For those of us who are a part of the movement for "green-collar jobs," last Sunday's Democratic presidential debate was a real watershed moment. Van Jones. 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 their 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 to this question: What is a green-collar job, anyway?
There has been a lot of discussion about the energy package that is set to pass the U.S. House this week. But the media so far has missed one of the most interesting and innovative proposals that will be voted on: the Green Jobs Act of 2007. This ground-breaking legislation will make $120 million a year available across the country to begin training workers (and would-be workers) for jobs in the clean-energy sector. When the bill becomes law, 35,000 people a year will benefit from cutting-edge, vocational education in fields that could literally save the Earth.
Hooray! This week Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (CA-32) officially became the most important environmental heroine you've never heard of. Solis, a Latina Congresswoman from Los Angeles, introduced the Green Jobs Act of 2007 (H.R. 2847). The Act represents a smart, far-sighted effort to fight pollution and poverty at the same time by creating federally-funded job training within the green economy. Guess what? On Wednesday, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee passed her bill by a bipartisan vote of 26 to 18. This is the first step in the House toward providing job training every year for about 35,000 U.S. workers (and would-be workers) in green and clean industries. The Act would help to meet green industry's demand for a skilled "green-collar" workforce in areas like solar panel installation, building weatherization, wind farm construction, etc. And it will help create green pathways out of poverty for those seeking job opportunities in the booming green economy. Similar legislation was offered as an amendment to H.R. 6 by Sens. Sanders and Clinton and passed by voice vote this month. For decades, Congress has been bogged down in a stale debate: "Should we grow the economy or protect the environment?" Solis is leading the Congress to embrace a new approach. She is saying: "Let's grow the economy by protecting the environment." For more information about the Green Jobs Act, you can contact Megan J. Uzzell. She is Congresswoman Solis' awesome Legislative Director (megan.uzzell[at]mail.house.gov). And to learn more about Congresswoman Solis's work, please visit her webpage or view clips of Congresswoman Solis at work. We at the Ella Baker Center -- as well as the National Apollo Alliance, Center for American Progress, the Workforce Alliance, and many other organizations -- are proud to support Congresswoman Solis, Congressman John Tierney (D-MA), Congressman George Miller (D-CA), and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as they lead this important effort. Here is the press release George Miller's office put out yesterday:
Hooray! Hooray! Finally! Yesterday, some House Democrats finally "connected the dots" on ways to solve two of the nation's biggest problems: failing American job security and global climate security. By addressing both issues simultaneously, these congressional leaders may re-energize the anti-poverty movement -- and transform the debate on global warming. U.S. Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) both sit on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed the committee. Markey is the chair. Yesterday the Select Committee held a special hearing, entitled: "Economic Impacts of Global Warming: Green Collar Jobs." (I was happy to provide testimony [PDF] at the hearing, along with Elsa Barboza [PDF] of SCOPE in Los Angeles and Jerome Ringo [PDF] of the Apollo Alliance.) At the special hearing, Congresswoman Solis addressed the importance of using green collar jobs both as a way to curb global warming and as a pathway out of poverty.
Once again this year, the spring season brought a flood of green-themed magazines to super-market checkout stands and airport news racks all across the country. And once again, the faces of non-white and non-affluent Americans were almost entirely missing. Our new environmental movement is rapidly gaining visibility and momentum. That is very good news. Life-or-death ecological issues finally are starting to get the attention they so urgently deserve. And we can all celebrate that. But now we would be wise to start paying closer attention to the kind of coverage that we as environmentalists are getting. Because I see a disturbing pattern of exclusivity that is starting to set in. And that kind of elitism can sow the seeds for a very dangerous, populist backlash, down the line. To see what I mean, just flip through the pages of Vanity Fair's recent green issue (the one with Leo DiCaprio and that cute polar bear cub on the cover).