Solidarity for Climate Action: The Plan We Need to Get American Manufacturing Back on Track

Manufacturing towns dot the nation, and advanced manufacturing helps provide the foundation for the economy in major regions of the United States. Industries like the steel and automotive industries supported good-paying jobs, middle-class families, and prosperous communities for decades, while also spurring American leadership in innovation and technology. That’s still true in some areas. But in many others, factories have closed or new industries offer jobs that all too often are poorly paid, insecure, or unsafe.

July 25, 2019

As the Democratic presidential candidates take the stage in Detroit—the heart of the industrial Midwest—for their second series of debates, our nation is at a crossroads. Critical industries—like energy, transportation, and infrastructure technology—are changing fast.

While sometimes that change is for the better, it isn’t always. But it can and should be.

Our nation faces the dual crises of climate change and increasing economic inequality. These crises are undeniably linked, as are their solutions. That’s why last month the BlueGreen Alliance alongside our labor and environmental partners released Solidarity for Climate Action, a first of its kind platform to address these crises simultaneously, fighting climate change, reducing pollution, and creating and maintaining good-paying, union jobs across the nation.

Photo Courtesy of Ford by: Sam VarnHagen

A good example of what the clean economy looks like are the cars, SUVs and pickup trucks built right here in the Detroit area. They meet our globally competitive fuel economy standards and have driven manufacturing investments across the supply chain. The cars, SUVs and trucks built in Michigan today are much less polluting, cost drivers less at the pump, and support good-paying, union jobs in the United States. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers are building the advanced technology that goes into cleaner cars, trucks and SUVs. What’s more, taken together, the vehicles being built today are achieving the nation’s largest ever reductions in climate pollution.

Many clean economy jobs are good, union jobs, but too many still are not. Too many companies are offshoring jobs, offering substandard wages, conditions and benefits, or failing to provide safe, healthy workplaces. Progress has been made but it’s being put at risk. We cannot rebuild prosperity if we fall behind the rest of the world in building the technologies of the future, or if working people and the communities they live in fail to see the gains from innovation and a cleaner economy.

We need to act now to ensure the next generation of investments in advanced, clean vehicles, energy, and infrastructure are made here in the U.S. and that those investments result in the kinds of good-paying jobs that are out of the grasp of so many Americans

We need to plan for the future, and put American workers at the forefront of that discussion.

One key component to tackling both climate change and income inequality is rebuilding American manufacturing. If we do this right—by investing in innovation and manufacturing at the same time—the most advanced technology can be built right here in the United States. This is critical to revitalize our middle class and build the pathways out of poverty needed by far too many working people today.

In Solidarity for Climate Action, the BlueGreen Alliance and our partners call for aggressive action to ensure that America remains competitive, that our manufacturing industry is strong, and that we retain our spot as an innovative leader.  The nation needs a national strategy to lead in clean and emerging technology production, including:

  • Major new investments to spur domestic manufacturing and supply chain development in rapidly growing clean technologies, as well as increased funding for research, development, and deployment to ensure that American innovation is translated into good jobs and cutting edge manufacturing in America;
  • Investments to transform our existing industries, including investing in efficient domestic materials production and energy-intensive manufacturing to both limit emissions and make them more efficient and competitive globally.
  • A focus on environmentally, economically, and socially responsible mining projects, as well as reclamation and recycling initiatives to ensure we’re creating the materials necessary for a clean and secure energy future here in the United States;
  • Strong labor, environmental, procurement and safety standards to strengthen manufacturing and ensure that jobs across these advanced technology fields are good-paying jobs. This includes using tactics proven to increase and improve jobs, like project labor and community benefit agreements, Buy American, Davis-Bacon prevailing wage, and policies that ensure the use of domestic, clean, and safe materials made by law-abiding corporations –  for all public spending and throughout the supply chain.
  • Ensuring that trade agreements that are enforceable, fair for all workers, and benefit the environment and the climate.
  • Using common sense tax, procurement, trade enforcement, and border adjustments policies to stop offshoring and the leakage of jobs—and pollution—overseas.

While rebuilding American innovation, manufacturing and competitiveness in the global economy, we can choose the right path: one that creates a new generation of good-paying, union jobs and tackles our most dire environmental challenge—climate change.

Building a better future for all Americans, where opportunity isn’t dependent on your zip code, race, or gender, must start today. We have a plan to make this happen. Now, the candidates must answer what their plan is to deliver on America’s promise of equality, opportunity, and prosperity and lift up all communities and workers.