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Labor at the People's Climate March

IBEW Local 3 Highlights Worker Institute's Climate Jobs Program

Lara Skinner, associate director of The Worker Instiute and coordinator of the Labor, Environment and Sustainable Development Initiative and Worker Institute Fellow Mijin Cha are leading a collaborative effort with IBEW Local 3 and several other unions and worker organizations ito develop a Climate Jobs Program to meet New York State’s climate goals, expand job creation, and strengthen and protect communities from future climate change impacts. The following article about the Climate Jobs Program was published by the Electrical Union World, the official newsletter of IBEW Local 3.

Advancing Workers Rights And Combating Climate Change

Along with environmental organizations, many trade unions have long advocated for the implementation of renewable energy transformation in the United States and globally. The implementation of solar, wind, hydro and geothermal mechanisms to produce energy for the future serves a dual purpose. The first is to end the destruction to the planet’s eco-system providing natural resources that sustain life. Simultaneously the second will provide sustainable skilled decent work that addresses long-term employment as opposed to the recent trend of short-term precarious (temporary work) that pays poorly and offers only economic and social instability.

The Worker Institute at Cornell University in its multifaceted programs to advance worker’s rights and collective representation held a conference on April 23, 2015 to discuss and initiate it’s “Climate Jobs Program” that will ‘tackle’ the jobs crisis and the climate crisis with the resolve to expand the program throughout the U.S. to all labor organizations and academia.

The power-point presentation introduced an ambitious scheme to reduce emissions and create jobs that will demand a shift of education and training towards a (labor-climate) energy efficiency program. With New York labor and academia taking the lead, the early initiative is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the building and transport sectors by 30% with investment returns realized by the end of seven years.

With statistics to support the critical need for labor to lead in the climate crisis, Mijin Cha, PhD and Lara Skinner, PhD at The Worker Institute recommended a grand scale challenge for itself and New York’s organized labor that will:

  • Embrace the commitment of The Worker Institute at Cornell University to assist in labor’s shift to specific “climate jobs.”
  • Set the precedent with New York leading the way on how to reduce emissions; create good union jobs and strengthen communities.
  • Bring labor leaders together to collectively enhance the role of unions in addressing the climate crisis.
  • Produce a cohesive labor presence in the climate change public debate.
  • Recall labor’s critical equitable and effective response to Hurricane Sandy.

Investment In The Building Sector

The investment in clean energy utility (Power House) supply in contrast to fossil fuel utility spending shows for every $1 million invested in renewable energy provision over 16 sustainable jobs are created. For every $1 million spent in fossil fuel extraction industry 5 uncertain and highly dangerous jobs are created. There are direct jobs, indirect jobs and induced jobs created by clean energy investment and the numbers there are even more impressive. In bio technologies the combined jobs total for every million invested is 12.9; Hydro 13.2; Wind Onshore 12.7; Solar Voltaic 13.4; Solar Thermal 13; and Geothermal 10.3. An investment of $24 billion in residential work would create over 35,000 jobs. An investment of $15 billion in the commercial sector would create over 21,000 jobs.

This shows a difference of over 3 times the amount of jobs created by energy efficiency implementation. The recommendation here is two-fold: that utilities develop energy efficiency strategies combined with the practice that utilities remain in the hands of the public sector where democracy mandates energy and labor standards. The goal is not for utilities to fall into an Enron Corporation style trap where private investment will corrupt service in order to appease greedy investor demand.

Investment in Transportation

Transit projects have the highest job return of all fiscal investments. A one-dollar investment yields four dollars in economic return. In order for New York State to properly support the needs of its daily ridership, $1 billion is the estimate to reach its obligation.  The $1 billion invested will create 22,000 jobs. During the commute of a five-day work week every person who transitions from an individual 20 mile commute to mass transit will reduce their personal weekly carbon emissions by 100 lbs. The recommendations in this sector are to lobby for the proper and adequate funding for the initiatives, research and explore rapid bus transit for upstate New York. Proper funding of such projects must once again ensure that bus lines are not privatized.

Potential financing capacities could initiate true tax code reform: a much-needed financial transaction tax that will rein in investor speculation trading that destabilizes financial markets, implement a carbon tax, a gas tax structured not to hurt those waiting for transportation upgrades and a millionaire’s tax to propose and expiate for good the subsidies for luxury residential palaces.

The common thread of this grand and critical need to address two of the contentious issues of our time is fundamental, we are all in this condition together. Unionism 101: one worker for all in our communities and all workers for one in our communities. In this case it is the ethos of organized labor in collaboration with academia, the Worker Institute at Cornell University, that will lead the way to sustainable job creation and energy efficiency ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.


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