You are here

green jobs

Greening the Union Label: Zero Carbon Future Could Be a Jobs Bonanza

By Steven Wishnia - The Indypendent, September 12, 2014

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’s.

From teachers to transit workers, civil servants to electricians, the People’s Climate March will have more organized-labor participation than any environmentalist effort in U.S. history.

More than 50 unions, including some of the city’s biggest, are among the organizations sponsoring the march. The Service Employees International Union, the nation’s second largest, has endorsed it, and its two main New York locals, the health care workers of Local 1199 and the building service workers of Local 32BJ, are heavily involved. Also on board are District Council 37, the city’s largest public employee union; Transport Workers Union Local 100; Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the Communications Workers of America, who represent city employees as well as telephone and cable-TV workers; and the city, state and Connecticut affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers.

The sponsors also include labor-based groups such as the Left Labor Project and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and “worker centers” that seek to organize low-wage and undocumented workers. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is bringing union leaders from more than 10 countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, Korea, Canada and South Africa.

“Labor is marching because climate change affects all of us,” says Local 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “We live in the communities that get destroyed by storms like Sandy. We work in the buildings that get flooded. We get hit by health epidemics like asthma that are rampant in our communities, and we care about the world that we will leave for our children and grandchildren.” 

“Labor has come to the conclusion that it is a workers’ issue, some of us faster than others,” says Estela Vazquez, a Local 1199 vice president.

How To Make Fighting Climate Change Work For Workers

By Andrew Breiner - Think Progress, October 2, 2014

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’s.

At first glance, it looks grim.

The EPA indicated Thursday that industry in the U.S. released more carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2013 than 2012, the wrong trend when we need to be making large cuts to get global warming under control. Meanwhile a report from the Center For American Progress and the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) shows that we’re nowhere near cutting CO2 enough to prevent catastrophic global warming. If we continue with business as usual, U.S. emissions in 2030 will actually be slightly higher than they were in 2010, 80 percent higher than they need to be. Even with the “full implementation of the best clean energy policies currently considered achievable,” what the authors call the “aggressive reference case”, we’d still be well above the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) target, by 40 percent.

EIA Reference Case is where the Energy Information Administration expects us to be on our current track. The aggressive case includes current efforts to reduce CO2. And the final case is the study authors' recommendation.

“I kind of fell off my chair,” Robert Pollin, one of the report’s authors, said in a phone interview. “If you look at the institutions that do serious models of our energy future over the next generation or so, they’re saying we’re not going to control climate change. That’s the most likely scenario. That’s shocking.” But this report makes the case that there’s still hope. “The results from our research say that we can achieve the emissions reduction target through very significant action,” Pollin said, but “we can achieve it.”

“As long as we’re committed, it’s not beyond reach.”

In the report, “Green Growth: A U.S. Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding Job Opportunities,” the authors lay out how the government should take action to cut carbon in extensive detail. On energy efficiency, for example, the report describes specific ways of improving efficiency, and how much energy they can be expected to save, from the realm of consumer appliances to industrial practices in the pulp and paper industry. And efficiency is where the authors expect to see a lot of progress.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.06.21 AM “The single biggest opportunity,” Bracken Hendricks of the Center for American Progress said, “is the urgency of retrofitting buildings to use less energy.” That has the benefit of being a very labor-heavy task, as is much of the work needed to cut carbon. “When you invest in clean economy,” Hendricks said, “you’re taking dollars from extractive resources and investing them in high-skill, high wage jobs.”

The report estimates 4.2 million jobs would be created by its recommendations, and 2.7 million after accounting for the loss of fossil fuel jobs. With a labor market of 155 million, that might not seem like so much, Pollin said, “but in an all else equal world, that’s a 1.5 to 2% reduction in the unemployment rate.”

And lower unemployment means more bargaining power for workers. “It directly contradicts the notion that investing in the environment means job losses, that it’s bad for jobs,” Pollin said. The Green Growth plan would also include money to retrain workers who lose their jobs as the economy shifts away from fossil fuels. Since concern for workers is at the forefront of the report, Pollin said, “we’ve taken a lot of pains on transitional policies for workers.”

One million dollars in spending on fossil fuels results in only 5.3 jobs if spent in oil, natural gas, and coal, the report says, compared with 16.7 jobs if spent in clean energy investments. Spending on renewables not only creates high-skill, high wage jobs at a higher rate than spending on fossil fuels, but it also creates a good number of low-wage jobs with opportunity for advancement. “It really creates an opportunity to create career ladders and training opportunities into the middle class,” Hendricks said.

Government spending would be an essential part of making this plan a reality, but not nearly as much as one might think for an effort to contain catastrophic global warming. The total yearly investments, public and private, needed to make the Green Growth plan a reality would be only $200 billion, which is 1.2 percent of total U.S. gross domestic product. The total government expenditure per year would average $55 billion, which is 1.4 percent of the total government budget. “There’s a window to make the investments that need to be done,” Hendricks said, “but it’s a small window and rapidly narrowing.”

While there’s a lot out there saying in the abstract what we need to do to limit climate change, action can sometimes seem impossible and far-off. But this is an actual road map, Hendricks said, “on the investments in technology, infrastructure, and communities,” that will actually solve the problem. And it translates “into a very compelling roadmap on how to rebuild the economy.”

How the Walton Family is Threatening Our Clean Energy Future

By Stacy Mitchell - Institute for Local Self-Reliance, October 2014

Critical fights over the future of our energy system are underway in dozens of states, with far-reaching implications for both climate change and our economy. At issue is the recent, rapid expansion of rooftop solar, which is revolutionizing who owns and profits from electricity generation. Rather than power production being monopolized by utilities, more and more households are becoming energy producers themselves. This transition is saving families money and driving the creation of tens of thousands of well-paying jobs.

But rooftop solar threatens the profits of utilities and the companies that supply them with energy. These powerful interests have gone on the offensive and are campaigning to weaken policies that enable rooftop solar in multiple states. They have begun to score wins, including a pivotal victory in Arizona, where regulators granted the state’s largest utility, APS, the right to impose new fees on households with rooftop solar. The fees have undermined the economics of rooftop solar, dramatically slowing installations and causing widespread job losses.

Read the report (PDF).

The Greening of the Labor Movement

By Gregory N Heires - The New Crossroads, September 22, 2014

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’s.

Thousands of union members participated in Sunday’s People’s Climate March, which is believed to be the largest demonstration by environmental activists ever to take place in the United States.

National, statewide and local unions played a big role in organizing the New York City march, and unions contributed significant resources to guarantee its success.

A New Movement?

Green activists are hopeful that the march marks the beginning of a movement that will unite a broad alliance of labor, community and traditional environmental groups dedicated to protecting the environment. Unionists who marched say the demonstration shows that the decades-old division between environmentalists and labor over the issue of jobs is finally breaking down.

“I would hope that a new movement will grow out of this,” said Jon Forster, a vice president of District Council 37, the largest public-employee union in New York City. Forster, who heads the union’s newly formed Climate Change Committee, worked with the 70 unions that helped organize the march.

“Building new community alliances is important, not only for creating jobs to but also to address social justice issues,” he said. “Climate change discriminates. Hurricane Sandy hurt the city’s minority and poor communities disproportionately.”

“This is really a class issue,” said Joshua Barnett, who works for the New York City Pubic Housing Authority. “The communities of New York City are unequally affected by asthma and pollution. The highest percentage of garbage dumps, sewage treatment plants and lead paint are in poor communities.”

Labor activists gathered for a lively rally at Broadway and 57th Street before the march kicked off in the late morning. Organizers estimated 350,000 workers, parents and children, human rights and peace advocates, youths, students, people of faith, politicians, celebrities and community activists participated the march, which filled dozens of blocks and extended over 2 miles until the demonstrators gathered between 34th and 38th streets for a block party.

Union leaders and rank-and-file members underscored how climate change is an existential issue for workers.

“Our members work and live in the coastal cities of the East of the United States,” said Hector Figueroa, who is the president of Local 32BJ, which has 145,000 members, who work in the city’s buildings as cleaners, maintenance laborers, security officers, window cleaners, building engineers and doormen. “They all are at risk with climate change.”

As noted by Figueroa, buildings account for a significant part of the city’s gas emission and electrical output. The local, an affiliate of Services Employees International Union, set up a training program for its supervisors to make the buildings they work in more environmentally friendly by conserving water and using electricity more efficiently.

Henry Garrido, an associate director of DC 37, which is an affiliate of the American State, Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, recalled how Hurricane Sandy devastated the union’s downtown headquarters, which was closed for nine months because of damage. Many DC 37 members were among the thousands of residents displaced by the hurricane.

But while DC 37 members were direct victims of the storm, they also were on the frontlines in helping residents, Garrido said.
EMS workers tended to people injured in the storm. Members in the public hospitals evacuated patients. Social workers and clerical employees ran shelters. And mobile libraries became outposts to help residents of storm-ravaged communities charge their cell phones, learn about emergency services, and find shelter and shower facilities.

Jobs and the Planet: is it Really Either/or?

By Jean Parrey and Carole Ramsden - Socialist Worker, September 18, 2014

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’s.

WHO HAS the power to stop climate change?

Demonstrations like the People's Climate March in New York City on September 21 are important in showing the determined and growing opposition to a system that is driving the planet toward ecological devastation. But protests--while they can bring together and galvanize a growing movement--aren't enough by themselves.

One group in society with more potential leverage is workers in the energy and transportation industries, and those employed in sectors (like health care, for instance) directly impacted by climate change. Especially if they are members of unions, these workers can affect the operations of the fossil fuel industry by taking actions related to their work.

If this power were utilized, even if only partially, such actions could dramatically increase the pressure on the political and business establishment to do something to stop the carbon industry.

Yet organized labor has a notorious reputation for opposing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Union leaders insist these initiatives will cost union jobs--that it is a zero-sum game between jobs and the environment.

Therefore, the role of labor in the People's Climate March is a particularly important question.

At Least Some Unions Step Up for Big Climate March!

By Abby Scher - Truthout, September 14, 2014

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’s.

New York City and key national unions like the Service Employees International Union and Communication Workers of America are stepping up to support the People's Climate March in NYC September 21, in a broad coalition. But some green radicals from labor groups say unions need to create their own climate protection strategy that democratizes the energy sector.

There is a grinding nature to labor solidarity. Having never been active in a union before, I never experienced it until becoming the National Writers Union rep to organizing meetings for the Sept 21 Climate March happening in New York City right before a UN summit. Now I'm feeling it. It's not enough to get your union on board; has your president signed a statement? It's not enough to get your local; how about your international? And of course, words are cheap, so how many members are you mobilizing, and how are you doing it? Everyone in the room knows that grunt work feeds whatever power labor has. Astonishing for people who haven't been watching the labor movement in the last few years, New York's unions are digging deep to support the march that calls on world leaders to take action to avert catastrophic climate change.  

The march takes place just two days before President Obama and world leaders gather for an emergency Climate Summit at the United Nations called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Moon wants to ensure they sign a new international climate treaty when they gather again in Paris in December 2015.

The unions are among 1,000 endorsers of the People's Climate March challenging the big corporations and governments that have stymied any real agreement. It's been 26 years since the UN launched the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and then the treaty process two years later, but we're stuck - even as scientists educate us on the urgency to act.

Will unions be part of the problem or part of the solution? The International Trade Union Federation endorsed the march, as has the Canadian Labour Congress and the Connecticut and Vermont labor federations. But in New York, local and state unions are the ones stepping up - including some of the building trades, which, on a national level, help block the AFL-CIO from showing any climate leadership.

Making a Living on a Living Planet

By Joe Uehlein - Common Dreams, August 27, 2014

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’s.

On Labor Day 1940, American workers faced the aftermath of the Great Depression, with mass unemployment persisting and a divided labor movement facing a renewed counterattack from corporate America. They were barely becoming aware of an even greater threat, one that would determine the future of their country and their labor movement: the threat of Nazi armies mobilizing for war.

On Labor Day 2014, American workers face the lingering results of the Great Recession, with unemployment still at historic highs, burgeoning inequality, and attacks on the very right to have a union. But, like workers in 1940, we are being pressed by another threat, one that will far overshadow our current problems if we do not take it on.

Today the American labor movement -- like the rest of American society and like labor movements throughout the world—is being forced to grapple with global warming, climate chaos, and climate protection strategies. The future of labor’s growth and vitality will depend on its ability to play a central role in the movement to build a sustainable future for the planet and its people.

Climate change changes everything: Everything about how we organize society, how we conduct politics, even how we think of progress. For us in the labor movement, it must change how we envision the role of an organized labor movement in society. 

Society will change—either through the effects of climate degradation or through a colossal struggle to avert it. Labor has to decide whether to fight the transition to a climate-safe society or to help lead it. 

Interview - The Politics of Going Green

Chris Williams and Robert Pollin interviewed by Jessica Desvarieux - The Real News Network, July 30, 2014

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’s.

Biography

Chris Williams is a long-time environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University, in the Department of Chemistry and Physical Science. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, including TruthOut, Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateAndCapitalism, ClimateStoryTellers, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Socialist Worker, and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima in 2011 and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas over the summer of 2012, where he began work on his second book. He was awarded the Lannan 2013-4 Cultural Freedom Fellowship to continue this work. He has just returned from four months in Vietnam, Morocco and Bolivia, examining the impact of economic development and climate change in relation to energy, food and water issues.

Robert Pollin is professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI). His research centers on macroeconomics, conditions for low-wage workers in the US and globally, the analysis of financial markets, and the economics of building a clean-energy economy in the US. His latest book is Back to Full Employment. Other books include A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States and Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity.

The AFL-CIO's Keystone Pipeline Dreams

By x344543, x356039, x362102, and x363464 - February 9, 2014

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’s.

The IWW maintains that we must not only abolish wage slavery, we must also, "live in harmony with the Earth". The same economic forces that subject the working class to wage slavery are those that are destroying the planet on which we all live. Logically, if the business unions are not fighting to abolish wage slavery, it follows that they will be unable to take a meaningful stand on environmental issues.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that the AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka has officially declared his support for the Keystone XL Pipeline, specifically stating, “there’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs.”

He has further gone on to speak in favor of increasing natural gas exports, opining,

“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at…all facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”

Do we really need to elaborate on the foolishness in suggesting that Keystone XL is either good for the environment or creating jobs, because it most certainly is neither, and we can readily prove that.

To begin with, it’s not the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline itself that’s the primary issue, but what will inevitably be transported through it that is the bone of contention. Nobody disputes that it will transport oil extracted from Canadian tar sands mining, and such oil will be anything but green.

Cole Strangler's article in In These Times, Angering Environmentalists, AFL-CIO Pushes Fossil-Fuel Investment Labor’s Richard Trumka has gone on record praising the Keystone pipeline and natural gas export terminals, lays out a fairly strong case that Trumka’s claims are false, stating:

The anti-KXL camp has long argued that construction of the pipeline will facilitate the extraction of Alberta’s tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Many also oppose Keystone XL on the grounds that its route crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water. “We invite President Trumka to come to Nebraska and visit with farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are directly put at risk with the Keystone XL pipeline,” says Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, which has organized local opposition against the pipeline. “To say the pipeline will not harm our water is ignoring real-life tragedies witnessed by all of us with the BP explosion, the Enbridge burst pipe into the Kalamazoo River and tar sands flowing down the street in Mayflower, Arkansas.”

“Brendan Smith, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, a group that works with labor unions and environmental groups to fight climate change, took issue with Trumka’s argument that Keystone would create jobs.  “There is plenty of work that needs to done in this country, and we can create far more jobs fixing infrastructure and transitioning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” says Smith. “Why build a pipeline that will significantly increase carbon emissions and will hurt our economy when there is a more robust and sustainable jobs agenda on the table?”

However, the author’s critique barely scratches the surface.

One Million Climate Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crises

By Jonathan Neale, et. al. - Campaign against Climate Change, 2014

This booklet is about hope in the face of crisis. The economy is not working. Mass unemployment has lasted for years, and will last for many more. And at some point gradual climate change is going to turn into swift catastrophe. Dangerous climate change is a consequence of the work of the hands and brains of many men and women. It will take the hands and brains of many men and women to undo the damage. So many climate activists, and several trade unions, have decided to fight to make the government create one million climate jobs. This report sets out our case. To halt climate change we need drastic cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we put into the air. That means leaving most of the existing reserves of high carbon fuels – coal, oil and gas – in the ground. There are thousands of things we need to do to make that a reality. But three of them will make most of the difference.

We need workers to build enough wind power, solar power, wave power and tidal power to meet all our energy needs. We need workers to insulate and retrofit all our existing homes and buildings in order to conserve energy. And we need workers to run a massive public transport system powered by renewable electricity. We have people who need jobs, and jobs that must be done. So we want the government to hire a million people to do new climate jobs now in an integrated National Climate Service.Our estimate is that those workers could cut our CO2 emissions by 86% in twenty years. We can also create another half a million jobs in the supply line. And we can guarantee a new job to anyone who loses their job because of these changes.

This booklet explains how we can do all of this, and why we must. ‘Climate jobs’ are not the same as ‘green jobs’. Some green jobs help the climate, but ‘green jobs’ can mean anything – park rangers, bird wardens, pollution control, or refuse workers. All these jobs are necessary, but they do not stop climate change. Climate jobs are jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, and so slow down climate change. For instance, workers who build wind farms replace power stations that burn coal or oil. Workers who insulate buildings reduce the oil and gas we burn. Bus drivers reduce the amount of oil we burn in cars. We want a million new jobs. We don’t want to add up existing jobs and new jobs and say that now we have a million climate jobs. We don’t mean jobs that will be ‘created’ by some mysterious market process by 2030. We want the government to hire 90,000 new workers each month to do new climate jobs. In a year we will have a million new jobs.

Read the report (PDF).

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.