UNION MEMBERS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS UNITE IN CALL FOR “GREEN JOBS, GOOD JOBS”
Adapted from a blog by James Parks published by the AFL-CIO.
Hundreds of union members and environmental activists were spending the day on Capitol Hill on Feb. 10 delivering one message to lawmakers: We must quickly put aside partisan bickering and make a long-term national commitment to create a green economy and make serious investments in infrastructure, education, research and development and manufacturing.
The lobby day is the culmination of the three-day Green Jobs, Good Jobs Conference, sponsored by the Blue Green Alliance. Throughout the conference, participants were reminded that our trading partners like China and Germany have developed long-range industrial and investment plans and are reaping the benefits, leaving us behind in the race to lead the clean energy technology market.
President Obama’s call for us to “win our future” should be a rallying cry for our nation, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker told the conference. She said we must build an economy based on a middle-class foundation of jobs. What brings us together here is the commitment to make those jobs green jobs and to make them good jobs. Good jobs that provide the wages and benefits needed to sustain families and enable them to buy the products we will be making. Good jobs that can put our economy back in working order. Good jobs that afford workers the opportunity to choose for themselves whether to join a union to have a strong voice on the job for quality American-made products and services.
Holt Baker and United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard both said we need a grassroots movement to push politicians of both parties to act in the long-term interests of the country. Even in the current political climate, Gerard said, our leaders need to set goals for the next five to 20 years and stick to it, he said. Then businesses will have the kind of certainty they need to make long-term investments in research, equipment and training.
And that kind of certainty works, said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson. In her keynote address, she cited a 2010 study from the Institute of Clean Air Companies that estimated some 200,000 air pollution control jobs had been created because of the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which regulates pollution that crosses state lines.
That could be the story across any number of sectors of our economy. Many American CEOs have made clear that they don’t object to sensible standards out of hand. But if they don’t know where and when to invest their dollars, they will hold back job-creating resources.
The alternative is to provide that certainty, and encourage the hiring of new workers to build, install, maintain and operate clean technology. The bottom line, Jackson said, is that we can protect the health of millions of American families and do so in a way that will benefit the economy. We can do that by out-educating, out-building and out-innovating our competitors. And by using commonsense regulations to spark innovation, reduce toxic pollution and put people to work protecting our health and our environment.