October 2, 2009 Volume 110 Number 19

Portland in line for ‘Emerald City’ green jobs pilot program

Portland is one of 15 U.S. cities being considered for participation in a new project known as Emerald Cities.

The Emerald Cities Collaborative — led by the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) and environmental justice groups like Green For All — proposes to do a comprehensive city-by-city energy efficiency retrofit of America’s urban building stock. The goal is to reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of government, commercial, and residential buildings — and generate good jobs, as well as pathways for women and minorities to careers in the building trades.

Starting in five cities, Emerald Cities Collaborative will offer organizing assistance, training investments, and help raising private capital to local coalitions of labor and minority community groups.

Many details are still being worked out, but as envisioned, local alliances of labor and minority community groups would pool their influence on local elected leaders to try to get public support for city-wide retrofits. Women, minorities, and low-income residents would be targeted for access to the jobs and contracts, which would include wage and quality standards, and commitments to training, so that workers could move beyond entry-level weatherization jobs.

The BCTD would develop a cross-trade retrofit training curriculum for the workers, which would serve as a standardized pre-apprenticeship program preparing participants for apprenticeships in the building and construction trades. And low-income neighborhoods would have priority in getting the residential retrofits, both as a matter of justice and practicality. Typically older, less well maintained buildings are where the greatest energy efficiency improvements can be made.

Portland-area building trades leaders heard about the project at a Sept. 22 meeting at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 hall. The decision will be made by the end of October whether Portland will be one of the first five cities to take part.

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