Climate change is drastically impacting our economy, but it is simultaneously ushering in unprecedented opportunities. While many good paying middle class jobs in oil, gas and coal are being phased out, new careers in wind, solar and other renewable energy sectors are emerging.
Workers can take advantage of the opportunities resulting from this transformation.
Secretary-Treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO, Leonard Aguilar, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the Texas Climate Jobs Project — an initiative to help workers better embrace the opportunities of renewable energy — as well as the political climate of Texas as politicians and health officials grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Renewable energy — a job creator
The Texas Climate Jobs Project recently released a 55-page policy report, projecting that renewable energy can create over 1.1 million jobs.
The project is an effort for Texas workers and industries to hit the ground running and get in front of the climate crisis, Aguilar said. It strives to create solid, middle-class union jobs to address the crisis and embrace renewable energy expansion.
Aguilar acknowledged that such an effort will require many difficult conversations, but that is the point. While some union members partial to the oil and gas sector may not initially embrace the transition to renewable energy, there is an opportunity for good paying union jobs as the energy economy evolves.
Aguilar agreed that the issue has come into greater focus following February’s shutdown of the Texas power grid in the wake of an unprecedented winter storm.
Policy makers wrestle over COVID-19
Aguilar also discussed the fact that Texas was one of the largest hot spots in the nation in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The situation could become even worse as students begin returning to the classroom. Hospital ICUs are filling up and medical staff urge people to get vaccinated and wear a mask. At the same time, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a ban on mask mandates in public schools.
It is tragic that Texas has no leadership in any form that is proactively dealing with this crisis, said Aguilar. Though mask wearing is optional and encouraged by health officials, there are no mandates to do so. In fact, there are even government bans on such mandates. Also problematic is the fact under Texas education agency rules, positive cases of COVID-19 do not have to be reported to parents or students, he said.
It is unfortunate, as policy should follow scientific advice and not the whims of uninformed politicians, Aguilar said.
Voting rights in Texas under attack
Aguilar also discussed Texas Senate Bill 1 that would make it harder for Texans to vote. He praised Texas Democrats for fleeing the state and preventing a quorum from being reached to pass the bill.
Though the bill is being pushed under the guise of tightening voting security, it’s aim is really to keep Texas a Republican, red-leaning state, Aguilar said. Voter fraud is nearly non-existent, he pointed out. Meanwhile, several Texas Republicans were caught on camera admitting the purpose of the bill is to keep the state red and suppress Democratic votes, Aguilar said.
More needs to be done to protect voting rights, Aguilar stressed. Voting rights are workers rights. Since taking care of workers is the main mission of any union, protecting voting rights should be a priority of any union, he said.