(This article first appeared in the Sierra Club journal Sierra and is republished with permission.)
The late-June weekend heat wave comes on as predicted. By 10 a.m., it’s 90°F in a South Los Angeles parking lot where scores of local residents have gathered, lured by community leaders and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). Over the hum of the crowd, speakers take the stage for this Green the Block workshop: community organizers, environmentalists, labor union leaders and local politicians, all talking about the changing climate, the sputtering economy and the need to use less energy. It’s important stuff, but not particularly riveting. Meanwhile, it keeps getting hotter. By the time Ron Nichols, the utility’s general manager, takes the stage, the sun has chased people under canopies at either side of the lot and the chairs in front of him are almost empty.
At a time when there are so few programs that create good career-path jobs, it’s exciting to see one that is doing just that. RePower LA worked with IBEW Local 18 and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to support the creation of the Utility Pre-Craft Training (UPCT) program. Launched in 2011, this is a program that creates real jobs and has a real impact on the lives of real everyday people.
Recently, I was asked to attend a training session at a labor-management joint-training institute. I was excited to talk one-on-one with the men and women who have been accepted into this unique on-the-job training program that prepares workers for careers in the utility.
There were two things that struck me immediately when I met this group of trainees. First was the incredible diversity of the group: old and young,
When Californians passed Proposition 39 last year, they voted for more carbon reduction, school improvements and jobs – all through a five-year, $2.5 billion program using revenues from newly closed tax loopholes to pay for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Now state policymakers are making critical decisions as they craft the guidelines for this massive new investment.
School facilities are the primary target of Proposition 39 retrofitting efforts. But if the measure is going to deliver on its promises of carbon reduction, healthier schools and neighborhoods, long-term career opportunities and a timely economic boost for communities that need it the most, the proposition needs to be implemented right.
I’ve been studying the green jobs sector since its early days, and my research and observations suggest some important recommendations.
Last week I stood with hundreds of proud Angelenos outside the Department of Water and Power headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate a momentous announcement for the city and our environment. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proclaimed that Los Angeles will be completely off of coal power before 2025.
It will be a monumental shift.
“It took one hundred years to build up the power supply the DWP has today,” the Mayor explained, “but in a decade and a half, we’re going to replace 70 percent of it.” “Right now, 40 percent of our power comes from coal plants. But by 2025, that number will be zero.”
With the spotlight on our city, we were joined by national environmental leaders such as former Vice President Al Gore and Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune.
“This is a really big deal,” Gore said emphatically. “Americans worry that government is broken,
The recent summer was a time of troubled reflection for many families confronted by the kind of financial obligations that arise from an increase in energy use. They spent warm, restless nights worrying about the difficult decisions they’d have to make about how to spend their limited resources. As a canvasser for RePower LA, I was a first-hand witness to the struggles that Los Angeles residents are facing in their attempts to provide a decent-quality life for their families.
RePower LA is a coalition of community organizations, environmentalists, small businesses and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 that has been advocating for energy efficiency programs that create good jobs and provide services to struggling communities. During the long heat wave my fellow canvassers and I walked neighborhoods in Northeast Los Angeles to raise awareness about three existing and soon-to-be created energy efficiency programs, and to find people who could benefit from them.