In terms of “bang for the buck,” the most important green jobs of the future look a lot like the low-tech home insulation jobs of the past. That’s because dollar-for-dollar, home insulation is the cheapest way to reduce energy use and combat climate change. But the jobs don’t have to be low-wage too. In a state-sponsored program now entering its third year, workers earn a living wage insulating attics and walls, and Portland-area homeowners even have the option to choose union-signatory contractors.
The program, Clean Energy Works Oregon, uses in-program financing and rebates of up to $1,500 to eliminate upfront costs for homeowners. Homeowners who take out loans through the program have the option of paying them back on their utility bills.
“It’s not rocket science, insulating a home, so people tend to get paid a lower rate,” said Abacus owner Jim Plantico. But thanks to a Clean Energy Works Oregon requirement that participating contractors pay at least 180 percent of Oregon’s minimum wage, workers earn at least $16.11 an hour. As a union-signatory contractor, Plantico said, Abacus pays 3 percent over that to cover union dues, and offers a better set of health benefits through the union health trust, plus paid holidays and vacation.
Homeowners can plug into the program and get a union-signatory energy audit at weatherizeforgood.org or by calling 503-893-9240.