Although millions of good jobs have been created as solar and energy efficiency job opportunities opened in the last few decades, there still remains a huge “green divide” where BIPOC and frontline communities have little to no access to these jobs. BIPOC and frontline communities are often not prioritized in the training and recruitment for these renewable energy jobs and only recently have there been policies that directly target frontline communities for these renewable energy jobs.
Access to union careers and workers’ rights to union representation. Frontline leaders support frontline workers’ rights to union representation. The overall goals are:
- Greater access to union careers in the renewable energy sector for communities of color and frontline workers.
- Equitable opportunities within the training systems long-established by unions.
Raise the standards in jobs in the renewables industry. While there is a lack of access to renewable energy jobs for communities of color and frontline workers, it is also true that many of these jobs are low wage/low benefit. In 2015, “utility-scale blue-collar construction jobs in California, which employ union labor, pay, on average, $78,000 per year (about $39 per hour) and offer solid health and pension benefits...An apprentice electrician’s mean hourly wage is $23.96 per hour plus solid benefits, with wage increases tied to skill acquisition as they move through their four- or five-year apprenticeship programs until they graduate and gain a journey wage.” By comparison, in 2018, the mean annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers nationally was $46,010. Frontline communities want equitable access to the broad range of careers in the renewable energy sector, and want these careers to be high wage with comprehensive benefits.
Commitment to equity and justice in union apprenticeships and jobs. Frontline communities support union job opportunities and want to be prioritized in union apprenticeships and targeted for job recruitment. However, frontline communities oppose any discrimination and inequality in the construction industry. The quality of work should be “high road” as long as unions commit to expanding their apprenticeship slots and adjusting their journey and apprentice ratios to reflect the demographics of the local community.
Comprehensive regenerative careers. While this section is mostly focused on clean renewable energy jobs, as we transition away from fossil fuels and fossil fuel jobs, we need to expand the conversation beyond clean renewable energy jobs to low carbon human service jobs that are needed in frontline communities as well.
Career policies in the green economy will be highly dependent on context and politics. Renewable energy career opportunities in the urban context may be vastly different from rural and Indigenous contexts. In cities, careers in rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and public transit are often thought of as priorities because of the nature of urban areas. Whereas, in the rural and Indigenous contexts, careers in shared community solar, small scale wind, and electric vehicles may be the priority.
Regardless of context, 100% regenerative energy policies should include the following policy elements:
High road careers. 100% regenerative energy policies should not just accept the creation of any jobs. The approach to the development of jobs should not replicate the same extractive system that produces only minimum wage or temporary jobs. The approach should focus on creation of long-term “high road careers.” A “high road career” is one with robust training, family-sustaining wages, benefits, and strong workforce standards and worker protections.
Strong workforce standards for people of color and those with lower incomes, particularly African Americans, women, and Indigenous women and women of color. 100% regenerative policies should include good labor standards, especially for frontline communities and women of color. Some policy elements to include are:
Include Workers’ Centers, Non-Union Workers, and Worker Cooperatives:
Training standards and apprenticeship programs:
Job training must be connected to actual jobs. Although jobs training opportunities in the renew- able energy sector have increased dramatically over recent years, these job trainings do not always translate into actual jobs, particularly for BIPOC and frontline communities and women. Policy solutions include: employment placement services, workers centers and targeted programs, and expanding union apprenticeship programs to BIPOC and frontline communities who are seeking careers in the green economy and to those who are undergoing workforce trainings in the clean economy.
Ensure “supplier diversity” in contracting. 100% regenerative policies should set clear targets for supplier diversity. With respect to diversity in contracting, African Americans are at the bottom. “Of the 160 million people employed in the United States, more than 31 percent (50 million) earn a living in the construction industry. Hispanics and [Latinx] make up 30 percent, or 15 million, of these workers, and African Americans represent 17 per- cent or 8.5 million workers nationally.”
Instill good labor standards in all aspects of 100% policy. The good labor standards outlined above should be applied to all aspects of the transition to 100% regenerative energy, including:
- In all forms of solar—rooftop solar, community solar, utility scale solar
- In energy efficiency and building upgrades
- In the development of new construction
- In the broad range of transportation—electrification of heavy-, medium-, and light- vehicles, EVs and charging stations, and electrification of mass transit
Institute strong data and tracking. The renewable energy jobs industry needs improved data and tracking of jobs. 100% policies should push for data and tracking of employment by race, gender, income, and all other relevant determinants.
Policy-makers should collaborate with workers to recruit from worker inventories to ensure local hire. There should be tracking of who is hired, whether a worker comes from a BIPOC and frontline community, particular zip code or census tract, and any other key information related to local hire.
Data on worker retention should also be collected and tracked, especially to determine if BIPOC and frontline communities, women of color, and LGBTQ workers are able to maintain employment. Evaluations should be conducted to determine what factors impact retention and recommendations for retention of these workers.
Demand enforcement. There should be incentives for meeting goals and/or penalties for not meeting goals. Major contractors should submit worker utilization plans showing how, where, and in which trades they would incorporate diversity throughout the project when they submit their project bids. Those plans should determine the best value bidder. Major public sector and private projects should incorporate ‘best value” vs. low bid project delivery methods, allowing room to incorporate labor and community standards.
An example of Energy Cooperative: Example of Energy Cooperative: Co-op Power, as a decentralized network of local organizations, has Community Energy Co-ops each playing the lead role in their regions. Their primary responsibility is to organize and educate people in their region and to facilitate the development of one or more community-owned, community-scale, clean energy businesses. Each Community Energy Co-op has one member serve on the Co-op Power board. Each representative has veto power and can stop something within specific guidelines. In this way, locals work autonomously, yet in coordination with each other.
Examples of job training standards and hours:
- IBEW Local 212 in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky requires 8000 hours of on-the-job training over four years.
- The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP®) offers voluntary personnel certification for beginners and professionals in the renewable energy industry. NABCEP’s Associate Credentials include: PV Associate (PVA), Solar Heating Associate (SHA), and Small Wind Associate (SWA).
Example of apprenticeship program in Washington State: Washington has rigorous state certified apprenticeship standards. More than usual, these are union apprenticeship programs with a labor/ management oversight board. These programs are monitored at the state level for number of hours, health and safety of the apprentice, rigor of skill training, and work opportunities for apprentices.
Example of Apprenticeship Program: “Oregon Tradeswomen’s Pathways to Success” program offers Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC): an 8-week, pre-apprenticeship training class that helps students prepare for a high skill, high wage career in construction. TACC introduces a variety of trades through field trips, guest speakers, hands-on work days, and other training opportunities.
Examples of high road careers and economic benefits:
Illinois’ new clean energy policy “calls for the creation of a $25 million clean jobs workforce hub, wherein labor unions, employers, BIPOC and frontline organizations and other stakeholders would work together to train and provide direct assistance to communities of color and under served communities in accessing renewable energy-related jobs. It also calls for an ‘Expanding Clean Energy Entrepreneurship and Contractor Incubator’ program to provide support to ‘disadvantaged businesses and contractors,’ including through low-cost lending and help with insurance and other financial requirements.”
NAACP Just Energy Policies. “Local, people of color and women hiring policies set goals for increasing the number of local people, people of color, and women that are hired for state or federally funded projects. In addition to preserving local employment opportunities, local hire policies:
- Ensure that tax dollars are invested back into the local economy;
- Reduce the environmental impact of commuting; and
- Foster community involvement. State and federal funding, incentives and mandates for developing renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue to incentivize an ever-greater number of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Local, people of color and women hire provisions should be used to ensure equitable access to the employment and employment training opportunities created by new renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.”