The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future
from the UC Berkeley Labor Center


On October 7, 2015, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 350 into law, committing California to increasing its Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50% and doubling energy efficiency savings by 2030. On stage at the signing were two state labor leaders: Robbie Hunter, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and Marvin Kropke, Business Manager of Local 11, the biggest International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) building trades local in the state. A statement issued by the California Building Trades to mark the occasion read:

The passage of Senate Bill 350 in the closing moments of the 2015 legislative session last week is fantastic news for Building and Construction Trades workers in California.

The legislation, strongly supported by the California Building Trades, increases the percentage of California’s energy that must be from renewable sources from 33 to 50 percent over the next 15 years. That creates an immediate demand for the construction of new renewable power plants—solar, wind and geothermal—along with transmission lines to tap into other sources that this bill now mandates must be built under prevailing wage. California’s Building Trades workers will now go to work by the thousands building those plants.

While there is no shortage of analyses on job creation in the renewable energy industry, there is a lack of research that measures the quality of these jobs and the ability of workers in the clean energy industry to build careers and support their families. Due to its aggressive climate policies and the size of its economy, California, by far, supports the most clean energy jobs of any state in the nation.

What has proven more significant than the sheer numbers of jobs, however, is the quality of those jobs. California’s renewable energy has been built primarily by the building trades unions, so the jobs have been good quality jobs—jobs that support skilled workers and compensate them with family-supporting wages and benefits. In return, the State Building Trades have been a powerful political ally for increasingly aggressive policies to address climate change.

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