Today is Earth Day, and this year’s theme is “invest in our planet.” This call is more urgent than ever—the latest report from the group of scientists considered the international experts on climate change warns the moment is “now or never” to make the changes we need to avoid climate catastrophe.
The recently passed infrastructure bill means government dollars are going to things like public transit projects and building electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The EV industry is booming, and this means green jobs and cleaner air. But unfortunately, we often don’t see our tax dollars doing good in our communities, and many green companies don’t treat workers well.
Take Tesla for example. The company put electric cars on the map, but its factories are known for dangerous working conditions and keeping workers from unionizing. Despite this, Tesla received millions in tax breaks for building a facility near Austin. Sadly, this is typical; many companies that receive millions—and even billions—in tax incentives don’t use those public dollars to create public good.
It doesn’t have to be like this. BYD—a Tesla competitor—has a facility in California that is unionized, committed to hiring 40% of its workers from groups facing significant barriers to employment, and implemented the country’s first electric bus apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship program. This is the result of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between JMA, BYD, and SMART Local 105.
At Jobs to Move America, we’d like to add to this year’s Earth Day call: As we invest in our planet, we must also invest in workers. Everyone deserves clean air and water and a livable future for their children. They also deserve safe workplaces, family-sustaining jobs, and the right to organize for better conditions.
The transition to a green economy is already happening—but we need to make sure this is a just transition that centers workers. Here are ways we’re working to put workers at the center of the green economy:
- Winning Community Benefits Agreements with green manufacturers. CBAs are legally binding agreements between companies and communities that put a wide range of good job standards in writing, including high-quality training programs and the right to unionize. We mentioned our CBA with BYD above. We also signed one with another EV company, Proterra, and we’re working to win more.
- Fighting for good policy in the green sector. Across the country, we work on policies that make sure public dollars do the most good. As part of the Electrify NY coalition, we’re currently advocating for Green Transit, Green Jobs in New York, which would grow the transit manufacturing industry in New York with good union jobs. We’re working to ensure that law includes a commitment to equitable job standards and hiring practices.
We’re also working to change the Uniform Guidance, regulations on how cities and states spend federal money. It bans local hire, which keeps cities and states from creating local jobs. The infrastructure bill is a step in the right direction by allowing local hire on road work. But it doesn’t guarantee local hire on projects that protect us from extreme weather, like improving electric and broadband internet resilience. We’re working to change these regulations so cities and states can create local jobs and prepare for climate change.
- Doing research on cutting-edge industries like electric school buses (ESB). We’re also hard at work doing research on the tools we need to build a just economy. This summer, we’ll be releasing an extensive report on ESB technology, first-hand accounts from school districts using ESBs, and how to center workers in the ESB transition. We hope this report is a resource for policy makers, school districts, and advocates who are interested in working toward clean, safe transit for children.
We’re facing a climate crisis, an ongoing pandemic, and economic uncertainty, but we have a chance to change things. By creating good jobs in the green sector, we improve the lives of workers and the places they live.
You can play a critical role in ensuring a just transition to a green economy by supporting JMA’s work. When you invest in Jobs to Move America, you invest in workers, communities, families, and the planet.