Original source: Green jobs can be a pathway to middle class for millions of Americans, but only if we ensure they come with good wages and benefits, union and environmental leaders told a White House panel.

Speaking to the first meeting of Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force in Philadelphia today, United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard said any new green jobs also must be good jobs.

To rebuild our middle class, we must also be sure that the jobs created in this new, green economy are good jobs with family-supporting wages and benefits, that we maximize the number of jobs created in this economy, and that these jobs truly contribute to the protection of our environment for future generations of Americans.

The task force heard presentations from experts on the potential to create green jobs as a part of the economic recovery and on connecting working people with training opportunities in the green economy.

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope praised President Obama for his emphasis on green jobs, saying:

Creating jobs and protecting the environment go hand-in-hand, and that is why creating green jobs is so important to our economic recovery. The development of a clean-energy economy in the United States confronts the dual challenges of unemployment and climate change, and will help to set America back on the path to economic prosperity while beginning our nation’s transformation to a cleaner, more efficient economy.

Gerard also outlined some of the steps unions are taking to train workers for the green economy, including creation of the new AFL-CIO Center for Green Jobs, which will expand the research, training and policy work in support of good green jobs. He also mentioned how the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) is leading a national initiative joining their affiliates and 1,100 apprenticeship training centers with community organizations to train workers for the opportunities offered by new energy investment.

Both Gerard and Pope are founding members of the Blue Green Alliance, a national partnership of unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs created in a new, green economy.

Gerard summed up the sentiment of all in the room when he said:

With investments in the green economy—including those in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—we can put people back to work in the United States and start the enormous task of mitigating climate change.

Biden was joined at the meeting by eight members of Obama’s Cabinet and an audience of top national leaders, including AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, as well as students, academics, public officials and activists.