The Platform that Boosted Washington State’s Workforce
By Maya Gillett, Washington State Coalition Organizer
The Washington BlueGreen Alliance took on its largest, most diverse advocacy effort yet for the 2023 Legislative Session.
One of the principal themes in our agenda was the importance of developing the net-zero workforce that Washington will need to meet our state’s clean energy goals. The following bills—all of which passed the State Legislature this year—represent progress towards that goal in one of three ways:
Growing the clean energy workforce to meet the needs of Washington’s low-carbon transition.
- HB 1176: This legislation is a huge, exciting step forward. First, it establishes the Washington Climate Corps which will help connect young people and veterans in our state with career opportunities in community resilience, conservation, and energy efficiency. Equally importantly, it requires the Washington Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board to develop a biennial report for the legislature that evaluates the workforce impacts of the state’s climate policies, including projected growth in clean technology and energy sectors, labor market trends, and potential job loss or restructuring due to energy transition. This report will provide workforce training entities with information that they need to ensure their programs meet future workforce demands and prevent workforce shortages and surpluses.
- SB 5320: This bill will increase the supply of certified electricians—who are critical for everything from transportation to building out our transmission system—by enabling workers who completed their training out of state to take the Washington State electrical examination and obtain an 01 electrician’s license.
Lower barriers and expand pathways to green jobs to ensure that all Washingtonians can benefit from the clean economy transition.
- HB 1525: Thanks to this legislation, first-year participants in registered apprenticeships can access Working Connections WA, the state’s subsidized child care program. This will increase the number of women and lower-income people who are able to complete a registered apprenticeship, ensuring that everyone has a chance to pursue a good, union construction career.
- HB 1058: This legislation significantly streamlines the process for obtaining a Commercial Drivers’ License, which is required for students seeking to become a journey lineperson (someone who is qualified to work on high-voltage transmission lines), of which we have a severe shortage in WA. BGA hopes to continue working with our partners on future policies that will offset this cost altogether, to boost the number of high-voltage lineworkers and promote equitable access to this high-road career.
Making sure that every worker is safe on the job.
- HB 1542: Utility employers are now required to provide a portable automatic external defibrillator to all high-voltage work crews of two or more people when heading out to a remote site. Requiring this piece of lifesaving equipment will keep workers in this high-risk field safer at work as they maintain and build the electric grid of the future..
It’s with a sigh of relief, and a sense of a job well done, that we’re waving goodbye to the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session. This year’s victories demonstrate the power of our coalition to fight – and win – policies that build a cleaner, fairer, healthier economy that serves working people and their families. Our agenda, and its success, were true manifestations of solidarity at work. The Washington BlueGreen Alliance also helped pass Washington Clean Manufacturing Leadership Act this legislative session (2SSB 5269). Learn more here!