Green Jobs in the Green Economy
America's new level of interest in all things "green" includes a greater desire to make our surroundings, including schools, hospitals and other public places, gentler on the environment and safer for those who use them.
Since 2000, the AFT has passed several resolutions supporting environmental sustainability, and in 2009 we joined a coalition of labor and environmental groups aimed at promoting green jobs that pay decent, family-sustaining wages. AFT members who teach also have been working with their local unions, schools and communities to prepare America's next generation of workers for life in a green economy.
Blue Green Alliance
The AFT has joined the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups with big plans to make the nation more prosperous and leave the planet in better shape. With the addition of the AFT's 1.6 million members this July, the alliance now unites 8 million people in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy.
Launched in 2006 by the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, the alliance counts among its ranks the Communications Workers of America, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Utility Workers Union of America. All of these groups have a hand in developing greener technologies. For our part, the AFT not only is pressing for better facilities through our Building Minds, Minding Buildings campaign, but also for greener approaches to career and technical education.
The alliance is advocating for laws that will accelerate the use of clean energy, protect workers' rights and reduce the prevalence of toxic chemicals. Its mission syncs with the AFT's mission in three main ways:
- Passing clean energy and climate-change laws that will reduce global warming and move America toward energy independence.
- Passing the Employee Free Choice Act so that workers can retool the economy on family-sustaining wages.
- Promoting green chemistry, which has huge potential for secondary and postsecondary science programs.
AFT activists across the country are working with their unions and partnering with other unions in the building trades to ensure that students become well-grounded in the rigorous preparation they need—from algebra to circuitry to physics—so they can travel the pipeline to highly skilled, highly paid careers.
Working closely with unions representing electricians and machinists, for example, AFT career and technical educators are making sure that on top of the established principles and skills students need for traditional blue-collar jobs, they also learn the new green skills they need to install and maintain photovoltaic systems and wind turbines. By mastering these new competencies themselves, AFT members are doing their utmost to ensure not only that their own students will find good, green jobs but also that the disturbing rollback in career and technical education—by some estimates a plunge of up to 90 percent—is reversed.
The economic recovery
The labor movement and the Obama administration agree that the key to America's economic recovery lies in retooling for a society that's technologically advanced and energy independent. The AFL-CIO has created a Center for Green Jobs to drive public policy, help create actual green jobs and start preparing workers for them. The U.S. Department of Energy also offers materials on careers in renewable energy.