Workforce development policies can serve as a vehicle for an equitable transition to a green economy and mediate labor disruptions, while supporting an economy that centers workers and frontline communities. Green public investments can expand the productive capacity and environmental sustainability of the American economy, but reliance on market-based mechanisms to facilitate decarbonization will only reproduce existing inequities in a greener economy.

The Climate Justice Alliance’s Just Transition framework articulates three principles that should shape the process and practice of the energy transition—equity, reparation, and justice—and workforce development policies can serve as a vehicle for that framework. Besides supporting the growth of the renewable energy industry by providing the skills that match the occupational demands of the green economy, workforce training can facilitate the transition of workers out of fossil fuel industries, while improving job quality and worker power and promoting inclusive decision-making. 

Workforce development policies can provide distributional and procedural justice by mediating labor disruptions, can increase equity in local labor markets by increasing worker power and reducing corporate monopsony, and can repair the legacy of marginalization and exploitation that characterizes the fossil fuel economy by prioritizing inclusive decision-making.

In “Workforce Policy for a Just Transition,” Alí R. Bustamante explains that to develop a green economy and the phase-out of fossil fuels, policymakers should implement robust workforce development policies that:

  • Mediate labor disruptions by protecting displaced workers and increasing employment opportunities for marginalized workers; 
  • Increase worker power through higher compensation, improving paid-training standards, strengthening collective bargaining rights and promoting employment opportunities at various employers in the renewables industry; and
  • Prioritize workforce development and green infrastructure investments in communities that have endured the worst of the fossil fuel economy by implementing community benefit agreements and providing local communities with decision-making power.

Read the rest of the “All Economic Policy Is Climate Policy” series.