Senate Finance Committee member Debbie Stabenow and House Energy and Commerce Committee member Jay Inslee are urging congressional leaders to make the creation of high-quality green jobs a top priority of the economic recovery and reinvestment stimulus package.
“Building up this economy with thousands of green jobs is an investment in inexhaustibly renewable resources – human intellect, ingenuity and America’s capacity for working hard to get the job done,” said Inslee.
Sen. Stabenow and Rep. Inslee joined labor, environmental and business leaders to release “High Road or Low Road: Job Quality in the New Green Economy” (PDF). The report challenges the assumption that all the newly created green jobs are good, middle-class jobs. The research revealed wide variations in wages, benefits and labor conditions, with some green-collar jobs paying as little as $8.25 an hour without benefits.
According to the report, wages were generally highest where local officials attached strict labor standards to economic development subsidies, or where workers were represented by labor unions. Wages were lowest where job quality requirement were weak or poorly enforced and where workers had no union representation.
Low wages were found in the construction industry where significant green job growth is anticipated. The report found that half of nonunion workers in basic construction trades earn less than $12.50 per hour while a third make less than the federal poverty wage for a family of four ($10.19 per hour).
The report also found examples of green-collar jobs that provided middle-class wages and benefits in each of the industries surveyed. These include: production workers in a Salem, Oregon solar plant where the average hourly wage is $22; union plumbers who earn $36 an hour plus full benefits in Portland, Oregon; and workers organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who start at $20 an hour in a cutting-edge San Francisco recycling facility.
A survey of senior managers and professionals who work on climate change issues found that 84 percent of respondents believe there is a shortage of qualified GHG staff and experts to undertake current needs and planned initiatives; 87 percent think this will be a problem in the future, according to the 2009 Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change Workforce Needs Assessment Survey Report (PDF).