A Strong Middle Class Blog

  • Green Jobs: Watch the Panels

    It's now been a week and a half since the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, but the lessons are still sinking in.  The ideas that emerged there will help inform the way in which the Vice President oversees the recovery act and the Administration transitions our economy toward a green future over the coming years.
    The panels alone are worth watching, certainly no less relevant or informative than the day were held, and give a good idea of the kind of vision the President and Vice President are hoping to implement.
    Green Jobs: What are They & How Can They Help the Middle Class
    Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund; John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress; Van Jones, President and founder of Green for All
    Creating Green Opportunity: The Roles of Stakeholders
    Governor Edward G. Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania; Mayor Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia; Leo Gerard, the International President of the Steelworkers of America; Cecilia Estolano, The Chief Executive Officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles; Mark Edlen, President of Gerding-Edlen, a Green Development

  • Images and Recap from Philly

    The Middle Class Task Force came to Philadelphia with a clear mission -- figure out how to make sure that our recovery from the current economic crisis benefits the middle class.
    Over the course of the Task Force's first meeting last Friday -- which we liveblogged, every step of the way -- we heard architects talk about how to build green jobs while building green buildings, labor leaders talk about how to make sure green jobs are good jobs, and policy experts talk about how to make sure Washington focuses on green jobs.
    You can read the Task Force's first full report (pdf), detailing how Green Jobs can serve as a pathway to a strong middle class, or view images from the slideshow below.

  • Liveblog: The Task Force's first meeting

    The Vice President and his team are in Philadelphia this morning for the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, with a focus on a green jobs as a pathway to a strong middle class. Greg Nelson from the White House Office of Public Liaison is attending the meeting and will be filing updates throughout the day.

    11:25 a.m.: The event site in Philly is hopping. We just arrived, and students and attendees greeted the motorcade with lots of excitement. The crowd arrived early and is starting to file in, a beautiful mix of community members, labor members, small business and green business owners, and environmental groups.

    11:53 a.m.: The line is reaching way out the door, giving folks a chance to meet each other and tell their stories. Just met Jim Bauer, who is the local United Steelworkers (USW) President at the Gamesa Wind Turbine facility in Fairless Hills, PA. Jim worked for US Steel at the same site for 25 years, but the plant closed. When it opened up three years ago making turbines, Jim returned to the facility and joined the machine shop. They've cranked out 509 turbines so far. Jim says optimism has returned because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

    12:08 p.m.: We're just about ready to get started here. Amazing stories at every turn -- people are hurting, but the optimism around green jobs is everywhere. Dave Johnson of the Laborers Union has been working with Newark community groups on a pilot project to help train community members to weatherize local homes. It is a win, win, win -- better, healthier homes for the homeowner, long-term skills and careers for residents, and reduced energy use and carbon for the world.

    (12:21 p.m.: Ed. note: The Task Force has just made public its first staff report, "Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class," which you can read in full.)

    12:37 p.m.: And we're underway. Vice President Biden kicked things off with a rundown of why this is so important -- in many states, green companies are some of the few that are hiring. We need to create more of these opportunuities, and -- reflected by the breadth of the audience today, people are hungry for it. Electeds, business leaders, labor members, community members, students, faculty, all wanting to get to work to make this happen.

    12:44 p.m.: Just as impressive as the crowd is the panel -- the VP, 6 cabinet secretaries (including newly confirmed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the author of the Green Jobs Act), and senior White House staff. Lots of praise for Senator Specter (R-PA) for making so many green job opportunities possible with his vote on the recovery act. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) is talking about the importance of the energy efficiency components of the recovery act, and how that will help cities like Philadelphia.

    12:46 p.m.: VP Biden just plugged the AStrongMiddleClass.gov and invited attendees to make sure they participate and contribute to the conversation even after today.

    12:50 p.m.: First presentation is from John Podesta from the Center of American Progress, then it will be Fred Krupp from the Environmental Defense Fund and Van Jones from Green for All. You can check out Krupp's presentation and handout, as well as a video from Jones.

    1:01 p.m.: Van's message is about providing opportunity and hope, and the moral responsibility to make sure this green wave is one that lifts all boats -- "a green economy that MLK would be proud of." The way to do that, he says, is to make sure green jobs crop up not just in rural and suburban areas, but in urban areas, too. To great applause: "There is a moral principle to green the ghetto first ... to give young people the chance to put down that handgun and pick up a caulking gun."

    1:05 p.m.: Van is describing the impact of opportunity and inspiration. The green dollars in the opportunity act are 'the hardest working dollars the federal government has ever spent....We need a new commitment, we need a new math, and we need a new ethic. And that's how we fight poverty and pollution at the same time." And for his own inspiration and push for opportunity, Van gets a standing ovation.

    1:20 p.m.: "when I see less carbon, I also see more jobs." That's from Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, which has invested a lot of time and energy into the details of how to make green jobs a reality. Fred is taking the remarkable vision of Van, and breaking it down step-by-step back through the supply chain: from end products (like solar panels or efficient windows or LEDs) to the components to the original raw materials. Where and how those supply chains get developed -- and the jobs each step in the supply chain represents -- is what will determine how well we can live this vision.

    1:27 p.m.: Members of the Task Force are now asking questions. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asked about gender in green jobs.Van answered by talking about where green jobs are headed: not just solar panel installations, but also managerial jobs, IT jobs, marketing jobs, and education jobs. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack mentioned the USDA programs supporting green jobs, and how popular and effective it is. He then asked about mayors, and what we can ask of mayors to help get this done. John Podesta answered: it's about scale. We need to create markets that can build and support this massive task and opportunity ahead of us.

    1:38 p.m.: Energy Secretary Chu asked: with all the energy efficiency money in the ARRA, how do we help spend it in a way that greats good jobs? Van: The moment is now. The money is here. Now it is about doing it right. Because we could do this poorly and wrong. But let's do it well and right, by:

    1. Using our existing workforce development mechanisms, community colleges, and labor apprenticeship programs.
    2. Sticking to High standards. The best trained workers in this area are our labor members. Help them bring it to fruition.

    Podesta added that we also need to leverage private financing, especially to reach neighborhoods and homes.

    1:44 p.m.: HUD Secretary Donovan: Part of the new math is about how we can leverage energy savings to help finance energy efficiency for individual homeowners. Where can we get the best data and thinking? Van: Great work at MIT. They've been working with unions, labor, and other partners on a program called Emerald Cities.

    1:48 p.m.: Education Secretary Duncan: How do we systemically give opportunities to students who need them? Too often, it seems like it relies on a remarkable social entrepreneur or non-profit to open those eyes and those doors. Van: starts early, in the curriculum. The greener, the more successful. 

    1:54 p.m.: Moving on to panel 2. Coming to the mics are: Governor Rendell (D-PA), Mayor Nutter (D-PA), Leo Gerard (United Steelworkers), Mark Edlin (President, Gerding-Edlin), Cecilia Estolano (CEO of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Authority)

    2:02 p.m.: After a quick break, the Task Force jumps right back into some heavy content. Gov. Rendell leads off. As a Governor, he makes the important note that much of the innovation in this area has been in the States. Rendell has 3 points he suggests the panel address:

    1. create markets through renewable portfolio standards
    2. direct incentives and support
    3. use the power of the government as a consumer to make change

    2:16 p.m.: And we finally get to hear from the host -- a city that Nutter himself called "stimulus-ready." Nutter is making green jobs a major focus in his economic development work in Philly. As he said in his testimony, whether you have a GED or a PHD, we've got a green job for you in Philly.

    A bit of news: the Knight Foundation is granting $1.1 million to the city's Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) to train workers for green jobs, in collaboration with the mayor's office.

    2:20 p.m.: Nutter: "'Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States, and we plan to be the first capital of green jobs."

    2:30 p.m.: One of the key partners in making green jobs a reality has been Labor, in particular the United Steelworkers of America. USW President Leo Gerard has been a visionary on this issue, and has been building coalitions with enviro groups for years -- he's a founder of the Apollo Alliance and the Blue Green Alliance. President Gerard's members are truly the engine behind green jobs -- 2700 people showed up at the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference this month. They are the machinists at Gamesa's wind turbine facilities, the glassmakers in window factories, and the line workers in battery manufacturing. And right now, some of those jobs are in danger because the markets have dried up. But the Recovery Act has a chance to change that. Let's make it count.

    He's also make a big commitment; that the Blue Green Alliance is going to develop a Green Jobs scorecard to help evaluate the impact of projects paid for by the Recovery Bill. A great addition. (Check out President Gerard's presentation.)

    2:42 p.m.: Cecilia Estolano is talking about the work that she and Mayor Villaraigosa have been doing in Los Angeles -- alongside now CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley (and LA's Vice Mayor for Energy and Environment). LA has been at the forefront of many of these conversations, with real results. Estolano ended by saying: 'Thank you, Mr. Vice President, it is so nice to -- finally -- have a partner in the White House." 

    2:50 p.m.: One of the healthiest (and at times very funny) undercurrents of today's event has been each speaker claiming that his home town or state is the greenest. It came to a head with Mark Edlen (of Gerding Edlen's), who claimed Portland and Oregon are the greenest -- highest rate of renewables, highest hybrid car ratio, etc. That prompted Estalano to stand up for LA, Nutter for Philly, and Rendell for PA. VP Biden finally brokered a truce by calling the competition "healthy" but maybe best left for after the meeting.

    2:54 p.m.: Mark Edlen talking now. He and his company -- Portland, OR-based architecture firm Gerding-Edlen -- in a lot of ways created an industry and market for green city living. He believes they can go further -- zero impact buildings. Gerding-Edlin just completed a 400-thousand square foot building that is off the sewer grid, and in fact puts water back into the system.

    Mark also talked about a new initiative by Governor Ted Kulongoski (D-OR) called The Oregon Way. Gov K has brought together a public-private board to evaluate potential projects to be paid for by recovery funding -- and to rate them based on their impact in jobs and sustainability.

    3:14 p.m. -- Biden wrapping up now. In addition to running the Middle Class Task Force, he's also the lead for Recovery Act Implementation, and he drew an important connection between green jobs, the middle class, and the Recovery Act. The act has tons of opportunity, he says, but a lot of hard work lies ahead in execution: openness, transparency, and impact -- it can be either a "platform or a tombstone." So let's get it right.

    Paraphrasing: Green jobs are not autonmatically good jobs without fair pay and strong standards...So let's be level-headed about this, and make sure we do it right, while making sure we acheive our first goal of directly impacting the economy. And do it with openness, transparency, and with accountability.

    4:21 p.m. -- (Ed. Note: Other big news today: Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced a major partnership between their departments that will use $16 billion in funds from the ARRA to help create green jobs. The high-level interagency task force will "make it much easier for families to weatherize their homes and spur a new home energy efficiency industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs.")

    4:50 p.m. -- (Ed.Note: The Vice President's full remarks from the opening of the meeting are now available.)

  • The case for green jobs

    Vice President Biden makes the case for Green Jobs as a pathway to a strong middle class in the following op-ed, which appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning.
    Green jobs are a way to aid the middle class
    Joseph R. Biden Jr.
    Today, in Philadelphia, the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families is holding its inaugural meeting. Our charge is to assess current polices and develop new ones aimed at helping the middle class, the economic engine of this country.
    The economic-recovery package that President Obama signed into law last week contains more than $20 billion for investment in a cleaner, greener economy, including $500 million for green job training. The task force's first order of business is to evaluate how investing in green jobs will help build a strong middle class.
    So what exactly are "green jobs"? They provide products and services that use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, and conserve energy and natural resources.
    Investing in green jobs also means keeping up with the modern economy. At a time when good jobs at good wages are harder and harder to come by, we must find new, innovative opportunities.
    According to the Council of Economic Advisers, green jobs pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs. They also are more likely to be union jobs. Building a new power grid, manufacturing solar panels, weatherizing homes and office buildings, and renovating schools are just a few of the ways to create high-quality green jobs that strengthen the foundation of this country.
    More green jobs can also mean more money in consumers' pocketbooks at the end of the month. They can reduce your electric and heating bills, leaving you more disposable income for other things.
    Right here in Philadelphia, for example, there are 400,000 rowhouses that could be weatherized and made more energy-efficient. Just doing that would lower household energy consumption by 20 to 40 percent, saving families hundreds of dollars a year.
    Fortunately, as we will stress in our meeting here today, Mayor Nutter, Gov. Rendell, and other state and city officials across the nation are ready to help us build a greener economy. Philadelphia, for example, is working with its unions, universities, and community colleges to impart green skills to workers from all walks of life. The city is also proposing a new public authority to support large-scale green investment, especially in weatherization, building retrofits, and infrastructure.
    We're excited to be in Philadelphia promoting an idea that has so many benefits. We're starting to make the investments needed to leave a cleaner world to our children while also creating good jobs right now. When you're creating green jobs, you're doing well by doing good.
    Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the Vice President of the United States.

  • Green job spotlight: Energy auditor

    Green jobs are going to be one of the primary ways the middle class benefits from the economic recovery. That’s why they’re the focus of the Middle Class Task Force’s first meeting tomorrow, in Philadelphia.
    But even though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was just signed, there are previews of the impact all over the country.
    The Philadelphia Inquirer today profiles Suechada Poynter, a 39-year-old woman who is a home energy auditor -- she checks for air leaks and improperly functioning furnaces to make buildings more energy efficient -- exactly the kind of job the ARRA will create:
    "Green jobs have opened a lot of doors for a lot of lower-class people to get into this field," said Poynter, a Thai immigrant and mother of seven who lives in Philadelphia's Logan section and earns $11 an hour for her work.
    "I'd tell him to open more doors to get more people into this field," she said. Passionate about the environment, she is studying architecture in college. "This is just the beginning of a bigger door," she said.

  • Green jobs and the Middle Class

    Update: The AP has a preview of Friday’s event:  The $787 billion economic stimulus bill Obama signed last week includes billions to help create such jobs as installing solar panels and building wind turbines, which also is part of his goal to nudge the country away from dependence on foreign oil and toward reliance on renewable forms of energy.

    It is Obama's belief that such jobs will help raise living standards for middle-class families, who didn't fare well before the current economic downturn set in and are now feeling pinched along with millions of other people who have lost their jobs and homes, and watched retirement and college savings disappear."
    Jared Bernstein, the task force's executive director, said middle-class incomes have fallen by about $2,000 in real terms since the start of the decade and that violates a basic American tenet: that you'll get ahead if you work hard and your children will fare even better.

    "Part of this election was about recognizing that a key part of any effective government's economic agenda had to be reconnecting the living standards of the middle class to that of the expanding economy once it starts expanding again," said Bernstein — Biden's chief economist and economic policy adviser.

    As Vice President Joe Biden often says, let's roll up our sleeves.

    Vice President Biden and the rest of the Middle Class Task Force get down to (official) business for the first time Friday, Feb. 27, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

    On the agenda: jobs. Green jobs. Lots of 'em.

    Half the cabinet will be there, along with top domestic policy aide Melody Barnes, top environmental policy aide Carol Browner, and Pennsylvania's Gov. Rendell, Sens. Specter and Casey, and Reps. Chaka Fattah and Robert Brady.

    But what are green jobs? Where are they? And how do you get one?

    Beyond the political heavy-hitters, a lot of clean energy leaders -- including prominent voices from the worlds of policy, non-profits, local government, labor, and business -- will be on hand to try to answer those questions, and these:

    --How can we change Washington to make green jobs a political reality? (John Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American Progress)
    --How can we ensure access to green jobs to everyone? (Van Jones, founding President, Green for All)
    --How do we connect people who need jobs to companies that need people? (Fred Krupp, President, the Environmental Defense Fund)
    --How can the federal government help bring green jobs to the middle class? (Carol Browner, Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change)
    --What's the role of the labor movement in creating green jobs and training workers for them? (Leo Gerard, International President of the Steelworkers of America
    --How do you create green jobs in a city? (Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia)
    --How can public-private partnerships help train people for green jobs? (Cecilia Estolano, CEO of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Authority)
    --What's the role for business? (Mark Edlen, President, Gerding-Edlen)

    We'll have much more from the MCTF's first meeting later in the week.