 2022

With digitalisation and shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather, the world of work is changing rapidly. But this transformation should not become an inevitability that workers must passively endure. Rather, it should be a democratic process shaped and decided by workers themselves. On the sidelines of the European Trade Union Institute’s Blueprint for equality conference, we sat down with Isabelle Ferreras, who has co-authored a new book calling for a re-organisation of the economy, to discuss democratising work in the 21st century.

Green European Journal: Digitalisation and automation are transforming how we work. How do you see the new face of work?

Isabella Ferreras: What is most notable about digitalisation is the loss of work’s physicality. As soon as jobs adopt technological tools that allow remote or computer-assisted working, workers cease to come together in the same place. In Marx’s analysis of the first age of industrial capitalism, the concentration of workers in factories was an important factor in the development of class consciousness. It enabled the working class to shift from what he called a “class in itself” to a “class for itself”. The opportunity to come together in one place, at a frequency imposed by industrial capitalism, meant that workers could get to know one another, take their breaks together, talk to one another. They realised that they shared very similar lives and problems that needed shared solutions.

The digitalisation of the economy individualises the experience of work. You might find an engineer based in Delhi, another in Boston, and a third who is subcontracted to write some lines of code from South Africa or Ukraine all working on the same project. All these people interact via an online platform, without getting to know one another and without the opportunity to realise that they are all part of the same “work investment” necessary for a business. By work investment, I mean all the workers required to successfully produce something or provide a service.

So the fragmentation of work, brought about by digitalisation, leads to a less social experience of work and, in the end, a loss of power for workers?

As this fragmentation has taken root, workers have grown more aware. Workers aspire to something else. We can see this in two ways. First, since the pandemic, there is a massive rise in people changing careers because they aspire to more meaningful work. There was a real misery for “non-essential” workers slaving away in front of their computers, stuck at home with this interface. In the hope of keeping their workers, some British companies have embarked on a full-scale experiment: the biggest ever trial of a four-day working week has just begun in the UK. About 50 businesses are implementing it, offering a better work-life balance for the same salary. Workers are expected to be just as productive over four days and gain a better quality of life.

Second, businesses are going to great lengths to improve job satisfaction. This is essentially a retention strategy whereby companies work to increase job satisfaction so that employees remain loyal. Employers are giving workers more say in decisions that affect them, such as combining working from home and the office.

In France, a survey conducted by the Association Pour l’Emploi des Cadres (APEC) in January 2021 revealed that 9 out of 10 managers are listening much more, building bonds within teams, and empowering employees as a result of the pandemic. This is an opportunity to be seized. On 16 December 2021, the European Parliament passed a historic resolution demanding, among other things, a revision of the European Works Council Directive. In Democratize Work, we call for a collective veto right for workers so that they can influence decisions taken by company boards or works councils.

The opposite trend is the growing physicality of work in the care sector. What does the rising need for care, both for people and the planet, mean for the world of work?

Alongside the trend towards automation is a realisation that we’re going to need more human labour and, let’s hope, not more unrecognised and unpaid exploitation. Taking care of both the planet and other human beings, like through public services, requires more and more work but nobody is talking about paying for this work. Neglecting the remuneration side of care comes from misconceptions about the future of work.

The intrinsic content of all jobs has changed with each technological revolution. But the key issue we must grasp here is that there’s much more work for us to do so that we’re no longer dependent on our energy slaves [the quantity of energy required to replace human labour]. We must also formalise that part of the care sector which just exploits women’s labour. Equalising living standards and giving men and women the same number of opportunities means investing massively in childcare, for example.

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