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Green industry, unions must solve problems for the good of the planet


The July 13 article “Workers Wary of Green Plan” describes the reservations expressed by union leaders about the state’s green energy proposals. Unions will naturally resist changes that threaten jobs. The opposition between work and green energy is inevitable. But it can and will be solved.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” illustrated the conflicts that arose when the open rangelands of cattle herders were fenced off to become farmers’ fields, a land in transition with clashing visions. A major shift was to occur like the one our energy system is currently undergoing.

Unions and green energy don’t have to initiate this kind of opposition, as the appointment of AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento to the Climate Action Council shows.

And by signing legislation that expands wage requirements for future renewable energy projects (one megawatt and up), Governor Kathy Hochul is ensuring renewable energy jobs will support families. It has also signed the Utility Thermal Energy Network and Jobs Act, which will create employment opportunities in the replacement of energy systems.

Of course, the transition from the 22,000 jobs lost expected to the 160,000 jobs gained by the energy evolution will involve some reconversion. But Dave Wasiura, assistant to the director of United Steelworkers, underestimates his workers when he says, “You can’t just put the 55-year-old steelworker with a basic education in a classroom” and say “Good luck. ‘”

Why not? They learned to do their current jobs. I think he could show a lot more confidence; after all, as the song goes, “Territory people should stick together, Territory people should all be buddies. Cowboys dance with the farmer’s daughters, farmers dance with the rancher’s daughters.”

For the sake of the territory (the planet), we can learn new skills as we evolve.

Barbara Burge