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Launch of ILR School’s Climate Jobs Institute celebrated

Groundbreaking work by the ILR School Climate Jobs Institute in organizing labor coalitions around creating good jobs to improve equity for people historically denied opportunity was celebrated by more than 200 people Jan. 25.

The Climate Jobs Institute has developed best practices for linking clean energy careers with social justice, and lifted the false dichotomy of jobs versus the environment that was disempowering to unions and workers, said Alexander Colvin, Ph.D., ’99, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and Martin F. Scheinman ’75, M.S. ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution. 

“We have freed unions from the corner they were pushed into,” he said at a launch event at the school’s New York City offices in Manhattan.

New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “This institute is a critical partner in New York’s nation-leading effort to address climate change.”

ILR and partners have made tremendous progress in the past 10 years in advancing climate jobs, and union labor will be at the heart of the transition to more climate jobs, said Reardon, a graduate of ILR’s Union Leadership Institute and an ILR Worker Institute fellow. “The village is right here,” she said at the event.

Climate Jobs Institute Director Lara Skinner noted that much of the U.S. social safety net is tied to employment. “If you lose your job, you can lose your health care, retirement benefits and the roof over your head,” she said. “That’s why making this transition to a low-carbon, climate-friendly economy is extremely difficult for many workers, union members and communities.”

“There is no “just transition” if there aren’t good jobs to transition to. Too many of the new jobs in the clean energy economy, often performed by immigrants and people of color, especially in the residential sector, are not high-road, high-quality, union careers that will sustain families and communities, she said. “And what became very clear is that addressing climate change could create enormous opportunities for working people, but only if labor was at the table and leading on developing solutions.”

The Climate Jobs Institute is part of ILR’s Center for Applied Research on Work. It is the academic partner of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center, a co-sponsor of Wednesday’s celebration along with Climate Jobs New York. The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability provided funding for some of ILR’s initial climate jobs work.

The institute has worked with labor coalitions and others for more than 10 years on research and policy that helps create jobs aligned with climate targets and advance economic, racial and gender equity. Labor coalitions in Maine, Rhode Island, Illinois, Texas, New York state and New York City have adopted plans developed by the institute.

Read the full story on ILR’s website.

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