Merkley co-sponsors clean-energy jobs bill

WASHINGTON – At a press conference Thursday at the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Jeff Merkley , D-Ore., and AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka unveiled the Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act, major new legislation to create good-paying jobs in the transition to clean energy.

“This legislation will drive the creation of good, family-wage jobs as the American clean energy, infrastructure, and technology industry expands, by giving tax credits to companies who build out our new energy economy using strong pro-worker standards, such as high-quality benefits, living wages, and apprenticeship opportunities, said Merkley’s news release, which continues below:

“As the son of a union mechanic, I know firsthand the power of a good job and a solid paycheck to provide for a family,” said Merkley. “As the world transitions to clean and renewable energy, America has a huge opportunity to lead that transition, and to create millions of jobs in the process. We need to make sure the jobs powering our economy for the next century are good-paying, family-wage jobs.”

“This is the right bill at the right time to fight climate change and create the kind of family-sustaining jobs our country is desperate for,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “For too long, the corporate right-wing—the polluters and the union-busters—conspired together to create a false choice: a raising wages economy or a clean environment. We can and must have both.”

“Confronting the climate crisis requires that we not only invest in clean energy, but also the hardworking men and women building the next-generation energy infrastructure,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, the National Wildlife Federation’s vice president of environmental justice, climate, and community revitalization. “When workers thrive, so do our families. When workers earn fair wages, then we can all take part in the prosperity of powering America’s energy future, in a way that honors our values. Senator Merkley’s bill and leadership embodies these simple, but profound, ideas.”

“The Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act is a key step to ensuring the jobs created by clean energy are good-paying jobs,” said the BlueGreen Alliance’s Legislative Director Jessica Eckdish. “We applaud Senator Merkley and the other co-sponsors of the bill for their vision and leadership. They understand that we do not have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment; we can and must have both.” 

Merkley’s legislation is co-sponsored by 10 of his Senate Democratic colleagues, including Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Brian Schatz(D-HI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). The Good Jobs for 21st Century Clean Energy Act is endorsed by AFL-CIO, the Blue Green Alliance, the United Steelworkers, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), the Union of Concerned Scientists, Data for Progress, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the Plumbers and Pipefitters.

  Specifically, the Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act would:

 Create Family-Wage Jobs in the Clean Energy Economy

The Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act would establish high-road labor standards for projects in the clean energy space, including: 

  • Clear employment and safety standards through the Project Labor Agreement process.
  • Davis-Bacon prevailing wages and benefits.   
  • No mandatory arbitration.
  • Strong worker classification standards to ensure bone fide employees are not misclassified as independent contractors.
  • Ban the use of temporary staffing agencies unless the State workforce agency certifies that temporary employees are necessary to address an acute, short-term labor demand.
  • Explicit neutrality policy on all collective bargaining issues.
  • “Ban the box” hiring policy to ensure people with criminal histories have a fair chance to gain employment.
  • Apprentice eligibility for at least 20% of all jobs in each craft.

If a company meets these labor standards, they would be eligible for additional tax incentives as described below for their clean energy, manufacturing, or energy efficiency projects.

Build Clean Energy Infrastructure and Technology in America

The Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act would drive development of American clean energy infrastructure and technology by:

  • Creating a new 10% tax credit for qualifying clean energy generation facilities, storage, complete carbon capture technologies, manufacturing, and energy efficiency projects.
  • Codifying and expanding the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, with a specific directive to develop domestic clean energy supply chains.
  • Providing grants to manufacturers to improve their own energy efficiency, energy use, and competitiveness. 
  • Directing the Secretary of Energy to consider labor standards in loan guarantees under the Title XVII Innovative Energy Loan Guarantee Program.

Jump-Start Workforce Training and Development

The bill also creates a Clean Jobs Workforce Hub within the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative to convene unions, employers, industry and stakeholders to ensure adequate training and workforce development programs are in place to meet the needs of the clean energy future.

A one-pager summarizing the bill is available here. The full bill text is available here