Green Jobs, are they the cure-all for our economic woes? Where are they? How many jobs exist? When will they be more available? Where can I apply for one? What will they look like? These questions and many more are heard all over a nation badly in need of good jobs. And these jobs are good for the economy and exciting – right? Well, not so fast.
Take a close look at some green jobs and they suddenly look very familiar. As described in “Greenwash” in the December, 2009 issue of Hazards Magazine, the waste industry with one of the highest fatality rates in the US (36.8 workers per 100,000 – that’s 10 times the national average) has suddenly morphed into the “greener” recycling industry. “Green” wind turbine industry jobs may be very similar to existing manufacturing, construction and erection jobs in a green wrapper. And the manufacturing of solar cells currently uses chemicals like arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and ammonia.
OSHA Director, David Michaels, spoke at a NIOSH Going Green Workshop and stated the following, “It’s not a matter of choosing either a green future or safe jobs. It’s both. It’s all or nothing, and NIOSH, OSHA and everyone else needs to play a role in building this sustainable economy – an economy that will provide sufficient jobs, green jobs, and jobs that are safe for all workers.”
As unionists we don’t need to fear “green” jobs, in fact our economy and our future may depend on them, but we do need to be aware that a Green label does not necessarily mean safe and that workers in these new industries need the union’s help and protection as much the traditional industries where our members work.