Green Jobs Will Help Us Build a Sustainable Economy

As the President and Congress figure out how to jumpstart our economy, there is one very important thing we need to keep in mind: whatever we do needs to be sustainable. Not just a quick fix. I believe the President's focus on a cleaner green economy is exactly the kind of long term solution we need. It is also the kind of economy that Americans can afford to invest in for the future.

This week, labor, environmental and business leaders assembled in Washington, D.C. for the 2009 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference to share ideas and solutions for forging a new, green economic agenda. It may be a strange mix of folks, but when it comes to supporting fair and equal opportunities for American workers and our belief in the importance of a green economy, we are united.

We are facing the most serious economic and environmental challenges in a generation. We desperately need our government leaders to increase our investments in science, research and technology so we can grow a green economy and put millions back to work. These investments will lead to products that lessen the collective impact we have on our environment, making our world cleaner for future generations. The job growth potential is also amazing. According to a recent report conducted by the Center for American Progress, a $100 billion green investment nationwide could create two million jobs in just two years.

When I talk about job creation, I am not just talking about "employment." Americans need good jobs that pay well, offer benefits and have a future. Green jobs are good, union jobs. The typical green job utilizes the skills scores of middle-class Americans already have--from engineers to carpenters, electricians to steelworkers and farmers to truck drivers. They are jobs that will grow America's middle class and revive a manufacturing sector that has been in decline for far too long. America needs these jobs now more than ever, and it is important that these jobs stay with American workers.

Let me share two stories about two of our IUE-CWA union members: Rita worked for 39 years as a shipping clerk at a General Electric Lighting plant in Youngstown, Ohio. When U.S. employees at GE developed a light bulb that was more energy-efficient, they decided to produce the bulbs in China and closed plants in the United States. Rita was left searching for work during a recession. Across the state, a different story was unfolding in Springboro, Ohio. Shawn, an employee at Cobasys, manufactures hybrid car batteries. With increased demand for energy-efficient vehicles and a commitment by Cobasys to invest in U.S. production, the company has been able to grow from 6 to almost 200 employees over the past 10 years. We need more companies following Cobasys' lead. We need American companies to invest in American technology and produce products that allow us to reinvest in our economy here at home.

Together, we can do it. We can double the production of alternative energy in the next three years with investments in science, research and technology. We can put one million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015. We can build a future we are proud to leave to our grandkids. This is not protectionist rhetoric. This is how we build a sustainable economy.

Larry Cohen is the president of Communications Workers of America (CWA).