WASHINGTON (PAI) — Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., urged 2,000 delegates to the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference to build support in communities across the nation for a new, green economy.

Investing in clean energy and creating green jobs are top priorities of the Obama administration. Only by organizing people to convince Congress to act can the United States both reverse its manufacturing decline and create high-paying domestic jobs in energy-efficiency industries, Ellison told Wednesday’s opening session of the three-day conference.

Congressman Keith Ellison

Congressman Keith Ellison The Blue Green Alliance is sponsoring the conference, which drew thousands of activists, mostly from unions, but also from environmental groups and even some businesses. The Alliance, formed by the Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, has since signed on the Communications Workers, the Laborers and the Service Employees, plus environmental groups and even five corporations.

Most of the speakers, led by Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, emphasized how saving energy and converting to cleaner sources will create jobs. Gerard said a two-year, $100 billion expenditure on projects such as retrofitting schools and investing in wind power would create 2 million jobs.

Gerard and CWA President Larry Cohen declared no progressive legislation, including measures to create a green economy, would occur without passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, designed to level the playing field between unions and bosses in organizing and bargaining. Without labor’s increased legions, special interests will continue to impose the same wasteful, energy-using economy on the U.S., Cohen warned.

Ellison said success could not occur without lobbying at home, as well as in the nation’s capital.

‘We have to be part of a movement to save the planet and to save our jobs,’ he said. ‘We can’t leave anybody out, so we need everybody to say that the old, fake barriers that kept us apart’ – such as the supposed clash between the environment and jobs – ‘are outdated,’ he declared.

‘But we have to get labor, civil rights groups, environmentalists and others all together to make this happen. We had a meeting in Minneapolis to send a message that ‘An environmentalist is someone who wears a hard hat,” he stated.

In addition to hearing Ellison and other speakers, participants in the conference attended workshops on a variety of green economy topics and had the opportunity to meet with employers at a Green Jobs Expo.