Green Jobs Advocates Descend on D.C., EPA Awards $200K Grant to New Jersey Group

Green Jobs Advocates Descend on D.C., EPA Awards $200K Grant to New Jersey Group

Some 2,500 people are rallying at a conference in Washington, D.C., for an economic overhaul that fuels employment in areas that address climate change, energy efficiency and other environmental concerns — while also meeting needs for adequate pay and benefits.

Attendees went to Capitol Hill yesterday, the first of the three-day Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference, to lobby lawmakers. The conference is coordinated by the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental and labor groups, which presented its inaugural Green Jobs Champion Award to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a ceremony last night.

The California Democrat was a moving force in the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, passage of the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act (H.R.6049), as well as the recent passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes heavy investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Advocacy groups supporting the jobs conference want to ensure that the jobs created as a result of a stimulus program are not only eco-friendly but also "economically sustainable" for the workers. A study released earlier this week by the nonprofit resource center Good Jobs First found that not all green jobs are good: Some pay below poverty line standards and raise work condition issues.

"We need to send the economy in the direction where the primary emphasis is on good jobs and green jobs," United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard told the conference yesterday in remarks detailed by James Parks on the AFL-CIO NOW News Blog. "We reject the notion that we have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. It's not one or the other. It's both or neither."

Speaking today of the gathering's en masse visit to the Hill the day before, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said the alliance between labor and environmentalists doubtless "disconcerted" some of the lawmakers the group enountered.

"Congress saw a multicultural, multiracial, labor and environmental army that was a voice for workers, a voice for good jobs and a voice for a cleaner planet," Parks quoted Trumka as saying.

The sold out conference, which included a free job expo today, continues with panel talks tomorrow.

On Tuesday the U.S. Environmental Agency announced that it awarded a $200,000 grant to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice to fund job training of 87 unemployed or underemployed people, who would help clean up New Jersey's brownfields.

The training program involves four 100-hour training cycles in lead abatement, asbestos removal, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and other issues typically involved in brownfield sites. With help from the Workforce Investment Board and Essex County Building Trades Council at least 53 graduates are to be placed in environmental technician jobs and their performance would be tracked for a year.