This track provided participants with an understanding of Just Transition Workforce Development Training and Job Creation. Sessions in this track shared the just transition training concept, major workforce development training opportunities, training challenges, workforce development best practices, workforce training and job creation solutions, discrimination in the workplace, the special needs of low-income, minority, and Tribal communities in job training programs, Community Benefits Agreements, and the economic impact of workforce development training programs. Sessions included:
Moderator: Sharon Beard (NIEHS)) Speakers: Sharon Beard (NIEHS), Khalil Shahyd (Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC)), Larry Williams (Sierra Club), Jose Bravo (Just Transition Alliance), Les Leopold (Labor Institute)
This session defined the concept of "Just Transition" workforce development training, and provided the history and perspectives of four experts. Just Transition means that the burden of workforce sector change that potentially benefits many should not be borne disproportionately by a few. It means that the process of change will increase social justice for workers, women, the poor, and all oppressed groups. The session also addressed the relationship between income inequality, Just Transition, and Workforce Development. Speakers suggested that neighborhoods and fenceline communities should work together with unions, workers and contractors because they are allies, and that communities producing their own services and winning their own contracts is a goal. The session began with an overview of the goals, agenda, and anticipated results for the Just Transition track.
Les Leopold coined the term “Just Transition” instead of Superfund for Workers and set up an alliance with other EJ communities via the Washington Office on Environmental Justice. He shared that the pay gap was 40:1 in 1970 and now it is 844:1. Why have wages and productivity stopped rising together? Productivity has risen, but wages have stagnated: 10% due to technology, 20% due to globalization, 25% due to cuts in government., 45% to “financialization”. Financialization refers to the fact that those countries with the largest Wall Street type stock trading sectors have the largest gap ‐ Wall Street wages in finance have soared, but they used to be the same as other wages prior to 1970. How does so much wealth end up on Wall Street and with the top CEOs? The better business climate includes reducing taxes, regulations, government and social spending and attacking unions. The current business model is structured to increase wealth of executives and stock holders and reduce wages and benefits for workers.
This runaway inequality leads to a perpetual fiscal crisis. Just Transition will require billions, but the current amount available to support it is too small. Education used to be free or could be paid over a summer of work. If you are poor or unemployed, we no longer have programs to assist with this. We need a common agenda and common analysis; an educational infrastructure; a new national movement organization; a new activist identity, movement builders, silo‐busters; and we need to believe we can do it.
Jose Bravo shared their model training called Jobs and Environment which is breaking down the silos between industrial workers and communities. They negotiate with labor to work together as allies. We did the trainings and we as community people needed to advocate for worker health and safety inside the plant because it made the fence‐line communities safer. Worker safety is crucial to the community. There is a perfect opportunity in Detroit right now to have auto industry workers make mass transit and or autos that don’t pollute or pollute very little. Solar panels can be built in Detroit rather than coming from 6.000 miles away in China. The climate crisis requires all hands on deck. Corporate subsidies could be resources that could really start a just transition movement.
Khalil Shahyd with NRDC, suggested that policies on Just Transition should adhere to the promotion of labor rights, recognize that one size does not fit all, and must be coherent with economic policies. We want to avoid a situation where our communities are merely consumers of services. We want to be owners and producers in that process, and go after our own contracts together. We need to be able to generate dollars that can create productive economies for our communities.
Larry Williams shared how Just Transition means different things for different people. Economic justice principles include quality careers for all people employed in clean energy; Protecting the livelihood of fossil fuel workers; Equitable access to clean energy‐related job opportunities. The challenge is creating quality jobs. We need targeted/local hire provisions for vulnerable communities with metrics, for example that require a percent of workers to come from zip codes within a median income level.
Moderator: Larry Williams (Sierra Club) Speakers: Bernadette Grafton, EPA, Sharon Beard (NIEHS), Aisha Dorn (Civic Works Baltimore), Art Shanks (Cypress Mandela Training Center), James Foti (Department of Labor, DOL), Jamez Staples (Renewable)
This session provided an interactive dialogue about workforce development training challenges, opportunities, best practices, and solutions for participants led by seven speakers including representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor, EPA, NIEHS, a training program graduate, a training program grantee, and an employer. Session participants were provided with a variety of information including lessons learned in overcoming training challenges, defining training opportunities, and implementing best practices and solutions. Participants learned about the history of the Brownfields program, the effectiveness of job training from the perspective of a training program graduate‐turned‐employer, that working closely with unions and judges can provide excellent employment and alternative sentencing opportunities, and that project labor agreements can help ensure jobs for community members.
Sharon Beard with NIEHS provided information about their Worker Training program that provides awards/funding to organizations to develop worker safety and health training. Their Environmental Career Worker Training Program trains unemployed and underemployed individuals. Their program addresses the risk of occupational health, life skills, remediation education and has trained over 10,000 people in more than 30 communities across 20 states with nearly 70% employment rates. Rachel Congdon, Program Lead for Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training, shared that applicants can apply for up to $200,000 for a three‐year grant. Average hourly wages of their program graduates start at $14/hour.
Aisha Dorn, was working in retail before graduating from the Baltimore Center for Green Careers. Now I am an employer and go back to Civic Works to recruit from their graduates for my own staff. If it wasn’t for a program like this, I wouldn’t be able to be standing here talking to you as an employer of my own company.
Art Shanks, Cypress Mandela Training Center started in 1993, and in 1998 received a Brownfield pilot grant. Partnered with the labor unions and technical trades. Talked to the contractors about what they needed in a new hire. Able to provide their students with 90% or higher job placement and retainment. Got the unions on board one by one. Effective partnerships are the most important thing you can have. You can help your students get criminal records expunged, by going to court with them so the judges know who you are. Invite them to your training so they sanction what you want to do.
Sabrina Owens‐Wilson emphasized restoring the labor sector so it sustains our communities and environment. Good job policies in general will shape how economies can grow. Project Labor Agreements (PLA) ensure that the jobs created are union jobs. There is also living and prevailing wage requirements. Regardless, having clear language in PLA's is essential and clearly identified roles for all involved. Targeted hires and a set of practices that have been used over the years can help people of color get into the union pipeline. The community must play a role. Be specific, hiring targets‐could be zip code specific. Build relationships with pre‐apprenticeship programs.
James Foti, DOL explained that most pre apprenticeships are joint programs with high standards and high quality. Lots of good jobs are, and will become available within the clean energy economy. Advanced manufacturing, lots of utility upgrade programs will be coming online. We have new apprenticeship programs with places like SEIU (Service Employees International Union). New regulations coming out soon geared toward many new populations, focusing on more women, people with disabilities. Definition of disability is pretty wide, working on targeting populations not part of the labor equation before. Current apprenticeship program enrollment is about 10% African American and about 15% Latino. Apprenticeship pay is about $60,000 and graduates will make about $300,000 more during a career.
Brad Markell AFL‐CIO explained that Just Transition is as much about a social process as it is about where are we going to land. Must address environmental, economic and social sustainability simultaneously. Jobs create the training so you have to get that part right. Don't let the transition to clean energy be another excuse for keeping working people down. This means investments in Oakland as well as West Virginia. Manufacturing is critical.