Green For All gets Wheels Rolling in City Transit, Wraps up Its Fifth Year with Wins for Workers

Green For All (GFA) is truly an organization unto its own, creating wins for a Green Economy that, has received almost no legislative attention.  When the U.S. government faced severe immobilization with great partisan divide over such basics as government funding for Medicare extensions, few people are surprised by the void of Federal leadership in matters related to the Green Economy.  What began as inspired evocation of a potentially sustainable future through investment in alternative energy solutions during Obama’s first bid for president in 2008 has petered into silence, punctuated by the Keystone Pipeline and pock-marked by a fracking boom.

Meanwhile, communities of color and low-income communities have endured a prolonged recession and poor job prospects without skills to meet labor demands in increasingly technical fields.  Good jobs, education and economic opportunity have always been at the top of the agenda for these communities; meanwhile, environmentalism has been long assumed to lack relevance.

Green for All continues to disprove that faulty assumption by making plain the link between livelihood development and environmental sustainability in minority urban and low-income communities.

However, in this stark landscape, Director of National Partnerships Shamar Bibbins reports that Green for All has been forced to play defense, attempting to ward off conservative efforts to dismantle the EPA (and local environmental protections in states like North Carolina) or hold back the Pipeline roll-out.  They’ve had little time to move a progressive agenda forward and gain needed ground.

The  exception to such immobility has turned out to be public transit.  Green For All provided strategic support to an landmark partnership that aims to on-shore jobs in public transportation throughout the U.S.   The partnership took shape in 2013 as Los Angeles Department of Transportation worked in conjunction with LA Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) to pilot a new agency request for proposals that helped to on-shore manufacturing and related jobs that might have gone to overseas contractors.

The commitment is a result of the City’s voluntary application of a policy tool titled the “US Employment Plan”, developed by LAANE and groups from University of Southern California (Program for Environmental and Regional Equity) and UMass Amherst (Political Economy Research Institute).  The US Employment Plan also includes a component for recruiting and training new workers—creating opportunity for those with less experience.  As a strategic partner in the U.S. Employment Plan, Green for All facilitates engagement between local communities, city and federal officials.

As Green for All celebrates 5 brief years in existence, it also celebrates this significant evolution in the public transit sector, where US-based manufacturing should be the norm, but is not always the priority. The result of LA’s commitment to US-based manufacturing is an estimated 300 new  jobs, 100 in LA itself. In May of this year, the Federal U.S. Department of Transportation quietly ok’d the program for testing and application by other transit agencies.

Green for All helped move the needle in Chicago and Maryland where transportation officials plan to add new provisions in their requests for proposals, encouraging potential suppliers to disclose how many US jobs will be created as a result of awarded contracts. Companies with bids that include training and employment components to expand job opportunities would receive favorable “credits” in the city’s bid review process.

With 20 US cities facing pending transportation procurement processes in upcoming years, Green for All aims to help unions and community advocates hold cities accountable for their manufacturing and supplier selection.  Green For All goes a step further to help ensure that equity issues remain in these important conversations about government procurement.

What else is on Green for All’s packed agenda for 2014?

  • Promoting leadership of emerging people of color environmental leaders at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Build capacity of green small businesses throughout the country
  • Elevating the work of nearly 200 Green for All Fellows—in fields from policy to gardening—around the country
  • and, Advancing the interest of communities of color in the national climate change debate.
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About C. Sala Hewitt

C. Sala Hewitt
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