The Senate HELP Committee has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday, April 21, 2009, entitled "Empowering Workers to Rebuild America’s Economy and Longer-Term Competitiveness: Green Skills Training for Workers." No announcements yet regarding substantive detail or witness appearances. Observers will note that the name of the hearing includes language resembling that of past hearings to discuss EFCA, but with the added "Green" angle. Regular readers of this blog recognize that creating so-called "Green jobs" was one of the five pillars of the economic recovery plan announced by President Obama in a Georgetown speech earlier this week.
The Blue Green Alliance is a joint effort of the environmental and labor lobbies to advance issues of purported common interest. Many commentators and bloggers have tried to make the argument that the Employee Free Choice Act would benefit the environmental movement. Much of this argument is based on (a) wishful thinking, and/or (b) the political reality that more union density likely means more campaign money for Democrats which may, in turn, lead to a larger Democratic majority able to pass a greater segment of its agenda — notably, greater environmental regulation.
But Slate’s Brady Yauch questions how easily this might be accomplished in The Big Money:
The green jobs initiative gets even stickier when it comes to unions—a major supporter of the Obama administration and his fellow Democrats. GJF’s report noted that very few workers at wind and solar jobs were backed by collective bargaining agreements. And in at least two cases, the company leaders were found to have run aggressive anti-union campaigns, aided by union-busting consultants.
Unions have been in the spotlight recently, most notably for their contribution—as their critics like to point out—to the demise of Detroit’s Big Three. As lawmakers and business leaders across the country battle over the Employee Free Choice Act (which would make it easier to unionize workplaces), that fight is likely to get quite heated. But as money from the stimulus plans starts to make its way to the coffers of green companies, the importance of the union in the nation’s manufacturing heartland will flare up once again.
Now, if the Obama administration decides to add stipulations to federal money, in effect, forcing green companies to accept unionization or implement wage requirements, then the political battle over the stimulus package will likely reach new levels. Forcing the nation’s major companies to accept de facto unionization is not going to sit well with the business elite. But if the administration doesn’t ensure that some of the new green manufacturing jobs help boost union membership, it may suffer a serious backlash from one of the biggest supporters of the Democratic Party.