This Labor Day, we sit at a pivotal moment for our nation. As urgency grows to reduce emissions and clean up our air and water, we need to consider the lack of foresight that brought us to this point and move forward in a smarter way. Our clean economy must be built strategically and intentionally to ensure that we are building a better future for working people and communities. Unionization is the best tool we have to do that.
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has signed into law three historic, job-creating laws: the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), and the CHIPS and Science Act. Together, these laws make massive investments in our environment, our industrial sector, our communities, and our workers. They are critical parts of the foundation of our clean economy. The job creation potential of these laws is massive. In fact, the 100 climate, energy, and environmental investments in the Inflation Reduction Act alone are projected to create more than 9 million jobs over the next decade.
Our clean economy must be built strategically and intentionally to ensure that we are building a better future for working people and communities. Unionization is the best tool we have to do that.
Importantly, many of the jobs that are already being created do not require a college education or past experience, offering an opportunity to “learn as you earn.” That means that, if we unionize these sectors, we will open viable pathways to the middle class and long-term security for workers who have been cut off from opportunity for too long: workers who have seen the jobs in their community shipped overseas due to deindustrialization; workers impacted by shifts in the energy market; and low-income workers, women, and people of color. It’s no surprise that a recent survey found that two-thirds of respondents believe that the jobs created by investments in clean energy and clean manufacturing are the kinds of jobs they can see themselves, their family members, or other people they know doing.
There are historic measures in the bills to help reach the goal of ensuring job quality in addition to job quantity—for example, the Inflation Reduction Act, for the first time ever, ties labor standards to clean energy tax credits for the construction of clean energy projects. This is important because, put simply, high-road and union jobs are better jobs. They pay better, have better benefits, and are safer than non-union jobs. For example, on average, union members earn a premium of 15% higher wages than non-union workers in the utilities sector and 45% higher wages in the construction sector.
These benefits are especially pronounced for women, low-wage workers, and workers of color. Coupling investments in clean energy with strong standards to ensure the jobs created are accessible, good-paying, union jobs can therefore help reduce income, racial, and gender inequality.
And union workers know they can blow the whistle on dangers in their workplaces because their union has their back and will protect them. This safeguards themselves, their co-workers, and the community and environment around them. When workers are empowered to hold their employers accountable for the conditions at their workplaces, those workplaces are safer and more resilient.
We are already seeing jobs created because of these bills, and there are many more jobs that will be created—millions of jobs over the next decade by our count—and we need to make sure that as many of them as possible are good union jobs. By utilizing the strongest tool in our toolbox, strong unions, we can build a strong, clean economy that works for all, charting a path to a cleaner, more prosperous, equitable economy.