Workers, Activists Discuss Future of Clean Economy at BlueGreen Alliance Roundtable

About 50 Steelworkers and their allies attended a BlueGreen Alliance roundtable at the United Steelworkers (USW) international headquarters Friday morning, joining panelists in a conversation on how to create family-sustaining jobs that also combat the effects of climate change.

The panel, which included representatives from business and labor, discussed the opportunities for expanding green industries, as well as the government policies that are needed to ensure job growth as the country transitions to alternative energies. 

“We don’t have to live with that old adage that you can’t have a good job and a clean community,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Tom Conway. “You don’t have to destroy your environment to have a job that pays well. But we have to have a government that promotes this idea and has policies that drive good jobs while building our renewable energy infrastructure.”

This means dedicating resources to infrastructure investments, like aging gas pipelines, that have strong buy American provisions. It also requires consistent commitment from policymakers to tax credits and other incentives that help get local businesses in clean industry off the ground.

Brad Molinick, a member of USW Local 2635 at the Gamesa wind turbine plant in Ebensburg, Pa., cited the Production Tax Credit (PTC) as an example of an incentive that needs to be more consistently available.

The credit, which is set to expire in December 2013, helps drive demand for the wind turbines Molinick and his local make at Gamesa. Yet after a series of expirations and short-term extensions on the credit, investors are growing wary and have not been purchasing as aggressively.

“To compete, we need certainty. We need sustainability,” said Molinick. “We need to put in place a longer extension to the tax credits. This is the manufacturing of the future.  There’s this opportunity, and we could really take off and bring manufacturing back to America, but we need certainty.” 

Conway warned that if Americans don’t manufacture things like wind turbines themselves, other countries will take the lead.  “If we commit to alternative energy without investing in jobs, it doesn’t do us any good.  We need to be the ones building the supply chain,” he said.

Below USW International Vice President Tom Conway (left) and
Brad Molinick, a member of USW Local 2635

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