It’s nice when people put their money where their mouths are. For some time now, labor has been on the green jobs bandwagon. At this week’s Good Jobs Green Jobs conference, the AFL-CIO announced a $1 million investment from the Working for America Institute to create a Center for Green Jobs, showing just how committed they are to the symbiosis between green jobs and union jobs.
At a press conference announcing the center, United Steelworkers Union President Leo Gerard said:
We need to send the economy in the direction where the primary emphasis is on good jobs and green jobs. Don’t let anybody tell us that can’t be done.
We reject the notion that we have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. It’s not one or the other. It’s both or neither. – AFL-CIO
The Center will be led by Jeff Rickert of the Apollo Alliance. The National Labor College has already signed on to develop a “green” certificate program for students and more than two dozen union presidents and state and local leaders have made commitments to serve on the Center’s Leadership Council. The Center has also partnered with the Building and Construction Trades Dept. (BCTD) in its existing efforts to engage construction unions in recruiting and training “green workers” and working to align the hundreds of training programs of the building trades with green industry.
According to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, climate change and renewable energy are “first order” priorities for the entire organization and its affiliated unions. The broad involvement and financial support for the new Center supports that assertion.
The mission of the center is not only to engage public policy but to also move beyond that to help our labor unions implement real green jobs initiatives—initiatives that retain and create good union jobs, provide pathways to those jobs and assist with the design and implementation of training programs to prepare incumbent workers as well as job seekers for these family-sustaining careers.
It is a think-do tank that will be a one-stop shop for our affiliates and partners, providing information and technical assistance on public policy, consortium development, workforce and economic development programs, economic analysis and even curriculum development. – AFL-CIO
Labor and environmentalists standing together may be an unexpected alliance, but it makes sense when you realize that green building jobs are quality jobs and that whatever happens to the environment effects us all. That includes union members and their families.
Photo Credit: Rainforest Action Network