By Indy Media
Jan 29, 2008
For those of us who are a part of the movement for "green-collar jobs," Sunday's Democratic presidential debate was a real watershed moment.
Clinton, Edwards and Obama were in the debate of their lives. And all three of them passionately championed the importance of creating good jobs in the clean energy sector.
They presented "green-collar jobs" as a way to simultaneously boost the economy and beat global warming.
Their words were like music to our ears. It felt like a victory for all of our organizations, which have been making this argument for some time. So...hats off to the Apollo Alliance, Ella Baker Center, Workforce Alliance, Center for American Progress, Sustainable South Bronx, Center on Wisconsin Strategy, 1Sky, Energy Action Coalition, Green For All and many more.
And then yesterday the Washington Post ran a major story on green jobs, Time magazine has taken up the issue, and CNN just featured it on Situation Room. So it is now official: our demand for green-collar jobs has finally broken through!
But before the concept gets watered down by its very popularity, now might be a good time to give a clear and uncompromising answer the question: what is a green-collar job, anyway?
It is great that our leaders are offering a better future. But as this green-collar job train begins to leave the station, it is time to confirm the destination.
Creating enough green-collar jobs to beat global warming and create real economic opportunity for those who most need it is a tall order. It will require a major transformation of the American economy, and we must be clear about the terms of this transition. Only then will we have a yardstick to measure real progress against exciting rhetoric.
* Green Collar Jobs Rebuild a Strong Middle Class. Green-collar jobs are good jobs. Like blue-collar jobs, green-collar jobs pay family wages and provide opportunities for advancement along a career track of increasing skills and wages. A job that does something for the planet and little to nothing for the people or the economy is not a green-collar job. The green economy cannot be built with solar sweat shops and Wal-Mart wind farms.
* Green-Collar Jobs Provide Pathways out of Poverty. Most green-collar jobs are middle-skill jobs requiring more than high school, but less than a four-year degree - and are well within reach for low-skilled and low-income workers as long as they have access to effective training programs and appropriate supports. We must ensure that all green-collar jobs strategies provide opportunities for low-income people to take the first step on a pathway from poverty to economic self-sufficiency.
* Green-Collar Jobs Require Some New Skills (and some new thinking about old skills). The green economy demands workers with new skill sets. Some green collar jobs - say renewable energy technicians - are brand new. But even more are existing jobs that are being transformed as industries transition to a clean energy economy: computer control operators who can cut steel for wind towers as well as for submarines; or mechanics who can fix an electric engine as well as an internal combustion engine. We need identify the specific skills the green economy demands. Then we need to invest in creating new training programs and retooling existing training programs to meet the demand.
* Green-Collar Jobs Tend to be Local Jobs. Much of the work we have to do to green our economy involves transforming the places that we live and work and the way we get around. These jobs are difficult or impossible to offshore. For instance, you can't pick up a house send it to China to install solar panel and ship it back. In addition, one of the major sources of manufacturing jobs - a sector that has been extensively off-shored - are components parts for wind towers and turbines. Because of their size and related high transportation costs, they are most cost-effectively produced as near as possible to wind farm sites. Cities and communities should begin thinking now about ways their green strategies can also create local jobs.
* A Green Collar Job Strengthens Urban and Rural Communities. Urban and rural America have both been negatively impacted over the past decades by a failure to invest in their growth -green collar jobs provide and opportunity to reclaim these areas for the benefit of local residents. From new transit spending and energy audits in inner cities to windmills and bio-mass in our nation's heartland, green jobs mean a reinvestment in the communities hardest hit in recent decades.
* And By the way....Green-Collar Jobs Save Planet Earth This may be obvious. The "green" in green-collar is about preserving and enhancing environmental quality. Green-collar jobs are in the growing industries that are helping us kick the oil habit, curb greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate toxins, and protect natural systems.
Green-collar workers are installing solar panels, retrofitting buildings to make them more efficient, constructing transit lines, refining waste oil into biodiesel, erecting wind farms, repairing hybrid cars, building green rooftops, planting trees, and so much more. And they are doing it today. There are already many green-collar jobs in America. But there could be so many more if we focus our economic strategies on growing a green economy.
It is exciting that the Presidential candidates have taken up this banner. We must thank them for their leadership. And we must help them ensure that the green jobs of tomorrow build a green and prosperous economy for everyone, here and around the world.