Shades of green - Page 2

The Green Issue: Will SF really use its federal 'green jobs' money to lift up working class communities?
Guardian illustration by Danny Hellman

The goals included ensuring compliance with equal opportunity laws and principles, promoting local hiring, providing maximum practicable opportunities for small business and equal opportunities for disadvantaged business, encouraging sound labor practices, and engaging with community-based organizations.

"But will all cities include achievable, measurable requirements?" Crowfoot said. "I don't think so, without federal guidelines."

This lack of specifics, Crowfoot says, has the City Attorney figuring out if San Francisco can include "first source" hiring requirements, in which hiring halls agree to interview graduates from local training programs first. If so, Crowfoot says, the city will seek to leverage existing funding for energy efficiency programs and conduct hire-locally campaigns in low-income communities.

But as Crowfoot notes, although we know that $1.5 million in ARRA funding is coming to San Francisco for weatherizing homes — helping to decrease the energy costs of low-income residents, reduce the city's energy demands, and increase the number of people hired from the local community to do energy audits and retrofits — we still don't know how many jobs will be created per project, which is the basic goal of economic stimulation.

"If we spend the dollars, say, on boiler replacement, that's more equipment and less labor," Crowfoot said. "But the more you hire locally, the more those folks get experience, the more they'll be well positioned to get jobs in the non-subsidized sector once the stimulus funds are gone."

Acknowledging the tension between laid-off union workers and graduates of apprentice training programs, Crowfoot said, "We are trying to figure out a balance, whereby the community is not shut out, but the unions' needs are addressed. We want to be careful about how many jobs we say are going to be created. We don't want to build hope in populations who already have a lot of mistrust in the government."

Michael Theriault, secretary and treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, told us that 25 percent of the region's 16,000 building trades workers are out of work, compared to nearly full employment last year.

In the past, the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council provided CityBuild with instructors and took the lion's share of the program graduates, Theriault explains. But under present conditions, the Council isn't keen on another CityBuild cycle.

"I think they should work to sponsor another cycle, but the ball is also in the city's court," Theriault said, noting that the ARRA-funded weatherization program could soon be offering prevailing union wages ($20 an hour for roofers, $40 to $50 for plumbers and electricians) that could help ease the tension. And then there's the inconvenient truth that some union members view non-unionized solar panel installers as "scabs," creating another barrier to using green jobs to lift the underemployed.

Mayor Newsom has until June to secure and implement stimpack funding as part of upcoming local budget proposals, a timetable that has Green for All issuing a call for action to ensure that Recovery Act implementation creates green-collar jobs, ensures transparency and accountability, and supports pathways out of poverty.

"This may be the most important opportunity you'll ever have to bring green-collar jobs to your community," Green For All wrote in a public statement. "But the planning process will be over in the blink of an eye, and your community could miss out. That's why we're calling on you to take action now."

Green for All field organizer Julian Mocine-McQueen is scheduled to sit down with Crowfoot this week in an effort to get Newsom to sign his group's pledge.