Blue-Green Alliance: Money bill will create thousands of green jobs
The Blue Green Alliance sees the money bill resulting in clean energy improvements, including the harnessing of solar energy by union workers. | Ed Andrieski/AP

WASHINGTON—The clean energy programs envisioned in the Senate’s compromise deficit-cutting bill will produce at least 560,000 new jobs, says the Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, the union-environmental coalition.

And many of those jobs, at least initially, will be constructing new “green” factories or retrofitting old plants and in rehabbing buildings, including thousands of schools, to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, adds Jason Walsh.

In a telephone interview with People’s World, Walsh discussed the details and positives of the bill’s $369 billion in projects to combat climate change. The Senate will vote on the measure, including the climate projects, later this week.

“This bill will decrease pollution” which causes climate change “and decrease income inequality” by increasing taxes on corporations, Walsh said. “All at the same time. This changes the game.

“And we’re going to create a helluva lot of jobs. Now all we have to do is make sure they’re well-paying jobs.”

In months of talks, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and recalcitrant Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., whose home state still houses an economically weighty coal mining industry, hammered out the measure, named the Inflation Reduction Act. Besides taxing corporations and funding green projects to cut global warming, the bill also reduces the federal deficit by $300 billion, net, over ten years. Deficit cutting was a key Manchin demand.

On August 2, Schumer told his colleagues to expect a vote “later this week” on the legislation, a “reconciliation” bill which needs only a simple majority in the evenly split Senate to pass, because the 50 Republicans can’t filibuster it. Their leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spewed hate and vitriol at the legislation in remarks on July 29, repeating them August 1.

Schumer didn’t have his 50 votes without Manchin, and Manchin, a big recipient of fossil fuel firms’ campaign contributions, exacted a price.

The measure is a far cry from the Democratic President Joe Biden’s wide-ranging upgrading of the nation’s social safety net in the original $2 trillion Build Back Better Act. Manchin killed that. The BBB Act also incorporated higher fines for corporate labor law-breakers. A People’s World reading of the legislation’s tax sections shows they’re gone.

But the anti-inflation bill raises $313 billions in corporate taxes, and eliminates a $13 billion “carried interest” tax dodge which individual Wall Street hedge fund moguls use to lower their taxes. That will bring in even more money from those who can afford to pay up.

It also sets Medicare free to negotiate prescription drug prices down in bargaining with Big Pharma, netting $266 billion in savings, since Medicare, Medicaid and the VA—which already can bargain with the drug firms—account for almost half of U.S. health care spending.

Walsh calls the bill a big win for workers, including construction workers, and for reducing the carbon emissions which cause global warming, Walsh says.

“The bottom line is it’ll be an enormous job creator,” he adds. The question will be, he admits: “Are they good jobs?”

And that’s important not just to the unions and green groups in the alliance, but to construction unions. Some building trades union presidents are skeptical of “green” projects, fearing they would cost members jobs. Others point out how thinly unionized green firms are—5% or under—compared to construction.

Walsh said construction workers will win because the federal funds in the legislation come with requirements for prevailing wages for the workers. “A green economy is more labor-intensive” than continued reliance on fossil fuels, he stated.

The workers will build plants to manufacture electric vehicles, convert other factories to be more “green,”  and install “pollution-reducing upgrades at steel, aluminum, cement and other emissions-producing” plants, a BlueGreen analysis says. Another labor standard will mandate use of union-trained apprentices on the projects, Walsh adds. The legislation has a tough domestic content requirement, too.

“The labor provisions that are in this bill are a byproduct of work we did hand-in-hand with North America’s Building Trades,” Walsh said. Those requirements—and making sure the green jobs are union jobs—are also a key Biden goal. The president is a strong, public and outspoken supporter of unionization.

The BlueGreen analysis of the legislation shows details of the $369 billion in green projects, and jobs. They include:

  • More than 250,000 good jobs retrofitting factories to build electric vehicles via two programs: The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program and Domestic Manufacturing Conversion Grants. The analysis notes there will be even more jobs at those plants once they’re up and running.
  • At least 220,000 jobs building new wind, solar and electric vehicle battery plants. In the interview, Walsh said those could come on line especially quickly because rather than having to go through a grant evaluation and applications, they’d be funded through 10-year tax credits to firms, who could start using the credits almost immediately to help pay for construction.
  • The 90,000+ jobs rehabbing of the steel, cement and aluminum plants to cut carbon emissions.

Biden backed the Schumer-Manchin deficit reduction act as a political win for himself and congressional Democrats, with fewer than 100 days remaining until the November midterm elections. He also picked up other wins in preceding days, notably a $52 billion measure to help revitalize the U.S. semiconductor industry.

The catch, Walsh admits, is voters won’t see those new jobs immediately.

He expects thousands of them, especially in construction, to come on line starting early next year. He added the biggest jobs impact will be in the industrial Midwest. That’s important politically. The so-called “Rust Belt” is where thousands of industrial plants have closed.

As a result, Republicans engineered huge inroads among white working-class men who lost industrial jobs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and downstate Illinois. But those workers will get help, too, Walsh points out.

He explained the prior five-year $1.2 trillion infrastructure law “has a requirement that dislocated workers from the (coal) mines and the power plants”—coal-fired—that will have to close as the nation shifts to green energy production “will be the first in line” for the new jobs.

Biden, the building trades, and the union movement pushed that law through Congress last year, after decades of lack of success under prior presidents.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.