by Jeremy Brecher

The principles for a Green New Deal laid out by the youth Sunrise Movement call for a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one. What is a “jobs guarantee program” and what does it have to do with protecting the climate?

The federal jobs guarantee (JG) is a concept also known as “jobs for all” and the federal government as “employer of last resort.” It envisions a federal program somewhat like the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) that would provide funds for non-profit organizations, local governments, and other agencies serving the public to employ anyone who wants a job at a wage roughly comparable to the demands of the Fight for $15 campaign. According to columnist Jonathan Chait, the jobs guarantee plan “has materialized almost out of nowhere and ascended nearly to the status of Democratic Party doctrine.”

This May, Varshini Prakash and Sarah Meyerhoff, two leaders of the youth climate group Sunrise Movement, wrote an article titled “It’s Time for the Climate Movement to Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee.” They called for a policy through which “the government directly employs anyone who wants a job but doesn’t have one.” They argued that a jobs guarantee program with a strong focus on stopping and preparing for climate change might “quickly marshal public support and resources behind climate action.”

The CJG appears to have popular support. Polling firm Civis Analytics says a jobs guarantee is one of the most popular issues they’ve ever polled: 52% in support and 29% opposed. Polling by Sunrise indicates that support for a jobs guarantee focused on climate protection is even more popular. Prakash and Meyerhoff say a climate jobs guarantee could be the climate movement’s “Medicare-for-All” policy – “a universal program big enough to address the massive and complicated crisis of climate change, but still tangible and popular among the vast majority of Americans.”

Sunrise’s “Climate Jobs Guarantee Policy Primer” concludes that by “making a Jobs Guarantee a headline demand for the climate movement” we can “end the ‘jobs vs. environment’ fallacy forever”; rally “unprecedented public support behind climate action”; and “ensure that JG proposals include jobs for a just and rapid transition to a zero-carbon, climate-resilient economy.”