Working on it

Four California groups that are fighting for good, green jobs

Not just green, but decent: Oakland Green Jobs Corps provides carpentry training and ecoliteracy classes at no cost

GREEN ISSUE With the recession fast seeping into the everyday fabric of American life (or at least Monday through Friday's fabric), the enthusiasm that the term "green jobs" generates can be well understood. But can we really call a $10 hourly pay rate for installing solar panels sustainable? And what would be the bigger of the two triumphs: creating a carbon-free country or a more equitable nation? With partnerships springing up across the country like the Blue Green Alliance, created by the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, maybe the two goals aren't so separate after all. Here are some West Coast organizations fighting to make sure that the environmentally-friendly jobs that do exist — and have yet to be created — pay a decent wage.



Created by the long-time civil rights champions at the Ella Baker Center and other community partners, this program recruits poor young adults to a 38-week course of study that recognizes what it takes to break the cycle of unemployment. Participants begin with classes in basic job skills, literacy, and substance abuse counseling, then continue on to classes at Laney College in basic construction skills, eco-literacy, and specialized green building practices. At graduation, participants are hooked up with well-paying jobs in the green construction sector or traditional building trade union apprenticeships — where their newfound environment-saving skills will make them leaders in the years to come.



Pray for change — or change the way you pray? Created 10 years ago in SF, CIPL, whose work has since spread to 38 state affiliates, aides faith communities of all denominations in greening their place of worship. Greatest hits include installing a geothermal heating system in a Berkeley synagogue, work on First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco, and tricking out a Bayview-Hunters Point church with solar panels on the congregation's extremely limited budget. Workers hired to make the holy places sing a song of sustainability are usually sourced from organizations like Richmond Build, which provides training to many people living in public housing and with criminal records.



Apollo Alliance, another nationwide coalition-building organization that got its start in SF, is making green jobs happen in Los Angeles — with or without federal dollars. The group sponsored the city's Green Retrofit and Workforce ordinance, which required that municipal buildings achieve LEED certification at the silver level or higher, prioritizing updates on the buildings that were near areas with low income and high unemployment rates. Linked directly to workforce training programs, the ordinance is already under attack in Washington by H.R.1, a bill that would strip its funding. But L.A. is making the first move on the threat — the city is hoping to fund the successful program through energy conservation bonds.



Readers should know that the president and founder of Interfaith Power and Light, Sally Bingham, has been so corrupted by PG&E influence (PG&E donates solar installations to the group) that she public opposed San Francisco's 2008 Prop H which would have mandated that San Francisco switch to 100% clean electricity.

The environmental and green jobs movement can do without the sham support of Interfaith Power and Light.


Posted by Eric Brooks on Apr. 06, 2011 @ 6:57 am

The commenter above has his facts wrong. California Interfaith Power & Light (CIP&L) "equals PG&E" (?) If so, then how is it that CIPL opposed and worked against PGE's priority initiative last year, Prop 16? Our organization takes positions based on policy, not which utility has what position. CIPL is a strong advocate for renewable energy, taking clergy to the Capitol each year to lobby for legislation to require utilities to purchase more clean energy. The commenter seems offended by PGE's support for a solar installation on one of our churches and misinterprets a personal stance. His time would be better spent fighting the real powers that be, like the fossil fuel industry, rather than attacking a small nonprofit helping congregations go green.

Posted by Susan Stephenson, Executive Director, CIPL on Apr. 11, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

Nonsense. Your founder and president appeared in television ads that speciously attacked Prop H specifically on behalf of PG&E. And you want us to believe that this is somehow magically separate from Interfaith Power & Light because of legal technicalities? Give me a break.

On Prop 16: Even Gavin Newsom (who has been bought and paid for by PG&E) was publicly against Prop 16, because it was such an outrageous overreach that no one who wanted to retain public integrity could do anything -but- oppose it. So fighting Prop 16 doesn't get you off the hook.

Get rid of Sally Bingham, and stop taking any donations of any kind from PG&E, and -then- I'll believe you are not corrupted by PG&E influence.

And you are not by any stretch of the imagination a 'small' nonprofit. You have affiliates all over the country, in 35 states and Washington DC. (Readers see )

There is nothing that makes me more angry, than clergy engaging in purposeful deception of the public.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Apr. 11, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

I generally dislike what PG&E does. It's a monstrous corporation with a reflex of stretching the truth until it breaks, a problem common in most all corporate PR. Though I'm not familiar with the incidents outlined here, I wholeheartedly agree that Ms. Bingham creates a conflict of interest if she shills for PG&E in a TV ad.

But I see no reason why refusing donations 'of any kind' is necessary. I would support anybody taking solar panels from PG&E as long as there are no strings attached--but of course PG&E would most likely try to tie anybody down with whatever is on hand.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

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