When the Green Jobs Act was passed by Congress in 2007, and then later funded through the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), dozens of training programs were established to help address job shortages in low income communities and meet the need in green industries – like energy efficient building construction, renewable electric power, and home weatherization – for skilled workers.
After gathering more than 2,000 petitions calling for ARRA (federal stimulus) dollars to land in communities of color, Got Green won a green jobs training grant for Southeast Seattle and White Center. In 2010 we partnered with the Laborers International Union of North America to develop our region’s only union-certified, neighborhood-based Weatherization Installer Technician training. By March, 2011 our training program had graduated 27 low income workers, providing them with the skills to enter the home weatherization sector.
Got Green then worked to secure three hiring agreements with City of Seattle weatherization programs that put our graduates at the front of the line for jobs. What we could not have predicted was the slow start in the home weatherization industry. The on-going recession made homeowners fearful of taking out new loans for home improvements. And while Got Green worked hard to connect graduates to diverse job opportunities (20 graduates landed jobs in green or social justice sectors), one year after training less than half had found jobs in weatherization.
Meanwhile the unemployment rate was holding steady. African American workers were out of work at a rate double that of white workers. Instead of wringing our hands over the weatherization industry short comings, Got Green rolled up its sleeves, and began knocking on doors, reaching out to unemployed workers of color and women workers, giving voice to community demands for jobs, and strategizing with about how to win some relief.
The birth of the South Seattle Jobs Committee gave Got Green a new focus on the “built green” construction industry, as well as public transit construction projects, that together could provide hundreds of job opportunities for low income communities of color.
When abolitionist Frederick Douglas said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress;” he didn’t stop there. He went on to say that “those who profess to favor freedom, but deprecate agitation are those who want crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning.”
– Got Green 2010-2011 Organizing Report (April 2012)
Got Green holds fast to our vision that this new, green economy must uplift our communities by providing equity and opportunity while healing our planet. Yet we know it’s going to take more organizing and maybe a little thunder and lightning before we get there.