Labor Unions, Environmental Organizations United on Green Employment


So, what exactly are green jobs? The answer to that question largely depends on an individual’s skills, training and experience: construction workers, computer programmers, and public relations professionals could all find themselves labeled as green collar in the right circumstances. For Dave Foster, a former official with the United Steelworkers, the phrase has a specific definition: “A green job is nothing more than a blue-collar job with a green purpose.”

[social_buttons]Today’s Post-Dispatch provides us with yet another example of how organized labor and mainstream environmental groups are joining forces to promote a green economy. Writer Steve Giegerich took note of steelworkers and Sierra Club members marching together recently to protest the loss of jobs at Granite City, Illinois’ U.S. Steel plant. As you can see in both the video above, and the article, blue collar workers around the country increasingly “get it”: green industry provides one of the most promising means of rebuilding a manufacturing economy in the United States.

Giegerich’s article focuses on the Blue Green Alliance, an organization co-founded by the Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, and which now consists of numerous unions and green groups. Like the Apollo Alliance, BGA believes that green collar jobs are the answer to expanding employment opportunities for millions of American workers:

Both working people and environmentalists have a stake in building the new, green economy. Transforming our economy through renewable energy, energy efficiency, mass transit and rail, a new smart grid and other solutions to global warming, has the potential to create millions of jobs, while reducing global warming emissions and moving America toward energy independence.

With environmental issues sinking lower on the public’s priority list, BGA and related groups are doing critical work: demonstrating that the economy and the environment are mutually dependent. They’re also providing a valuable lesson for us in the green movement: speak to people’s needs, and they will listen…

  1. Bobby B.

    Let me know if I am oversimplying this relationship:

    1. The unions fund and vote primarily for democrats, because democrats are “for the little guy.”
    2. Bill Clinton (D), with the help of both political parties in both houses of congress, implemented NAFTA and revamped GATT. He also oversaw a huge transfer of technology to and the expansion of American business interests in the third world.
    3. The unions in the US discover that they cannot compete with the low wages that are now producing traditional products offshore.
    4. The green movement allied with the democratic party wants sweeping environmental changes in the US. This action will negatively impact traditional businesses and corporations, and drive away even more blue collar jobs.
    5. The unions see the handwriting on the wall, but being so tied to the democratic party decide to catch – rather than resist, which would require admitting to being sold out – the green wave that will drive away more of the rank-and-file memberships’ traditional jobs. They are hanging their hopes that manufacturing for the new economy will occur domestically.

    Of course, five steps could be too many. It could just be that the unions, the greens and the current administration are statists and see now as their big moment in history.

  2. Kerry Quinlan-Potter

    I am concerned with foreign trade relations and how the green energy bills are being translated. If absolutely no foreign parts can be used, pre-existing contracts with various manufacturers under the Free Trade agreement would be compromised. Any competition from outside of the United States that would normally be considered are now out of business, for even the tiniest components, like a screw or nail.
    I realize there are no easy solutions, but I think it is an area of great fragility as we more towards a more global community.

  3. Tracey Shrier

    This article could not be any truer. The solution for this recession and getting that unemployment rate back down is green jobs!! So many ideas, they just need the man power to put it into action.
    Here’s a list of top green jobs from a great green social networking site called http://www.Greenwala.com. As a bonus, every new member gets a tree planted in their name! Another great way to revitalize this economy 🙂

  4. Bobby B.

    I think the term “statist” is more accurate than “liberal”. Merriam-Webster’s defines “liberalism” as follows:

    “(a) a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity (b) a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard (c) a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties”

    Unless the culture has recently redefined the terms, it appears that “liberalism” has been misapplied by most of the talking heads on television and radio, as well as by me. Heck, according to M-W with the exception of believing in “the essential goodness of the human race” for which a recent visit to Houston’s Holocaust Museum reaffirmed my contrarian beliefs, I could be called a liberal and not be the least bit upset. In actuality, “liberalism” should be able to find common ground with – instead of standing in stark opposition to – “conservatism”:

    “(a) disposition in politics to preserve what is established (b) a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change ; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)”

    Now, let’s look at the definition of “statism”:

    “concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry”

    If you consider the past, the present and the probable future, you find that the environmentalist relies heavily on statism to achieve his ends. The creation of the central government’s regulatory agencies (IRS, EPA, FDA, etc.) provides the enviro-statist direct access to the power brokers. As such, he can circumvent the courts and the legislatures to penalize those who oppose – and benefit those who agree with – his agenda. This power allows him to compete outside the self-regulating, free market. As such, the world beats a path to the green mousetrap builder’s door only because the playing field has been tilted towards his door. Those who wish to remain on the slope (such as the unions) have to be adaptable to change, whether or not it is change for the better.

  5. russ

    Hi Bobby B. Go for it!

    I remember my first job in a grocery store during high school – say late 50’s. I made minimum wage and had the privilege of paying union dues. Never did figure out why except to help support an idiot I guess.

    Hated the union bosses every since though many years back I have belonged to a couple of other unions only because I had to to work.

    The union bosses were the most uneducated, uncultured bunch of b*****ds I have ever known. Certainly would never want one for a neighbor!

  6. Bobby B.

    @Russ – Even though I have never belonged to a union, I am not vehemently anti-union. If crafts people want to organize under a common banner and negotiate their wages and benefits, that’s okay with me; as long as working folks can choose to opt out and keep their jobs. The biggest negative to unionization, in my opinion, is the rewarding of substandard employees and the punishment of exemplary employees. Better employees deserve a better package from their employers, but often end up just carrying the loads of their lower performing coworkers who enjoy identical pay and benefits. Of course, the membership generally knows and accepts this as a consequence of abiding by the rules that the union leadership establishes. However, I do think that most of the membership would be surprised by what the unions do with the people’s dues and how rich many of the top union bosses really are.

    Lastly, in my experience, I cannot say that ALL union bosses (leadership) are b*****ds. Of course, once Obama gets “card check” passed, we may see a resurgence in the thuggish tactics used by the unions in decades past. However, we can hope to be wrong in this regard.

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