Union members already seeing green

Published by rudy Date posted on March 13, 2009

Good manufacturing jobs helped create the middle class in the 20th century. Good green jobs could play the same role in the 21st century. And the union movement is poised to lead the charge to clean up our environment and create good jobs.

Speaking before the Leadership Council of the new AFL-CIO Center for Green Jobs last week, Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka summed up the importance of green jobs, telling the union leaders:

The future is in front of us. Never in our lifetimes have we had such an opportunity to change this economy and rebuild the trade union movement.

But all the green jobs of the future will not necessarily be new jobs. Many already exist and are performed by union members. Long before the 2008 presidential election and President Obama’s economic recovery package brought climate change and green jobs to the forefront of public policy, union workers were making energy-efficient products and teaching others how to conserve energy.
Here are a few examples.

UAW members, who have long pushed for more domestic production of fuel-efficient cars, last year produced environmentally friendly vehicles or components in plants in 30 cities in 14 states.

The Machinists work in a number of industries that are critical to reducing energy consumption and pollution, from energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems and appliances to components for modernizing energy distribution systems in buildings. 

Members of the United Steelworkers manufacture wind turbines at several plants in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the proliferation of wind turbines is beginning to revive shuttered steel mills across the country. In Gary, Ind., two closed steel mills have been reopened to help meet the demand for steel plate to be used in wind turbines. The ore for these mills is mined by USW members and shipped on boats crewed by Steelworkers.

Members of the Building and Construction Trades are building more green buildings that use renewable energy to run more efficiently. One example is the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, site of the AFL-CIO’s upcoming 2009 convention. Built with union labor, it is the only entirely green convention center in the country.                   

The AFL-CIO strongly backs efforts to combat global warming, achieve energy independence and revitalize American manufacturing in the process. In 2007, the Executive Council issued a statement that said, in part:

It makes sense to seek energy independence through investments in infrastructure, clean coal/carbon sequestration, advanced technology vehicles and their key components, alternative energy resources (solar, thermal, wind, biomass, etc.) and energy-efficient buildings and appliances.  Each of these should be linked to domestic investment and production. — James Parks

April – Month of Planet Earth

“Full speed to renewables!”


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