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03.26.08

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Green-Collar Jobs

Green for All movement prepares workers for the next wave

By Gianna de Persiis Vona


F or the first time, the Green for All Campaign will be traveling to Sonoma County from the East Bay to launch what could become a vital source of jobs for those most in need. Green for All is a national campaign created by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, based in Oakland, whose goal is to bring green jobs and training to the youth in low-income communities, to people of color and to marginalized people of all kinds.

Van Jones, a co-founder and executive director of the Ella Baker Center, birthed the Green Collar Jobs Campaign out of his understanding that if we are going to save the planet, we need to make changes that will necessitate the creation of tens of thousands of jobs. Green jobs have the potential to act as pathways out of poverty, and here, at last, is a chance to involve those who often suffer the most, both from lack of well-paying employment and from living in areas that are often the most severely polluted.

First, I speak with longtime Sonoma County activist Mary Moore, a key organizer of the upcoming event. Moore, who volunteers for Advocates for Police Accountability, believes that as a community, we need to make connections between our overflowing prisons, the lack of jobs and the limited nature of the environmental movement—a movement that currently seems to be only for those living in privilege. Moore believes the Ella Baker Center through its Green Collar Jobs Campaign will provide those who need the opportunities most a chance to flourish in what may soon be a driving economic force across the country: the creation and implementation of "green-collar" jobs.

After hearing about Jones' work, Moore contacted the Ella Baker Center and invited members to come to Sonoma County. Chops at the DeMeo Teen Center in Santa Rosa has generously donated its space for the March 29 event. The goal is to bring together a range of people—community members, local business owners, students and city officials—to begin organizing and focusing on ways to mobilize the Green Collar Jobs Campaign in both Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Moore connects me with Abel Habtegeorgis, communications manager at the Ella Baker Center. Since its inception in September of 2007, Green for All has pushed through the Green Jobs Act in the House of Representatives, authorizing $125 million for a federal green job-training program. The city of Oakland has so far donated $250,000 in seed money to start Oakland's Green Job Corps, a job-training demonstration program that aims to serve as a model for the nation, and Green for All is currently working toward securing $1 billion in funding for green-collar job training, in order to lift 250,000 people across the nation out of poverty.

Habtegeorgis tells me that the campaign is currently pressing for legislation that will ensure statewide investments in both green technology and green job training. The opportunities are out there—buildings to retro-fit, solar installations, water conservation, open-space landscaping, green demolition and green building, wind turbine installations and much more. These jobs are pathways out of poverty, and other cities across the country, such as Tallahassee, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga., are following in the footsteps of Oakland, and working to establish programs of their own.

Habtegeorgis stresses that there are segments of our population who keep missing the boat when it comes to financial security, and that this time, things are going to be different. The green movement needs to mobilize, he says, and when it does, the workers need to be there. Members of our community must be galvanized, not only to save the earth, but to employ our cities from within. These are jobs that cannot be outsourced, and the need is already growing. If the demand is put on the cities to provide jobs, training and opportunities, then new avenues will be opened that will not only provide financial security for many, but will open the doors of the environmental movement, thus breaking down the current paradigm of "green for those that can afford it."

In order to turn the tide on global warming, we all need to buy into the idea of carbon reduction and green technology. The Green for All Campaign will ensure that this happens in a way that will benefit all, not just a select few. According to the Green Jobs Campaign, a green-collar job is a good-paying manual labor job in green business, offering opportunity for advancement. The upcoming Green for All event is a chance to be a voice in your community and to hold city leaders accountable for the direction the city will take. For those already suffering from the blight of the recession and the end of the housing boom, this is an event not to be missed.

Green for All is scheduled for Saturday, March 29, from 1pm to 4pm, at the Chops Teen Center, 509 Adams St., Santa Rosa. For details, call 707.824.2248 or 707.545.6460. For more info on Green for All, visit www.greenforall.org or [ http://www.ellabakercenter.org/ ]www.ellabakercenter.org.


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