Illinois labor groups today launched the Climate Jobs Illinois coalition to advocate for a pro-worker, pro-climate agenda. The coalition will push for a thoughtful but ambitious clean energy transition through practical policies that create union jobs in the clean energy sector to lower the state’s high unemployment rate, reduce its emissions and close the growing income inequality gap in disadvantaged communities.
The coalition represents hundreds of thousands of Illinois working men and women who are best suited to build Illinois’ new clean-energy economy from the ground up. By advocating for bold clean energy investments with comprehensive labor standards, including prevailing wage, apprenticeship requirements, labor peace agreements, project labor agreements and responsible bidder requirements, Climate Jobs Illinois is working to ensure these jobs create more pathways to the middle class, especially for communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
“Every parent’s dream is to provide a better future for their children. Building wind farms has provided my family a roof over our heads, food on the table and a cleaner tomorrow. With Climate Jobs Illinois leading the charge, our state will create more jobs like mine so everyone’s child can have a better future,” said Bob Howard, a wind construction laborer, member of LIUNA Local 362, and resident of Normal, Ill.
“The demand for solar power has been through the roof in Illinois. But without the state acting, my good-paying job and the progress we’ve made to cut emissions will end as quickly as a flip of a switch. Climate Jobs Illinois is going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Christine Blair, operating engineer-solar projects, member of IUOE Local 150, and resident of DeKalb, Ill.
“The Model T helped create the middle class by providing workers with a pathway to good wages and benefits in a union. I’m a former UAW member that worked at Mitsubishi in Normal, Illinois. I look forward to building the next generation of automobiles in the electric vehicle industry,” said Bob Thompson, a Rivian Press Operator, and resident of East Peoria, Ill.
“Families today are spending more time in their homes and want to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing comfort. The energy-efficient homes we build help protect the environment and save the owner money, and they provide our skilled carpenters with a good union paycheck to support their families. Energy-efficient homes prove that we can solve climate change and simultaneously create jobs, and I look forward to Climate Jobs Illinois helping create more opportunities to bolster our economy,” said Tom Vetter, a qualified installer, member of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Union, and resident of Orland Park, Ill.
“This job has been as reliable as the power coming out of the plant. Yes, the plant turns on lights across Illinois and elsewhere, but for us here in Byron, it has created a brighter future. We need our leaders to know that, and I’m grateful Climate Jobs Illinois is around to make sure that happens,” said Stan Bush, Radiation Protection Technician, IBEW Local 15, Byron, Ill.
Climate Jobs Illinois—which is independent of energy developers and utilities—will also focus on supporting workers as the state transitions with new clean-energy sector jobs, while meeting the immediate need to stem record job losses as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Since the pandemic began, Illinois has lost around 600,000 jobs. Nearly half of those will likely never come back. The pandemic has also highlighted the effects of growing income inequality in Illinois and across the country, with disproportionate numbers of black and brown communities suffering job losses and significantly higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death.
Governing Board leadership for Climate Jobs Illinois includes Illinois AFL-CIO President and Chair Tim Drea, Illinois Secretary Treasurer Pat Devaney, Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter and Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council President Ralph Affrunti. Executive Committee members of Climate Jobs Illinois are: Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers State Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, Laborers International Union of North America Midwest Region, Laborers International Union of North America Great Lakes Region, Service Employees International Union Local 1 and United Auto Workers Region 4.
Climate Jobs Illinois’ members recognize that introducing an ambitious but practical plan to invest in clean-energy infrastructure can drastically address the climate crisis while also closing the income inequality gap. In the coming weeks, the coalition will roll out a series of proposals focused on maximizing emissions reductions that create or sustain union jobs and apprentice programs in areas hit hard by the current economic crisis as well as by historic underfunding and discriminatory policies.
The coalition will put forward innovative proposals that support state renewable portfolio standards, the creation of new investments in wind and solar projects, improving fleet efficiency and enhancing public transit infrastructure, and improving energy efficiency in public, commercial and residential spaces. The plans will leverage Illinois’ clean energy natural resources, strong labor pool, ready-made apprentice programs and manufacturing infrastructure.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said: “Union jobs have built Illinois for decades and opened the door to the middle class for many families. We will need thousands more to tackle climate change and combat inequality — so I welcome Climate Jobs Illinois to the effort to create a cleaner future for our state.”
U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (Ill.-4th) said: “Workers and communities of color must be at the center of Illinois’ strategy to combat climate change. I’m thankful that Climate Jobs Illinois has formed so the state’s efforts result in good-paying union jobs that expand mobility and increase opportunity to the communities I represent.”
State Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. (D-Chicago), Illinois House Labor & Commerce Committee Chair, said: “Our community suffers the most from pollution, and it suffers the most from joblessness. Can we solve both challenges at the same time? I believe we can. But if—and only if—good-paying union jobs build Illinois’ clean energy future. I look forward to working with Climate Jobs Illinois to create those union jobs that provide opportunities to communities like mine.”
State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said: “We don’t have to choose between a cleaner future and hundreds of middle-class jobs for families. In my district, we’ve delivered both for decades at the Dresden nuclear plant. Having Climate Jobs Illinois around will keep middle class jobs at the center of the debate as our state looks to build a cleaner and better future.”
State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) said: “A union job is the path to the middle class in Illinois, especially Central Illinois. We urgently need more of them. I’m grateful that Climate Jobs Illinois will be in the fight so the state uses our strong labor pool and ready-made apprentice programs to get the job done.”
Climate Jobs Illinois is a state affiliate of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center. CJI has partnered with The Project for Middle Class Renewal at UIUC, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Cornell University Worker Institute.
“Illinois has a proud labor history fighting for fair wages and job security as a pathway to the middle class. It’s time to continue that tradition by creating the next generation of union jobs as we build a cleaner future for our state,” said Nikki Budzinski, executive director of Climate Jobs Illinois. “While a tall order, this crisis presents a transformative opportunity to reimagine our economy and create a cleaner, fairer future for our entire state.”