A Year like no other for BGA

As our nation simultaneously grapples with the effects of climate change, a global pandemic, and a faltering economy, our expertise has never been in higher demand, and our work has never been timelier. 

Here’s what we have been doing: 

LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS

  • Following the COVID-19 outbreak, we immediately went to work calling for a stimulus package that puts workers first. The CARES Act was a great immediate first step, but now we need a longer term solution for worker assistance and economic recovery. The BlueGreen Alliance has been advocating for a stimulus package that: 
    • Addresses working people and families’ immediate needs;
    • Rebuilds the public sector and services;
    • Invests in our nation’s infrastructure;
    • Jumpstarts domestic manufacturing;
    • Provides critical long-term support and protections for workers; and 
    • Prioritizes investments in those communities most in need.
  • As Senate Republicans focus on legislation that would shield companies from legal accountability for endangering workers on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined us on a press call urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take up a COVID-19 relief bill that establishes an enforceable temporary Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard to protect working people on the job during this pandemic.
  • In addition to our COVID-19 recovery efforts, we had a big win in California in June. The California Air Resources Board approved the Advanced Clean Truck rule, which will put more zero-emission vehicles on the road to help meet greenhouse gas and air quality goals. The BlueGreen Alliance was successful in locking in key workforce and equity goals into the rule. 

MEMBER ENGAGEMENT/PARTNERSHIPS

  • In April, leaders from the United Steelworkers (USW), Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), joined us for a press call calling for immediate action to protect workers on the job from COVID-19 and help families struggling with the economic devastation caused by the virus. We were also joined by the mayor of Lathrup Village, Michigan, and workers from Nevada, Michigan, and Maine, who shared how COVID-19 has impacted their communities and coworkers.
  • We held a highly successful Rebuilding Manufacturing in America virtual town hall in August. Featuring U.S Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), United Steelworkers President Tom Conway, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) President and CEO Gina McCarthy, and other workers, labor leaders, and advocates, the virtual event was live streamed to an audience of roughly 120.

REPORTS/RESEARCH

ONLINE TOOLS

  • In solidarity for all workers across America, in May we released SafeJobChecklist.org, an online resource to help American workers understand their rights, give access to critical safety information, and anonymously report unsafe working conditions.

There’s a lot more work to do in 2021, and we are up to the task! Thanks for supporting the BlueGreen Alliance and our efforts to combat the climate crisis and create a fair and thriving clean economy that benefits all. 

Donald Trump Has Misled American Workers and We’re All Paying the Price

Donald Trump is once again making sweeping statements of success and false promises from sea to shining swing state. But the numbers—and the facts—tell a different story. Donald Trump claims he fights for working-class people and their families. He said he would protect jobs and revive dying industries. His actions have made us less safe and cost us jobs by sending innovation overseas.

He has made workers less safe. Throughout his administration, the number of OSHA inspectors has declined, which has made workplaces less safe. Where it was once difficult for regulators to effectively survey workplaces, it is now physically impossible for inspectors to even visit every site, much less conduct a thorough inspection. Technically, where staffing is now, OSHA only has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 165 years.

The decline of OSHA inspections has very real consequences — particularly in the age of COVID-19. General safety issues are at risk, but while a deadly pandemic ravages the global population, safety regulations are more important than ever. However, OSHA has once again fallen short of standing up for the very people they are tasked to protect. For instance, in the meatpacking industry, one in eleven workers have contracted COVID-19, and the plants that don’t take proper safety precautions — like shutting down production when there is an outbreak — receive fines that are consistently less than what it costs to buy a used car.

Another case in point: the rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule was created to protect workers and communities from chemical releases and explosions. After dismantling the rule completely for two years, when it was reinstated, the administration significantly weakened the rule.

This was a rule put in place for a reason. Around our country there have been fires, explosions, and chemical leaks that have killed workers and first responders. This rule was put in place because of what happened at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas (caution that video is disturbing even taken from a significant distance). Fifteen first responders gave their lives and buildings for a mile around the explosion were damaged, including a school that—thankfully and luckily—wasn’t full of kids. By rolling back the Chemical Disaster Rule, he has not only made workplaces less safe, but he has also put communities at risk.

“Donald Trump is the worst president for workers and the environment in our lifetime.”

Donald Trump has again and again touted how clean our environment is, but his actions have made our water less safe and our air more polluted. His disregard for the environment and existing protections is frightening. He chose to roll back methane standards for the oil and gas industry that were put in place to stop the unnecessary leaks and waste seen throughout the industry. Cost-effective technology can stop these leaks and methane is a very potent greenhouse gas that impacts our climate. Carcinogens — like benzene — leak with the methane and endanger workers on the job.

One of Trump’s biggest promises was that he would bring jobs to the U.S. — his actions have done the opposite. Donald Trump is proud to have rolled back regulations that would have spurred innovation and created jobs. For example, creating and installing the technologies to stop the methane leaks in oil and gas fields would have created an estimated 50,000 jobs in the next decade. When he rolled back the methane standards he rolled back those jobs as well.

With emissions standards already in place for years, the automotive industry had already begun to adapt and innovate cleaner cars, trucks, and SUVs. When he rolled back these regulations, he ensured that other countries will eclipse the U.S. in manufacturing these new technologies. The rollback will—by his own administration’s estimate—cost workers in our nation an estimated 50,000–60,000 future manufacturing jobs in the automotive industry.

Donald Trump is the worst president for workers and the environment in our lifetime. He has dismantled worker safety regulations, cut staff at the agency that is supposed to protect workers on the job, and stepped away from environmental policies that keep the nation’s air and water clean. His decisions cost the nation the jobs of the future and endangered our existing workforce — they must be reversed. If you want to learn more about how Donald Trump misled America, read our full, comprehensive report here.

Jason Walsh is the Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance.

AB 841 supports high-quality jobs, helps prevent COVID-19 transmission in schools, and fights climate change

By JB Tengco, Western States Director.

California, like the rest of the nation, is facing a number of gut punches including a pandemic, systemic racism, historic wildfire season, and unemployment.This September, BlueGreen Alliance is supporting a bill in California that, while not a silver bullet for all of our ailments, aims to move the needle slightly on every one of these issues.

The Healthy Schools, Healthy Air, Healthy Recovery Bill (AB 841), authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (AD-19), focuses on replacing critical ventilation (HVAC) and clean water infrastructure in schools, and expanding electric vehicle infrastructure. The bill achieves these objectives by authorizing a one-time re-deployment of unspent utility energy efficiency funds, and by deploying electric vehicle infrastructure more quickly.

This important bill passed the legislature and now awaits the approval of Governor Newsom. Our coalition of labor unions and environmental organizations urges him to sign AB 841 into law now. Here’s why:

1. AB 841 focuses public infrastructure and public health investments in working class communities of color.

Investments in charging infrastructure and public school HVAC and water systems can simultaneously reduce greenhouse gases, promote school health and safety, increase access to high-quality careers for workers in disadvantaged communities, focus environmental benefits in those communities, and deliver economic stimulus. This is a win for students, workers, and communities.

2. AB 841 will create good jobs replacing critical ventilation and clean water infrastructure in schools.

These are critical updates that can improve our children’s health in our schools. California public schools have a systemic problem with outdated and inefficient heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. As we know, the vast majority of COVID-19 cases arise from indoor transmission due to inhalation of airborne particles. For this reason, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends “Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning [HVAC] systems, [to] reduce airborne exposures.”

With most California school buildings closed for the foreseeable future, we can use this time to upgrade HVAC systems to reduce disease transmission and exposure to wildfire smoke when our kids finally go back to the classroom. Importantly, these HVAC improvements will also improve poor indoor air-quality in working-class communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution.

In the process of improving school HVAC systems, AB 841 will generate demand for thousands of high road construction careers for California’s disadvantaged workers. AB 841 contains provisions that HVAC contractors hire a skilled workforce with apprenticeship training, which generates demand for apprenticeship graduates—70% of whom are People of Color (PoC) in the state of California—while also ensuring that unionized workers have access to jobs. Requirements for a skilled HVAC workforce also ensure high quality work performance, family-sustaining wages and benefits for workers, and safe and timely completion of state-funded projects.

While COVID-19 transmission and air pollution from wildfire smoke are of high concern right now, AB 841 also addresses another lurking public health crisis: leaky and lead-laden plumbing fixtures in California public schools. A sister program to AB 841’s HVAC improvement program draws down unspent IOU energy efficiency funds to fund school plumbing improvements. This program also benefits from good jobs requirements and priority for school districts in disadvantaged communities.

3. Signing this bill will build high-road careers by accelerating electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and reducing pollution.

AB 841 takes on another environmental issue through significantly ramping up installation of EV charging infrastructure. The California Energy Commission estimates we will be short 80,000 chargers, or roughly one third of our 250,000 public EV charging station goal, by 2025. AB 841 would address this issue head-on by streamlining the state’s process of approving EV infrastructure projects (currently conducted on a case-by-case basis), thus accelerating EV charging installations considerably.

This bill grows good jobs through requiring California’s charging infrastructure be installed b workers who have receive a nationally recognized certification jointly developed by industry, government, and workers. Workforce training requirements also create opportunities for workers of color in the state’s growing apprenticeship system.

4. We’ll all benefit from AB 841.

These benefits have led AB 841 to be supported by schools and teachers, public health experts, labor groups, businesses, and environmental organizations. All supporters, including the BlueGreen Alliance, agree that lawmakers have acted to take advantage of this rare and limited window to improve the health and safety of schools, address climate change and create good jobs—right now.

Now, it is up to Governor Newsom to sign this bill into law and put Californians to work building a safer, sustainable future.

A Vision for an America that Works for Everybody

The ten-week total for unemployment claims has reached 40.8 million, suggesting about a quarter of our workforce has lost jobs during the pandemic and projections suggest that even if we start to recover, the unemployment rate will still be around 9.3% by the end of the year. And months into this pandemic, workers continue to struggle to stay safe and healthy on the job, particularly as states begin to reopen parts of the economy and state and local government budgets are ravaged.

And we know the reality is that we went into this pandemic with three ongoing interconnected crises: economic inequality, racial inequality, and climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a harsh spotlight on just how severe and disproportionate the impacts of these crises are.

Our nation has been struggling with deep and crippling economic inequality for decades.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “the bottom 90% of the American workforce has seen their pay shrink radically as a share of total income,” from 58% in 1979 to 47% in 2015. That is almost $11,000 per household, or $1.35 trillion in additional labor income. There is a direct correlation with the decrease of worker power over this time, as the share of workers in a union fell from 24% in 1979 to under 11% now.

Not just now, as unemployment has skyrocketed disproportionally during the pandemic, but historically and persistently black Americans fare worse in our existing economy, having lower wages, less savings to fall back on, and significantly higher poverty rates as systemic racism has stacked the deck against people of color.

And now, with an ongoing global pandemic as a backdrop, Americans across the country have come together to fight against police violence and the systematic racism that has met black and brown Americans at every turn since before the nation was even founded.

The fact that the deck has been stacked against people of color is not up for debate. Data point after data point illustrates exactly how unequal our economy is. Regardless of education level, black workers are far more likely to be unemployed than white workers. In fact, historically, unemployment rates are twice as high for black workers. That disparity carries into the workplace as well, with black workers paid on average 73 cents to the dollar compared to white workers. The wage gap persists regardless of education, and even with advanced degrees black workers make far less than white workers at the same level. So, it’s no surprise that while the poverty rate for white Americans sits at about 8.1%, for Black household it’s 20.7%.

The COVID-19 pandemic puts an even sharper focus on the harmful impacts of this inequality. The systemic racism inherent in our society has proved deadly for black Americans, who regardless of making up just 12.5% of the U.S. population, represent 22.4% of COVID-19 deaths. It’s easy to see why. Black workers are more likely to have front-line jobs, like grocery clerks, public transit workers, warehouse and postal service workers, cleaners, healthcare workers, and childcare workers. Black workers are also less likely to have health insurance, paid sick time, or the ability to work from home.

And they’re more likely to live in neighborhoods with more air pollution, which further increases their risk of COVID-19 infection. A 2019 report found that black and Hispanic Americans live in neighborhoods with more pollution but produce less, whereas white communities are less polluted but white people produce more pollution. The Fourth National Climate Assessment states that exposure to pollution “results in adverse respiratory and cardiovascular effects, including premature deaths, hospital and emergency room visits, aggravated asthma, and shortness of breath,” conditions which in turn increase the risk of COVID-19 infection.

The economic impacts of the pandemic are also hitting black Americans harder and will likely persist far into the future.

For example, with millions of Americans filing for unemployment, more and more households are forced to dip into their savings and, given the wage gap between black and white Americans, it’s no surprise that black family have significantly less savings; less than $9,000 for black families compared to about $50,000 for white families. And, the unemployment rate for black workers has increased to 16.7% under COVID-19 while for white workers it is 14.2%.

Lower income communities and communities of color are also hit the hardest and are less able to deal with the impacts of the increasing natural disasters we’re seeing, from wildfires and hurricanes to heat waves, droughts, and sea-level rise driven by climate change. As wages have fallen and their economic mobility and power in the workplace has declined, working people are disproportionately vulnerable to these impacts. The world’s leading scientific organizations have been unambiguous that climate change is a dire and urgent threat and that the longer we delay, the stronger the action required.

The issues are well documented and their solutions are as intrinsically linked as they are. In June 2019 the BlueGreen Alliance released Solidarity for Climate Action, a historic platform to address the joint issues of climate change and income inequality. With COVID-19 worsening these crises, the vision of Solidarity for Climate Action is more important now than ever.

Finding the path forward.

Congress must act with urgency. People are continuing to get sick and die; workers are going back to work—in some cases being FORCED back to work—in wildly unsafe conditions; states are “re-opening” in ways that could plunge us further into crisis; and economic and racial inequities continue unabated. The very future of our country is at stake.

COVID-19 recovery efforts must take every step to protect frontline workers’ and vulnerable communities’ health and safety in the face of this pandemic. They must also address income inequality and climate change and have racial justice baked in at their core. Recovering from COVID-19 is going to take time and we must work to come out of this crisis with a fairer, more sustainable, and more just economy than we went in with. We’ve seen clearly just how dangerous the status quo is. Correcting this means making significant changes to all parts of our society. If we do it right, a strong economic recovery package can protect and create quality, family sustaining jobs, deliver public health and environmental benefits, address economic and racial injustice head on, and create a cleaner, stronger, and more equitable economy for all. To start the process to long-term recovery we must:

  • Prioritize equitable rebuilding and investments in those workers and communities that need it most, especially low-income communities, communities of color, and deindustrialized communities. Generations of economic and racial inequality have disproportionately exposed low-income workers, communities of color, and others to low wages, toxic pollution, and climate threats. We must inject justice into our nation’s economy by ensuring that solutions support the hardest hit workers and communities.
  • Invest at scale in our crumbling infrastructure, but do it right. We must invest in our nation’s economic recovery, starting with our infrastructure, which is in a dangerous state of disrepair. From our crumbing roads and bridges, to asbestos filled schools with lead pipes—primarily located in low-income communities and communities of color. The pandemic highlighted these issues, as we’ve seen too many Americans lacking access to necessities like clean water during the public health crisis of a generation. As with all of our nation’s vital systems, racism is inherent in the failure of our infrastructure with low income communities and communities of color more likely to deal with the dangerous impacts of failing infrastructure.

We need to invest at the scale this crisis and recovery demands. However, we can’t afford to spend the level required without ensuring it supports and creates local jobs with fair wages and benefits and safe working conditions, creates economic opportunity for all people in the communities in which they reside, and meets forward-thinking environmental standards to ensure resiliency. Within the failure of our infrastructure is also the opportunity to solve multiple issues at once. By making the needed investments and enforcing strong labor, procurement, local hire, and community benefit requirements we can grow good paying jobs across the nation and invest in the communities that most need it while addressing major racial and public health concerns in our schools, hospitals, transit systems, and other vital institutions. We can’t afford to let these investments further exacerbate any of the existing crises we’re facing.

  • Support and retool America’s manufacturing sector. Our manufacturing sector took a major hit during the pandemic and the sad state of our domestic supply chain was made clear. With more than 40 million Americans currently unemployed, we need to put Americans back to work when it’s safe. We can do so by making a major reinvestment in fortifying and transforming heavy industry and retooling to build more of the products, materials, and technologies of the future here—all while providing pathways to good family-supporting jobs and strong domestic supply chains. American leadership in inventing—and manufacturing—the most advanced technology of all kinds was once a cornerstone of a strong and growing middle class and a pathway for many out of poverty.We cannot cede American manufacturing jobs to our global competitors or leave our economy and communities vulnerable because we failed to be forward-thinking about boosting the sector for the short and long term.
  • Rebuild the capacity of our public sector and services and provide critical long term support and protections for workers. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inadequate investments we’ve made to date in our public sector. We need to rebuild and invest in our health care systems, public health agencies, education, and community-based services to make us better prepared for disasters like COVID-19 or natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. We also must rebuild and expand the social safety net—including pensions, healthcare, and retirement security—and ensure and enforce worker and community health and safety.

Doing it right.

By making smart investments where they are most needed, ensuring that racial justice is a core principle of all we do, and rebuilding with the reality of climate change at the forefront, we can and will build a fairer, more sustainable, and just future for America.

We Need More Than “Good Faith” to Protect the Lives of Meatpacking Workers, Their Families

Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to keep meat-processing plants open. The President’s Executive Order does much more than keep the poultry and pork production lines running. His action further attempts to shield Smithfield, Tyson, Perdue, JBS, and the other meat and poultry giants from any liability for worker harms, in an industry that has already seen extraordinary Covid-19 exposures and deaths.

Or to use less legalistic language, Trump is putting the Presidential Seal on forcing workers into unsafe conditions in meat processing plants.

It didn’t need to be like this. The president could have stood at the podium with the Secretary of Labor and announced an emergency OSHA standard for meat and poultry processing workers and employers. He could have explained that this will necessitate some big changes in how processing plants run, but that CDC, USDA, and OSHA experts are being dispatched to help. Trump could have said that we can have beef burgers and safe workers too. But he didn’t.

Instead, OSHA put out a guidance document. To quote OSHA’s own explanation of the difference between guidance and a standard: “This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.” As in, you are free to ignore this advice. And then—if that wasn’t enough—the Department of Labor issued a memo that promised that the Department of Labor would not enforce the guidelines for meat and poultry workers. But even that wasn’t enough. The DOL memo further committed the agency to the side of the meat and poultry companies if workers file any lawsuits or if the courts or the states try to protect processing workers by turning the guidelines into rules.

… the Department of Labor issued a memo that promised that the Department of Labor would not enforce the guidelines for meat and poultry workers.

The Trump administration awarded this gift—that is unavailable to the factories making personal protective equipment or ventilators—to an industry already notorious for its danger and disregard for its workforce — a workforce that is predominately made up of people of color. Failing to require protections for these workers—while also failing to use the DPA to mandate the production of the equipment we need to stay safe—is both morally and legally unjustified. Instead, the administration has said that all companies must do is show “good faith attempts to follow” the safety guidance. And the definition of what is good faith is completely up to them. Protecting the lives of American workers needs more than the Trump version of good faith.

And the definition of what is good faith is completely up to them [the companies].

We are already in the middle of the worst occupational safety and health disaster since the birth of OSHA 50 years ago. Nurses, EMTs, retail workers, bus drivers, and janitors have all lost their lives to the COVID virus. At least 20 meat and poultry processing workers and two government inspectors have already died.

What Trump did yesterday will make the problem even worse. So what do we do? Everything we can.

Trump could have said that we can have beef burgers and safe workers too. But he didn’t.

Congress should act on H.R. 6559 that would require OSHA within 7 days to issue an enforceable Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), based on CDC guidance, to protect all workers from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. State and local leaders and grocery chains should insist on a higher than Trump level of meat packing safety.

If only some of us are in this together, then the sum of us need to do everything we can to save the lives of the women and men in the meat and poultry processing industry.

A Better Bailout for Workers

By Jason Walsh, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance.

Now Congress is negotiating another step forward, but facing an economy that will probably lose millions of jobs by this summer, two things are abundantly clear: we need more and we need it now.

Congress must develop an economic stimulus package focused on working people and the public good. This can’t just be a quick bailout of a few industries with close ties to the president. Some companies will need support, but that support shouldn’t be going to CEOs and investors, and it must come with conditions to avoid permanent layoffs, secure jobs, and provide safe and fair working conditions. We cannot hand over billions of dollars without standards that ensure the money is used wisely and that workers see the direct benefit.

Such a stimulus package must safeguard working peoples’ jobs, homes, and livelihoods. In addition, it must shore up the critical public services, hospitals, childcare, and transit needed to stave off an even graver economic crisis.

Congress must develop an economic stimulus package focused on working people and the public good. This can’t just be a quick bailout of a few industries with close ties to the president.

It must also include investments that will provide for a sustained economic recovery. America’s has neglected our infrastructure — both the physical roads, bridges, water lines, broadband, and transit systems and the “social infrastructure” made up of the public sector, health care and education systems, and community-based resources — for decades. The Coronavirus pandemic is the latest test of our systems and our communities are not equipped to deal with a major crisis — be it a virus, a hurricane, wildfires, or a workplace disaster.

We cannot hand over billions of dollars without standards that ensure the money is used wisely and that workers see the direct benefit.

Investment in a forward-looking recovery is critical to assure American families, workers, businesses — and markets — that we will rebuild a fair and resilient economy. Revitalizing and modernizing the basic systems we rely on to provide us energy, education, health care, and transportation can provide a much-needed jolt to our economy by creating good-paying jobs in communities around our nation while building for the public good. We can also use this opportunity to make the much-needed, major reinvestment in America’s manufacturing sector to retool industry to lead in making the products, materials, and technologies of the future.

The immediate relief passed this week will help some Americans dealing with the economic harm caused by the Coronavirus. The long-term relief and investment in America’s basic infrastructure and social systems must build a stronger, cleaner, and more inclusive economy for every American. The ancillary benefits of those investments will pay dividends for decades. Repairing our broken infrastructure systems will also reduce pollution and improve public health for generations to come.

It is time for leaders elected by people to step up and pass an economic stimulus and recovery package for the people and the future we’ll build together. And they should do it now!

Does Daylight Saving Time even save energy? Spring forward on energy efficiency anyways!

In 2008, The United States Department of Energy Department examined the impact of the extended Daylight Saving Time on energy consumption in the United States and found that Daylight Saving Time saved about 0.5% in total electricity per day. While this might not sound like a lot, it adds up to electricity savings of 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours—or the amount of electricity used by more than 100,000 households for an entire year.

Although Daylight Savings Time saves electricity used for lighting, another report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the time change causes a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling, stating that Daylight Savings actually increases residential electricity demand.

Despite what experts argue, you can spring forward with energy savings on your own. Here are some easy-to-do spring energy savings tips:

Embrace the fresh spring air by cleaning your air conditioning/HVAC filters

Over the winter unused A/C units gather dust and debris, which can strain the components necessary to make your system work efficiently. This spring, remove any leaves and debris from inside and around your unit, ensure all the grills and vents are unobstructed, and replace your unit’s air filter to ensure your unit isn’t overworking and using excess electricity.

Look for the energy-efficient products when shopping

Looking to upgrade some appliances around the house for spring cleaning? Don’t simply look for the best deal on the shelf; you can save even more if you let energy efficiency drive your decision. In 2017 alone, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped Americans avoid $30 billion in energy costs. The next time you’re in the store or shopping online, look for the EPA’s WaterSense label or ENERGY STAR certification.

Retire those old light bulbs and replace them with LEDs

Increase the life of your light bulbs by investing in energy-efficient LED and CFL bulbs, which use 75-80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer. As your light bulbs need replacing, consider efficient light bulbs to save you energy and money! Easily find the LED lights you need on BuildingClean.org.

Adjust your smart thermostat to for spring

The weather is changing as we move into spring and so are our schedules. Since you will likely be spending more time outside the house, program your smart thermostat accordingly. You can save big by adjusting the temperature in the house a couple degrees while you’re sleeping or away. It’s hard to remember to do it every day; a smart thermostat can be programmed to remember when you are gone and take care of the hassle for you!

Use shades to block direct sunlight from heating your home

The sun is a great way to allow light and heat into your home during the winter months, but as outside temperatures rise the sun’s heat can become unbearable. Close your shades and blinds when you are away from home to block direct sunlight from beaming in and heating up your living space.

Let your dishwasher do the dishes, stop handwashing

Dishwashers consume less water per load than washing dishes by hand, 3 gallons instead of a whopping 27! Handwashing dishes can use up to 5,000 more gallons of water annually compared to using an Energy Star rated dishwasher. Quickly find certified, American-made dishwashers using BuildingClean.org.

Change your ceiling fan setting to run counterclockwise

When ceiling fans are moving counterclockwise they are pulling heat from the room towards the ceiling, allowing the cooler air to make the room more comfortable. If you switch your ceiling fan to clockwise in the winter to get the opposite effect, a winter energy efficiency best practice, make sure you switch it back in the spring.  A ceiling fan can make a room feel several degrees cooler, especially when used in conjunction with an air conditioner.

Another Trump Budget, More Broken Promises

The president’s 2021 budget cuts efforts to ensure worker and community health and safety, spur U.S. manufacturing and innovation, invest in the communities hardest hit by America’s transition to cleaner, cheaper energy, and protect our environment for future generations. The proposed cuts would make workplaces more dangerous, mean more pollution in our air and water, and stifle economic growth and innovation.

At a time when Americans are facing both the realities of climate change and dwindling middle class job opportunities, this budget proposal falls far short on every level.

Gutting Worker and Community Health & Safety

President Trump’s 2021 budget cuts nearly 11% from the Department of Labor (DOL) and over 26% from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budgets. These cuts would significantly impact the ability of these agencies to protect workers, communities, public health, and the environment. This would also impact the enforcement of industrial safety rules, which help protect communities, workers, and emergency responders from catastrophic industrial chemical releases, fires, and explosions. Bottom line: these cuts would mean fewer inspectors on the job and more people placed in harm’s way.

The president’s budget also seeks to eliminate the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent agency that investigates chemical disasters to figure out why they happened and makes recommendations to ensure they don’t happen again. The budget further eliminates funding for the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration Susan Hardwood Training Grant Program, which funds training programs for workers and employers in high-hazard industries in order to maintain safety and worker protection in the workplace. Over the last 5 years, this program has trained more than 398,000 workers on workplace safety and health hazards and their responsibilities and rights, targeting underserved, low-literacy, and workers in high-hazard industries. In 2019, the program awarded grants across a wide range of industries, covering training on silica hazards, chemical hazards and hazard communication, fall prevention, excavation and trenching hazards, and oil and gas production hazards. In addition to reaching underserved workers, the program makes all training materials available on OSHA’s website for free.

Hampering Manufacturing and Innovation

Although the president maintains he is pro-worker and pro-American manufacturing, his 2021 budget eliminates critical measures that spur innovation, generate economic growth, and create jobs. When it comes to energy and transportation, this budget would jeopardize the nation’s global competitiveness and innovative edge. The budget proposes eliminating funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a program at the Department of Energy (DOE) that promotes innovative technology research and development. It would eliminate funding for multiple DOE Loan programs, including the Title XVII Innovative Clean Energy Projects loan program and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan programs—programs that ensure we both invent the next generation of technology and build it here in America, creating and maintaining high-quality jobs.

The administration’s budget guts funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in the DOE from $2.79 billion to $720 million—an almost 75% decrease—essentially decimating our clean energy and energy efficiency programs. EERE fills an indispensable role in introducing advanced clean energy and energy efficiency technologies that lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions while driving the creation of thousands of jobs in manufacturing, and in installing, operating, and maintaining clean energy systems. EERE’s research, commercialization, and deployment efforts have helped to drive down the cost of clean energy technologies and solidified our place in the world as a leader in developing clean energy technologies. Gutting funding for programs that invest in low-carbon energy, energy efficient technologies, and innovative technology is short-sighted, and the United States should not be stepping back from these areas. Instead, we should be doubling down on these investments—reducing carbon pollution and creating the jobs of the future in advanced technology.

Abandoning Hard-Hit Workers and Communities

President Trump’s budget abandons promises made to economically distressed communities like those hit hard by the decline of coal and other technological and economic change. It proposes to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (EDA) from the Department of Commerce, which provides grants and planning assistance to support small businesses, community revitalization projects, and infrastructure repairs. The budget also terminates the Department of Interior’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program, which cleans up retired coal mines and revitalizes coal communities.  

Failing to Protect our Environment for Future Generations

Clean air and water are clearly not priorities for President Trump. By gutting funding to the EPA by 26%, President Trump’s proposed budget greatly reduces the agency’s ability to carry out its critical duties of protecting human health and the environment. The president’s budget cuts funding to the EPA’s Science and Technology program by $231 million, Environmental Programs and Management enforcement by $427 million, and Environmental and Justice enforcement by 71%. In addition, the budget proposes a $35 million cut to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which provides long-term loans for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, once again dismantling programs that improve and protect communities’ access to clean water.

Additional proposed cuts to the EPA budget would significantly undermine the implementation and enforcement of community safeguards like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, which have protected our environment and public health for decades. The current budget proposal includes a 44% reduction in funding to states and tribes that implement these programs, and a cut of more than 27% to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. The State Revolving Funds—which are the primary way in which the federal government supports communities upgrading drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—are cut by a total $782 million. By greatly reducing funding for these programs, the Trump administration is placing the onus of solving critical public health issues on states and tribes while not providing enough funding to adequately solve these issues.

If the EPA does not have adequate funding, the clean air we breathe would be at risk, harmful chemicals in everyday products and the safety of industrial facilities would go unregulated, toxic dumps unmitigated, and bad actors who ignore health and environmental risks would be allowed to continue to pollute our air, land, and water without consequence.

A Budget Out of Alignment with America’s Values

The president’s 2021 Budget is disappointing, short-sighted, and dangerous. Ultimately, Americans want strong protections for the workplace AND the environment. They also want to lead the world in the kind of innovation that will create quality jobs while ensuring we leave a clean and safe environment for future generations. For the third year in a row, President Trump has presented a budget that includes massive cuts to programs that safeguard workers, protect the environment, and spur U.S. innovation—showing once again where his real priorities lie.

 

 

Block Island Project Shows the Enormous Opportunity of Offshore Wind Power

As the Rhode Island Fast Ferry headed out of the dock, it became clear that the labor union leaders aboard would enjoy more than a beautiful day. The hundred or so industry leaders headed to catch a glimpse of a one-of-a-kind innovation—five colossal 600-foot turbines that represent the first offshore wind development in the United States.

Nearly all of the participants saw the operation of the country’s first offshore wind farm and with it, the scale of economic opportunity that is the future of the clean energy economy.

The inspiration was palpable. Before the project was complete, Block Island residents relied on dirty diesel fuel from out of state that risked damaging the eco-tourism that supports the Island’s economy. Now, the Block Island Wind Farm powers 17,000 homes. That is enough to power all Block Island homes, lower utility bills, and transport additional power back to the state’s main grid—all while providing local jobs with positive long-term outlook for what could soon be a booming industry.

With the installation of the Block Island Wind farm in 2016, for the first time in our history, the United State began to realize its potential as a potential offshore-wind powerhouse—and set the stage for responsible development. Not only is Block Island harnessing local renewable energy that will not ever run out, it is creating hundreds of jobs in the process. The project itself created over 300 jobs in Rhode Island alone—thanks in large part to a Project Labor Agreement. For local unionized workers in 10 different Building Trades locals and 30 unionized contractors and subcontractors, this project meant food on their tables and money in their pockets. What’s more, the developers worked with environmental organizations to come to agreements to protect endangered species.

Labor leaders were involved each step of the way. Scott Duhamel, Secretary Treasurer, Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council explained:

Scott Duhamel (left) deep in conversation during the tour. Photo by NWF

“We, at the RI Building and Construction Trades Council, are fiercely proud of our initial advocacy that lead to the great end results of putting the first wind turbines in America’s waters, and even prouder that our member’s skills were utilized in making and completing the groundbreaking project, and hopefully, helping to jumpstart a whole new industry.”

Now with nearly 26,000 megawatts of offshore wind committed by state governments and about 3,000 megawatts in the pipeline for near-term development, the U.S. is approaching prime time for realizing significant job creation and economic development. The focal point of the offshore-wind jobs conversation had centered on construction. But seeing the size of the turbines helped passengers imagine the quantity of materials needed to achieve domestic goals. They quickly saw the effort required to manufacture the towers and foundations themselves, in addition to installing them. As the industry grows, sourcing components domestically represents a significant opportunity to help revitalize American manufacturing.

Construction of offshore wind farm

Block Island Wind Farm Construction. Photo by Deepwater Wind now Ørsted US Offshore Wind.

“American manufacturing workers have immense opportunity to supply the thousands of component parts for the offshore wind industry—and, in turn, offshore wind developers have the opportunity to strengthen American manufacturing,” said Del Vitale, director of United Steelworkers District 4. “Our union was proud to help show key partners the size and complexity of the Block Island turbines so we can all work together to seize these opportunities.”

The Special Initiative for Offshore Wind’s white paper predicted nearly $70 billion in buildout of U.S. offshore wind supply chain by calculating growth in a number of sectors, including wind turbines and towers; turbine and substation foundations; upland, export, and array cables; onshore and offshore substations; and marine support, insurance, and project management.

The wind over our oceans has enough technical capacity to provide enough energy to power every home in America twice over. It is time that we roll up our sleeves and work together to harness the enormous opportunity of offshore wind power. Seizing the economic and environmental benefits of this unparalleled renewable energy resource will provide tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs, revitalize coastal communities and ports, and deliver reliable clean energy where we need it most

The GM Strike and the Future of American Manufacturing

Striking UAW Workers

Under the contract, the company reduced the number of plants it had slated to close, and committed to $6 billion in specific domestic manufacturing investments—including the assembly of new electric vehicles and technology in U.S. plants. The strikers didn’t win every battle, but they came away with a contract that makes bread and butter gains for tens of thousands of workers.

But this strike was about more than just this contract—it was about the future of American manufacturing and jobs. With this strike, the GM workers made it clear that our nation is reaching a breaking point. American workers cannot stand by and watch the jobs making the technology of the future lost, worsened, or shipped overseas. For too long, announcements about investments in emerging technology “worldwide” have meant plant closures at home, and American innovation has gone hand in hand with offshoring, outsourcing, and gains not shared by working people.

Now, UAW members have demonstrated the critical importance of workers standing together to ensure that the United States leads in the clean economy of the future and that American manufacturing once again provides high-quality good-paying jobs. The heart of this strike extends far beyond cars, trucks, and SUVs. The striking workers stood up for a better future for all working people.

This is why in our platform Solidarity for Climate Action, the BlueGreen Alliance and all of our labor and environmental partners call for expanding workers rights and increasing union density. Union representation is one of the most important factors in ensuring both that the innovative technologies and solutions developed to fight climate change and build a more sustainable future are produced right here in the United States and that the jobs created making those technologies present the path out of poverty and economic insecurity that so many families and communities need. We cannot grow our middle class and rebuild prosperity in our nation if we fall behind the rest of the world in building the technologies of the future or if working people don’t see the gains from American innovation and change.

With their action, autoworkers joined workers across the spectrum—from teachers to hotel workers to workers in the manufacturing sector—who aren’t sitting on the sidelines. They’re acting now to address the urgent economic and climate challenges we face. We stand with them and we urge our elected leaders to do likewise.

Congress has the opportunity to stand with American workers and enact policies that would spur the manufacturing of electric vehicles and other clean energy technologies in America, and measures like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act that would strengthen workers’ ability to organize, bargain, and have an effective voice in the workplace. Working together we can lead in the clean economy and create good, family-sustaining jobs across the United States.

How to Fix Climate Change and Income Inequality at the Same Time is a Debate Worth Having

In a recent poll, 68% of respondents said they were very concerned or somewhat concerned about income inequality in the United States. That shouldn’t be surprising as new data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that income inequality—the gap between the wealthiest Americans and the average worker—had again risen in 2018, reaching a five decade high, the highest level recorded since the bureau started tracking the gap. In addition, the Economic Policy Institute found that since 1978 CEO wages grew 339%, and CEO total compensation growth was even starker with a 940% increase, compared to a 12% increase for your typical worker.

CEO pay growth has wildly outpaced the average worker. Source: Economic Policy Institute.

In Ohio, the wealthiest 1% of households took home almost 16% of all earned income in the state. That figure has almost doubled since 1974.

Meanwhile, in Ohio—where Democratic candidates will take the stage—it has warmed about 1 degree (F) on average during the last century. This warming — and the impacts that come with it—has been noticed by the public. A recent poll found over 70% of Ohioans think climate change is already affecting the United States. The National Climate Assessment has found that the Midwest region will see an increase in the frequency and severity of thunderstorms as the temperature rises. That won’t just impact Ohioans in the form of tornadoes and other dangers, but warming may also cause more algal blooms, like those that caused Toledo, Ohio to ban drinking and cooking with tap water for two days in 2014. The public has recognized this threat for what it is — a crisis.

Projected Mid-Century Temperatures in the Midwest.

Source: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment

Acknowledging these problems is just step one. We are learning more every day about the factors that contribute to these issues and what is at stake if we as a nation continue to ignore the reality of the situation. Now we need to do something about it.

We need to act. That sounds simple, but being concerned about the problems we face without doing anything about them is a recipe for disaster. That’s why it is so vital for the candidates for our highest office to have serious, achievable plans to address both runaway income inequality and the climate crisis — including President Trump. We can’t stick our heads in the sand any longer on these issues.

So, what are we to do about these two seemingly separate issues? Solve them together.

As the contenders in the presidential race go to Ohio to debate, we need to hold them accountable for having real plans to solve the real problems facing America — including climate change and income inequality.

The things we need to do to solve climate change—moving to cleaner forms of energy, making our homes, businesses, and industries more efficient and less polluting, driving cleaner vehicles that save us money at the pump, repairing and modernizing our infrastructure, and more—present an opportunity to rebuild communities hit hard by factories that have been shuttered and jobs that have been shipped overseas or lost due to changes in the energy market to move away from energy sources like coal.

The BlueGreen Alliance put forward a blueprint—called Solidarity for Climate Action—showing we can reduce the emissions driving climate change, while also creating the kinds of good-paying jobs that will help close the gap between working people and CEOs and the ultra wealthy. You shouldn’t have to work three jobs — or hit the daily lottery — to have a secure, middle-class life in our country.

As the contenders in the presidential race go to Ohio to debate, we need to hold them accountable for having real plans to solve the real problems facing America — including climate change and income inequality.

Rolling Back Methane Regulation is a Leap in the Wrong Direction

By: Logan Mossbarger

Now more than ever—as we see year after year break temperature records—we must protect and enact smart policies and regulations that work to keep pollutants like methane out of the atmosphere. Unfortunately, as the administration pursues its dangerous deregulatory agenda, we are seeing common sense thrown out the window. A prime example of this is the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to eliminate federal regulation of methane leaks in the oil and gas industry—allowing them to emit unlimited amounts methane. Deregulation of methane is bad for business, public health and safety, and the environment.

Deregulation of methane emissions steps us in the wrong direction for a cleaner future. Methane is the second most emitted greenhouse gas, and has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. The oil and gas industry is the largest emitter of methane in the United States.

Not only will the EPA’s proposal cost the industry even more money on top of the billions that they already lose due to the leaks, those emissions also present serious health risks from exposure to dangerous chemicals to workers and local communities. That’s because methane leaks contain toxic air pollutants, like the carcinogen benzene. These chemicals can cause health problems, such as asthma and respiratory problems, neurological problems, water and air contamination, and more.

Methane leaks are an environmental disaster. However, the mitigation of methane can be an economic opportunity. All it takes is common-sense ideas and the cost-effective technologies and practices that we already have today to significantly reduce methane emissions. The BlueGreen Alliance research has found that taking action to reduce methane in the oil and gas sector could create and sustain an estimated 50,000 jobs in the United States over the next decade in a variety of sectors—including manufacturing.

Unfortunately, without strong, sensible standards, we lose potential job creation and valuable innovation that can be used to continue to grow and improve the methane mitigation industry. Deregulation doesn’t create good jobs; it stops us from creating them.

The methane rollback wouldn’t just be a step in the wrong direction, but a leap. It would hurt everyone involved from workers to communities to the oil and gas industry itself. This proposal would eliminate potential job creation and innovation that would not only help the oil and gas industry but the economy as a whole. It would impose bigger health risks on workers and communities and, in the end, allow for dangerous amounts of methane to be released into the atmosphere.

New and innovative solutions are needed to achieve a more sustainable and clean future, not more deregulation.