Apollo Alliance: green jobs are the future

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SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — While financial calamity and soaring unemployment dominated media headlines last week, a nationwide coalition of labor, environmental, business and community organizations was making news of a different sort with its bold new program to put millions to work at good-paying jobs, “greening” America and fighting global warming.

With an eye to the coming of a new administration to Washington, the Apollo Alliance is launching its New Apollo Program: An Economic Strategy for American Prosperity, across the U.S. this month. The program was first unveiled Oct. 4 at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Alameda County Electrical Training Center here.

The Alliance says its “comprehensive economic investment strategy” can “generate and invest $500 billion over the next ten years and create more than 5 million high quality green-collar jobs” by speeding the country’s development of its vast clean energy resources. The coalition says its program will help stabilize climate change and move the U.S. toward energy security, as it transforms the U.S. into the global leader of the new green economy.

“As I watched this whole financial crisis unravel, I realized that what has happened to us is that we have an economy built on paper,” keynote speaker Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), head of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee told the audience. “America has to get back to the basics,” she said, “and that means producing things here, with our hands, with our brains. What could be more real than a project to get us off foreign oil, make us energy independent, fight global warming, and while you’re doing that, create great paying jobs?”

With 10 million unemployed in the U.S., including some 1.5 million in California, “the real question is how we get beyond the failed policies of the last several years and build something that’s real and lasting and gives America prosperity in the 21st century,” said Apollo Alliance chair Phil Angelides. The former California state treasurer called for bringing home the $120 billion a year now spent in Iraq “essentially defending our oil pipelines” to build the green economy and train its workers.

One of the most important aspects of the New Apollo Program is the opportunities it opens for African American, Latino and other youth who face challenges to employment. People in California and across the country “are thirsty not only for solutions to our environmental and energy crises but also for real solutions to the growing divide between rich and poor, solutions to poverty,” said Ian Kim, who heads the Green Collar Jobs Campaign at the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Kim told of the center’s work to develop the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, which provides training so low-income area residents can qualify for well-paying green jobs. Calling the jobs corps “so far, an exception,” he said the Apollo Alliance seeks to make sure “the most disadvantaged communities and people are among the first in line to be able to benefit from the green economy.”

The Alliance’s new green jobs “will be a golden era for building trades people,” said Bob Balgenorth, head of the California Building and Construction Trades Council. Citing the council’s “Get Real” program of new green technology education, Balgenorth said the new opportunities “can be the future” for people who today don’t see a future for themselves.

Also speaking were California Labor Federation head Art Pulaski; Community Fuels CEO Lisa Mortenson and the Sierra Club’s Carl Zichella.

The New Apollo Program calls for producing a quarter of the nation’s power from renewable sources and upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings by at least 30 percent by 2025, as well as modernizing the power grid and improving transit systems. Priority would go to programs creating high-quality local jobs in construction.

U.S. factories would be retooled to build renewable energy systems and high-efficiency, alternative-fuel vehicles using U.S.-made components. The national investment in clean energy research and development would be doubled.

Besides job training programs and union apprenticeships, the program would also set up a “cap and invest” program to cut carbon emissions and reinvest resources to build a new clean energy economy.

Other launch events this month are set for Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Denver; Detroit; upstate New York; Portland and Pennsylvania.

mbechtel @pww.org