US: the opportunity of green jobs

By Jonathan Tasini

So, I’ve been at a conference on “Green Jobs” here in Pittsburgh. I’ve written about this topic before and you’ll see more about this in the future. But, for today, just quickly–we all know that we have to move from a carbon-based economy and I think there is a huge opportunity for labor to seize this issue, for self-interested reasons (why not be seen leading this important societal challenge?) and, of course, for the benefit of workers–no single issue will effect how we live and work in the coming decades. BUT…
What the heck is a “green job”? Environmentalists and other policy folks have gotten the lingo down about “high-wage, good-paying” jobs but they still don’t seen to be able to use the word “union” consistently. Yesterday, for example, Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, gave a long discourse on the challenge (he was supposed to be just a facilitator but seemed to be giving a speech; as one person huffed behind me, “what a massive egomaniac”) but didn’t use the word “union” even once. And this from a guy who is in alliances with unions. I’m not suggesting that Pope doesn’t support unions–but he and others have to use that explicitly.

The only person who wasn’t explicitly from the labor movement who seemed to get it was Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, who talked repeatedly in her workshop about unions and even said that any “green jobs” that are generated with public monies have to include commitments of neutrality in union elections. Now, this may have been a regular refrain in workshops I was not at but these public-interest, public policy and environmentalist types have got to get it in their heads that, if they want labor pushing the agenda, the non-labor union folks have to push our message, too.

Anyway, in the meantime, here’s a new report out from the Apollo Alliance on the topic of green jobs.

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