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Spisak for State Rep- 60th District

How to Bring Renewable Energy Jobs to the Valley

Promote clean alternative energy and create new alternative energy manufacturing in our valley.

Dennis Spisak will work to create a cleaner Mahoning Valley, produce alternative energy sources, and create new jobs.

Life: Education - Health - Environment - Food - Religion - Living

Bring Eco-Power to the People

Van Jones, activist and visionary.
Eros Hoagland for TIME

Annie Schumake stands outside her one-story house in the depressed city of Richmond, Calif., just north of Oakland, and watches her electric meter slow to a crawl, stop and then begin to tick backward. Schumake's solar panel, just installed on her roof and partly financed with low-cost loans from the city, is supplying free power and more. The panel was put in by a team of local workers trained by area nonprofit groups that prepare unemployed Richmondites for jobs in the burgeoning green building field. "I'm happy because I'm saving money," says Schumake. "But I'm also saving the planet, and that's the major one." Van Jones, the dynamo promoting the project, breaks into a wide smile of his own. "Power by the people, for the people," says Jones. "This is the vision of the future right here."

A few years ago, the Oakland-based human-rights activist came to a realization. If the U.S. accelerated the transition to a cleaner economy, millions of jobs in green construction and alternative energy could be created. Those jobs--call them green collar--were exactly what unemployed residents of cities like Oakland needed. Environmental activists and inner-city minorities--two groups often segregated by race and class--had a common interest, and it could help extend the coalition against climate change beyond hard-core greenies. "Polar bears, Priuses and Ph.D.s aren't going to do it alone," says Jones, 39. "Everything our friends in the eco-Úlite do will vanish unless we find a way to expand green jobs to the rest of the economy."

You couldn't create a better advocate for the green-collar movement than Jones. A Yale-educated lawyer who founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, the magnetic Jones moves easily between worlds, at home preaching to inner-city high school students or mixing with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. But everywhere Jones goes, he repeats a simple message. "Give the work that most needs to be done to the people who most need the work," he says, and solve two pressing problems--pollution and poverty--at once.

For the environmental movement, embracing Jones' message means recasting global warming not just as an existential threat but as an enormous economic opportunity. It's a narrative that is particularly resonant with low-income workers who are likely to bear the short-term economic burden of cutting carbon only if they believe there will be a personal payoff for them in the long run. Says Jones: "They need to see green in their pockets."

It may be a while before many of them do. Jones successfully lobbied for a $250,000 pilot program, the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, but tepid public support elsewhere has kept green employment from taking off. Still, the promise is real. A study by the Cleantech Network, which tracks green investment, found that for every $100 million in green venture capital, 250,000 new jobs could be created. To speed that transition, Jones and Majora Carter of the Sustainable South Bronx in New York City recently launched Green for All, a campaign to secure $1 billion in government funding to train a quarter-million workers in green fields. "We're looking for an environmental Marshall Plan for the 21st century," says Carter.

Jones has even greater ambitions, believing the green-collar movement can reshape politics in the U.S. by breaking down old barriers on the left and the right. A few hours after helping Schumake get her solar panels, Jones traveled across the bay to San Francisco's ornate city hall, where his organization received the first-ever environmental grant from the Full Circle Fund, a Bay Area philanthropic network. Jones had the tough task of following Al Gore, who had delivered the keynote speech, but he still brought the house down. "When we bring together the best of the business community and the best of the tech community and the best of the racial-justice community, we'll get the coalition we always wanted." Even better, he adds, "we'll get the country we always wanted." In his vision, that means the map won't be divided between red and blue, but will be all green.

This is the type of jobs program Dennis Spisak will bring to the 60th District to

help save energy and produce new jobs for our inner-cities.


Let's turn the Mahoning Valley into the Alternative Energy Manufacturing Giant!

The green-collar jobs movement just got another major boost: a groundbreaking new report underscores how the growing green economy can provide high quality jobs for those who need them most. The author, Professor Raquel Rivera Pinderhughes of San Francisco State University, is a leading national expert on green-collar jobs.

This report deepens our understanding of how to harness green business growth to build pathways out of poverty. Prof. Pinderhughes' research provides us with critical guidance as we develop the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, the nation's first attempt to carry out the model that Professor Pinderhughes describes in her report.

Professor Pinderhughes is a key partner in our Green-Collar Jobs Campaign. She is on the steering committee of the Oakland Apollo Alliance, and is a senior advisor to the Ella Baker Center and Green For All.

Some highlights:

Green businesses need workers, offer training, and pay well.  Of the Berkeley green businesses surveyed by Professor Pinderhughes:

  • 86 percent hire workers without previous direct experience or training for green-collar jobs.
  • 94 percent provide on-the-job training for workers in entry level positions.
  • 90 percent pay the full cost of insuring their workers.
  • 73 percent of businesses stated that there was a shortage of qualified green-collar workers for their sector, with the greatest needs in energy, green building, mechanics and bike repair.
  • The average hourly wage for green-collar work in Berkeley is $15.80 plus benefits. This is $4.00 higher an hour than Berkeley's current minimum "living wage," which is the highest in the nation.

Workers with barriers to employment want green-collar jobs.  Analysis of men and women in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco with barriers to employment revealed that:

  • 89 percent wanted to learn more about green-collar jobs.
  • 61 percent expressed interest in being contacted in the future so they could receive training to work in a green-collar job.

Prof. Pinderhughes summarizes the report:

Poverty, unemployment and racial inequality are significant problems in the United States, and there is an urgent need for a new source of living wage jobs for low income residents with barriers to employment. Where can these jobs come from? This research project shows that an important part of the answer is the deliberate cultivation of "green-collar" jobs.

Spisak for State Rep * 548 Poland Ave* Struthers* Ohio * 44471

Dennis Spisak- Progressive Ideas for a Progressive 60th District