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Experiences at the Good Green Jobs for All Conference


I am currently attending the Good Green Jobs for All conference in Toronto organized by the Good Jobs for All, a community-labour coalition. This conference is bringing together over 550 people to discuss green jobs from the perspective of equity – how can we generate good green jobs that lead to eco-equity not eco-apartheid (a term Van Jones often uses).
You can find out more about this fantastic coalition that is doing trail blazing work at:

To give you a sense of their work, here is their description of Good Jobs for All:
Decent work is central to our fulfillment and well-being. Decent work provides people with a livelihood an identify and a sense of real belonging to the community. We must ensure there are good jobs for everyone, today and for the next generation. We reject policies which undermine and erode decent work.

I just finished attending the Green Infrastructure Renewal: Transitioning how we live workshop which included panelists followed by fantastic breakout groups that focused on developing 2 key campaign ideas related to green infrastructure development. Here are some notes I’ve taken on the panel.

Jenny Ahn: Membership mobilization and political action CAW
Chalo Barrueta, Executive Director Banyan Youth
Less Carbonaro, Representative, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 353
Katrina Miller, Campaigns Director, Toronto Environmental Alliance

After sharing some information on the Canadian Autoworkers, Jenny Ahn began discussing green jobs. She described CAW’s Made in Canada Matters campaign which aims to ensure that jobs stay in Canada but also, ensure that these jobs are good family sustaining jobs that help reduce our impact on the environment. Jenny shared comments on CAW’s experiences in campaigns for local procurement standards for Toronto Transit and discussed the recent success with the City of Toronto through a relevant committee to adopt procurement requirements for 25% local content.

Chalo Barrueta, who works with Banyan Youth, spoke about a number of projects underway to engage youth in green infrastructure jobs as well as barriers to progress in these projects. He mentioned Mayors Town Renewable, a retrofitting programme for existing high rise buildings and the interest that has been generated by youth in opportunities in associated green job employment. The Waterfront Employment Initiative is another programme that Chalo highlighted including the need to look at what training and hiring opportunities there are for green infrastructure jobs. Chalo also highlighted the need for more Canadian examples of successful green infrastructure jobs, similar to what Green for All and Sustainable South Bronx has provided in the U.S.

Les Carbonaro spoke to his experience as a 25 year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers on green jobs in the buildings trade sector.  In Toronto, many of the buildings were built in the 50s meaning, as Les described, they are “energy pigs.” There is potential in Toronto in the building trades for green jobs in addressing this inefficiency including upgrading of boilers, lighting, insulation and beyond. Les spoke of the impacts of the economic recession in the early 90s that resulted in unemployment rates in the building trade sectors of up to 35% and the hardships this caused, and how “greening” buildings played an important role in this period in reducing these hardships.

Les raised the inspiring example of a significant pilot project in which IBEW reached out to Chinese engineers who, having recently immigrated to our country, were experiencing trouble getting employment in their field, had been seeking jobs in the building sector. At the union’s expense, a programme was initiated for training in certain building sector skills. The response was overwhelming to participate in the programme and upon the end of the project, contractors were lining up to hire the workers.  A number of the workers that participated in the programme have now formed their own association – the Association of Chinese Electrical Workers. The IBEW is exploring ways to seek support to expand the programme.

Katrina Miller spoke to her experience with the Toronto Environmental Alliance, focusing on a number of policy examples TEA has worked with labour allies on to help expand green infrastructure opportunities. TEA has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Toronto Labour Council to capitalize on this wave to incorporate the green economy into the green wave.

Policy examples:
– Toronto’s Transit City project involving the expansion of light rail transit.  In addition to local procurement elements, TEA has been working with others to explore ways to better include communities along the transit lines to have local employment targets met.
– We need to make sure that we embed ourselves in this discussion from the environment, equity and community vitality sides.
– Mayor’s Tower Renewable (highlighted above). Katrina highlighted the importance of environmental, social justice and labour unions sitting at the table for planning ensuring that the jobs are as good and as green as they can be.