The new economy: blue and green

Thank you so much to all the people who made the 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference such an enormous success! We enjoyed the fascinating panels, the robust discussions - and I’ll add that the complementary coffee didn’t hurt either.

On Tuesday, we heard leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, CWA President Larry Cohen, and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter speak about their experiences and their plans to help create well-paying clean energy jobs - whether through national legislation, union organizing, or state-wide grant programs.

That afternoon, attendees packed into a hotel conference room for our panel “Partnerships That Work: Good, Green Employers.” Moderated by our Socially Responsible Business Program Director, Nikki Daruwala, the panel highlighted real-life examples of labor-management partnerships that are not only helping companies survive the recession, but also transforming them into green, clean, and sustainable businesses.

Some panel highlights:

  • Panelist Molly Bordanaro, Senior VP at Gerding Edlen Development, Inc., share plans for her company’s latest green innovation: a “net zero consumption” building that produces as much energy as it consumes. Bordanaro credited skilled union labor with making Gerding Edlen’s success possible.
  • William “Butch” Johnson, CEO of Flambeau River Papers, told us that he actually grew up in a fairly conservative, anti-union household. But he now says unions helped him revitalize his community of Park Falls, Wisconsin after he bought his town’s bankrupt paper mill. Johnson rehired nearly 300 union workers, hammered out a contract over the back of a pickup truck, and calls the union an integral part of the company’s success. Flambeau is now developing an innovative biomass project that will make it the first pulp and paper mill in North America to be fossil-fuel-free.
  • Michael Peck of the renewable energy company Gamesa USA spoke about the value system that has to develop if we are to achieve a clean energy economy. “American is only going to be as good in the green economy as we are good to our people,” he told the packed room of activists, workers, and guests.

Over the course of Wednesday, American Rights at Work staff members were able to meet with hundreds of conference attendees as part of the Green Innovation Expo. Among the visitors to our booth were dozens of local DC students from the McKinley Technology Senior High School, the Friendship Public Charter School, Eastern Senior High School, and the School Without Walls Senior High School. The youth asked great questions as we spoke to them about the state of America’s labor law and the green jobs movement.

It was an inspiring way to end our GJGJ Conference experience. The world we pass down to those students is affected by everything we do here today. It’s not just about recycling and turning off the lights - it’s about building an economy that is based on values of fairness and decency. Just like we try to do with our planet, let’s leave the job market for them better than we found it.

We congratulate the folks at GJGJ for their incredible work - see you next year!

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