Solar and wind energy projects can put people to work without imperiling the planet. But will these jobs be friendly to workers, as well as the environment?
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the United Steelworkers (USW) want to ensure that unions have a place in the emerging low-carbon economy. After decades of organizing workers in the fossil-fuel-intensive mining, refinery and utility sectors, they see the winds shifting. Refineries and coal plants are shutting down and taking jobs with them, thanks to a combination of market forces and new climate policies enacted after years of public pressure. Last year, the number of jobs in oil and gas fell by 18 percent, while those in renewables increased by 6 percent.
While this is good news for the environment, it could cut into unions’ membership. In response, they’re launching campaigns to organize workers in the clean energy sector.