By Mike Hall
AFL-CIO Senior Writer
With the oil platform explosion that killed 11 workers now is spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico as a sobering background, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told delegates to the 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference:
“Never before has the need been so urgent to produce clean energy, to use energy more efficiently, to prevent climate change and to protect our natural environment.
And not since the Great Depression have so many Americans needed new and better jobs with secure benefits and promising futures–jobs that can’t be off-shored, downsized or downgraded into temporary or part-time positions.”
In its second day, the conference brings together union members, environmentalists, business leaders, lawmakers and administration officials to map out a path to a green economy that creates good jobs, reduces global warming and preserves America’s economic and environmental security. It concludes tomorrow with a Green Jobs Advocacy Day Capitol Hill.
It is coordinated by the Blue Green Alliance, the partnership of the labor and environmental organizations, which includes the USW, CWA, AFT, Utility Workers (UWUA), ATU, the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Trumka said it’s time to “put to rest, once and for all the false choice between good jobs and clean air and water.” He outlined four vital areas that must be included in any formula to create secure, good green energy jobs that boost the economy and planet.
First, we need more clean energy-we need it now. We can’t afford the false choice between different forms of clean energy: Clean coal. Natural gas. Hydroelectric power. Nuclear power. Solar energy. Wind power. Geothermal energy. Biofuels. We need to put them all to use.
He said clean energy is a “job creator” and that environmentally-friendly policies and public/private partnerships can create hundreds of thousands of jobs producing solar energy, wind power, geothermal power and biofuels.
He also called for the construction and retro-fitting of buildings–which produce 40 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions–so they are energy efficient, creating a twofold benefit of combating climate change and creating tens of thousands of construction jobs.
“We have to use electricity more intelligently,” Trumka said. Tens of thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission are needed to bring solar, wind and geothermal energy online.
To use these interruptible power sources and make more intelligent use of all our electrical power, we need a new and smarter electrical grid. All this requires major public and private investments–and it will produce jobs.
The fourth key element, green jobs/energy saving, centers on mass transit and high speed rail.
Our nation’s subways, light rail and commuter rail lines are in urgent need of repair and expansion. It’s great news that the Obama Administration is providing $8 billion in high-speed rail grail that will save or create tens of thousands of jobs in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering.
And let me make this clear: These jobs need to be American jobs. They need to be high-skill, high wage jobs, with safe conditions bright futures and the rights to be free from discrimination, and free to form and join unions.
USW President Leo W. Gerard told delegates that recent work-related accidents like those at the Tesoro refinery in Washington State and the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana shows that labor and environmental issues are connected in many ways and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to work for progress on both fronts.
Our generation has a responsibility to the next, our generation is going to be the one to leave the worst mess in history, or our generation is going to be the one to leave the most opportunity in history. I want to be the second one.
In a video interview for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), Gerard said:
We have the opportunity this week to show that the Blue Green Alliance is a growing movement, not just an organization. It actually has mission, a mission to have a positive impact on the environment but at the same time create millions of new jobs…There’s a whole opportunity to create the next generation of industrial manufacturing so our kids and grand kids can have good jobs and live in a healthy planet.
Among the many workshops offered during the conference, AFT is conducting two on preparing students and adults for good jobs in the green economy. The union‘s exhibit “Building Futures Together,” highlights work by AFT members including:
- Anne Cohen and Simon Hauger of the West Philadelphia High School’s Automotive Academy, which is currently designing two affordable cars that get more than 100 miles per gallon.
- David Tillman, a teacher of automotive mechanics at Henry Ford Community College in Michigan, which offers cutting-edge courses to prepare students for emerging careers such as green building certification, biotechnology and alternative energy.
- George Stone, co-chair of the sustainability core committee and provost of Milwaukee Area Technical College, a regional leader in green and sustainable programs. He will be joined by David Stinnet, who teaches wind turbine energy.
Also today, the conference attendees heard from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) who said that like the Internet boom of the 1990s, a clean energy boom can be ” a jobs revolution. It will create millions of jobs.”
Sen. Jeff. Merkley (D-Ore.) said the drive for new high-tech, efficient clean energy gives the nation a chance “to seize this moment to build things in America….We want to see America building turbines and shipping them to the world.”
Click here for more information on the conference.
Re-Posted from the AFL-CIO Now Blog