The Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) released a White Paper today arguing that current House and Senate climate bills do not do enough to protect workers, and laying out an alternative strategy for worker protection.
The White Paper, Climate Legislation Must Provide a Just Transition for Workers, kicks of the LNS’s campaign to strengthen provisions for workers whose jobs may be threatened by climate change legislation. Some of the measures advocated by the LNS are included in the American Worker and Community Assistance Act (S. 2742) introduced in the Senate November 5, 2009 by Senator Bob Casey and co-sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown.
The LNS, an organization devoted to long-term sustainability of both the environment and society, strongly supports legislation to protect the earth’s climate. But according Joe Uehlein, LNS founder and convener,
One great fear is blocking public support for climate protection: The fear that protecting the planet will destroy millions of jobs. Without a bold program to protect workers from the effects of climate protection, the struggle against global warming can all too easily come to be perceived as a struggle against American workers. We have to fix that now.
White Paper: Climate Legislation Must Provide a Just Transition for Workers
1. Fear of job loss is a major reason people oppose climate protection legislation.
2. The worker protection strategy of current climate bills is flawed and inadequate.
3. Climate protection advocates need a bold program to ensure that every worker, retiree, and community impacted by climate legislation can count on a secure future.
4. Rightwing politicians and self-serving business interests are exploiting the inadequacy of worker protection provisions to gut or defeat climate legislation.
5. Many policy analysts are greatly understating the harm to jobs and the economy that would result from failure to prevent climate change. Recent testimony from the Congressional Budget Office, for example, fails to take into account the potentially devastating effects of climate change on the U.S. economy.
6. Climate protection will produce millions of new “green jobs” in climate-protecting industries. But it will also cause some people to lose their jobs in high carbon producing and using industries. Estimates of how many jobs might shift as a result of climate change legislation range from hundreds of thousands to several million.
7. These job losses will be regionally concentrated, notably in the coal producing and using areas in and around Appalachia.
8. Those who lose their jobs are likely to face long-term or permanent unemployment and lifelong adverse economic impacts. Of workers who were laid off during 2003, for example, almost half left the labor force altogether without securing another job.
9. Subsidies to high carbon-emitting companies defeat the purpose of reducing carbon emissions, yet provide no guarantees of workers’ future livelihoods. They represent a “trickle-down” approach to workers’ economic security.
10. The worker transition program in proposed climate legislation is modeled on the Trade Adjustment Act program that purports to protect workers from the effects of globalization. It provides short-term, often poverty-level income, training for jobs that in many cases simply do not exist, and incentives for workers to “solve” high local unemployment by migrating elsewhere.
11. More effective strategies for worker transition are now being discussed. For example, the American Worker and Community Assistance Act introduced by Senator Bob Casey and co-sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown represents a valuable step forward in protecting workers and communities affected by climate legislation.
12. An effective worker protection program will have to address the needs of individual workers, local communities, impacted regions, and retirees.
13. Individual workers should receive far better transition assistance, including GI-bill style education benefits that allow displaced individuals to establish new careers.
14. Communities hard hit by climate protection measures should receive significant support for economic reconstruction through a Community Revitalization Trust Fund that provides economic development grants over a twenty-five year period to create jobs and business opportunities for displaced workers and community members.
15. Regions hard hit by climate protection measures should receive support for “Green TVAs” that rebuild affected regional economies based on transitioning from fossil to green energy. An initial pilot program should be launched for Appalachia and the surrounding region.
16. The Federal government should guarantee that no worker or retiree will lose pension or healthcare benefits as a result of the climate protection bill, period.
17. These measures will allow advocates of climate legislation to argue that it will protect workers, communities, and retirees far better than a policy that simply does nothing and lets climate change destroy our economy.
18. Climate protection advocates can use these measures to take the offensive to turn around the public debate.