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.