Why We Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop for Youth of Color on the Climate and Energy Bill

By Guest Columnist Jul 03, 2009

Written by Julia H. Rhee, youth organizer for Green for All The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) is the most extensive and, at over 1400 pages long, the largest climate and energy bill that’s ever been introduced onto the House floor. And if you’ve been following the battle to get it there, you probably know now that it’s been an uphill struggle for progressive communities. What you may not know is that three weeks prior to the House vote, the first draft of the bill contained no opportunity for communities of color and low-income communities in its goals of energy independence, clean energy, lowering carbon emissions, and job creation. Here it was, the largest climate and energy bill in the history of the U.S., racing at lightning speed towards the critical House vote, with virtually no provisions for marginalized communities, youth of color, and low-income people. With over 3.8 million youth, ages 18-24, neither in school or jobs, it’s clear we have to provide better opportunities to engage our young people. Particularly for youth of color who have been locked out of the education process and won’t follow a traditional 4-year college path, we need viable alternatives to the streets. We need to scale up healthy, career-track jobs that will allow our youth to advance and not be left behind. coalition of civil rights, social justice, youth, environmental groups and the labor movement introduced equity provisions to ACES that did just that. The Center for Community Change, Partnership for Working Families, National Employment Law Project, and Building Trades Department of the AFL-CIO worked with Green For All in developing a proposal for creating local access to quality jobs in ACES. It was then championed by Representative Bobby Rush and members of the Black, Hispanic, and the Asian Pacific American caucuses. This provision will mean that as green job contracts come down the pipe, quality standards will ensure they are good jobs, and local hiring practices will make them available to low-income local communities. Then groups including Green For All, the NAACP, Democracia USA, Partnership for Working Families, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the League of Young Voters led a big push to have this proposal included in the bill, along with almost $1 billion for green job training. Thanks to these improvements, ACES will finally provide the opportunity for people without high levels of formal education to gain skills, quality jobs, and careers in the clean energy economy. For Green for All, the equity provisions in ACES symbolize the possibility of change for our communities. They will expand green job training programs and local access to quality jobs. That means young people of color will have a place in the new clean energy economy. And the coalition that is developing as a result of this fight is a model for building inclusiveness and equity into the new economy from the beginning. Serve the people, serve the planet,