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Labor Leading on Climate Initiative

Union woman worker wearing a hard hat and standing in front of solar panels

The Labor Leading on Climate Initiative advances knowledge, policies, and practices to enhance the role of labor and working people in addressing the environmental and climate crises.

Cunningham Presents on Carbon-Free & Healthy Schools Campaigns

Opening slide for IUPAT Carbon-Free Healthy Schools Training

On Thursday, February 3rd, the Worker Institute’s Labor Leading on Climate Initiative partnered with the Climate Jobs National Resource Center (CJNRC) and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) to deliver training on Carbon-Free & Healthy Schools campaigns happening across the country. Participants - which included close to 80 IUPAT Political, Organizing, & Training Directors, as well as other union staff - discussed the state of school infrastructure, the work needed to upgrade schools, and how the union can plug into ongoing campaigns to move this work forward.

Worker Institute Extension Associate Zach Cunningham began the presentation by describing the poor state of school infrastructure nationwide. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave American school buildings a D+ grade in its latest infrastructure report card, and the threat of climate change fueled extreme weather events places even more stress on school facilities.  Cunningham then listed several upgrades schools desperately need, including window installation, lead remediation, and painting work that IUPAT members could do in the future.

CJNRC’s Dan Sherrell also spoke to the group.  Sherrell outlined various funding mechanisms for this work, including federal monies allocated in the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He also spoke about ongoing campaigns in eight states, including Illinois, where Climate Jobs Illinois helped win solar energy credits and free energy audits for public schools as part of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.  

Throughout the presentation, John Doherty, Special Assistant to the General President of IUPAT, mentioned opportunities to grow the union through this work, like expanding pre-apprenticeship programs to recruit members from underserved communities. IUPAT leaders also heard from several people on the call, including Justin Kelley who spoke about IUPAT’s involvement in the Green & Healthy Schools campaign in Rhode Island. Climate Jobs Rhode Island is currently organizing to secure public funding for school retrofits across the state.  

After the training, dozens of participants expressed interest in getting more involved in ongoing campaign efforts. Moving forward, CJNRC, IUPAT, and the Worker Institute will continue to collaborate on greening public schools and expanding high-quality green jobs across the economy.

Word cloud on what comes to mind when I say "infrastructure?"