Labor and Global Warming Legislation: How Will Unions and Working People be Affected?

Source: Andrea Buffa
On the Move, Spring 2008
UC Berkeley Labor Center

The state of California is about to begin implementing some of the strongest anti-global warming legislation in the country. AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, will potentially bring with it important changes for labor. According to Labor Center Senior Labor Policy Specialist Carol Zabin, the impacts of AB 32 on workers and unions will depend largely on the details of its implementation. Policies could be implemented in ways that lead to net job creation or net job loss, to high-quality jobs or to low-wage jobs.

These topics were addressed at a recent event sponsored by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, Apollo Alliance, Redefining Progress and the California Labor Federation’s Workforce and Economic Development Program. The focus of the event was AB 32, the landmark legislation to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (a reduction of about 25 percent) and to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. The speakers also touched on green jobs like solar panel installation and the training that will be needed by workers who carry out those new green jobs, as well as other California climate change legislation like the Public Utility Commission’s efforts to make California buildings more energy efficient. Apollo Alliance Western Regional Director Carla Din outlined the economic sectors that may be affected by AB 32. She said that the Air Resources Board expects impacts on agriculture, electricity, land use, manufacturing (of cement and semi-conductors), forests, oil and gas refining, transportation, waste and landfills. She encouraged labor unions to get involved with the AB 32 implementation process: “I see it as an opportunity to capitalize on this momentum in the state and in the nation–you have the skills and you have the experience to direct the state in how we can do this right,” Din said.

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