Their Dec. 3 announcement came as new possibilities are emerging to combine curbing global warming and creating good jobs for workers who have been driven to the margins, including minority youth, workers with limited education, and former prisoners.
The U.S. House and Senate passed the Green Jobs bill to provide $125 million a year to train 35,000 workers for jobs that help the environment. It was incorporated into the overall energy legislation signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 19.
Locally, Oakland’s City Council has approved $250,000 to fund a Green Jobs Corps slated to launch next year. Richmond has a similar program.
As they unveiled the project, Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin emphasized the importance of job training and good entry-level jobs for their cities, where many residents have experienced prolonged economic crisis.
“We are cautiously hopeful about the potential of this partnership,” Aaron Lehmer, Green Collar Jobs campaign manager at the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, told the World.
“We understand the mayors intend to pull their political clout together as a regional cooperative of cities, to increase the federal appropriations for investment in green businesses, and to augment green collar jobs training programs,” Lehmer said.
He said the Ella Baker Center believes it is vital for social justice organizations to help guide the process so that investment “is done with equity and justice in mind for everyone in the region.”
Lehmer expressed concern about possible negative effects from the regional program’s emphasis on biofuels, because of its potential to raise food costs. Earlier this year, UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore Lab announced plans for energy biosciences research with funds from the energy firm BP and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The national Apollo Alliance has said its long-term program for a new, diversified, environmentally safe and more efficient energy infrastructure could add over 3.3 million jobs to the economy nationally.
In a recently released report, “Putting Oakland to Work: a comprehensive strategy to create real jobs for residents,” the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) identified “green jobs” as a rapidly growing category including well-paying jobs for young people and those with limited education, as well as managers and professionals.
Another just-released report, “Green Collar Jobs,” analyzes the ability of green businesses to provide quality jobs for workers with barriers to employment. Its author, San Francisco State University professor Raquel Pinderhughes, concludes, “Green collar jobs represent an important new category of workforce opportunities because they are relatively high quality jobs, with relatively low barriers to entry, in sectors that are poised for dramatic growth.”
At the green collar jobs panel organized by the Apollo Alliance during the recent Mayors’ Climate Protection Summit in Seattle, Oakland’s Mayor Dellums called the green economy and its potential for new good jobs “the wave of the future.”