California’s New Economy – Climate, Manufacturing, and Infrastructure Labor Standards and Community Benefits

California’s New Economy – Climate, Manufacturing,
and Infrastructure 
Labor Standards and Community Benefits 

The federal government is making historic investments in infrastructure and climate projects that will bring billions of dollars to California. California is poised to create millions of jobs in established and emerging industries in construction, manufacturing, and operations. However, there is no guarantee that these new jobs are automatically good jobs. Too often, new industries are built on low-quality, dirty, unsafe jobs that harm surrounding communities.

California must seize this moment to blaze a new path to the middle class by expanding jobs in construction and rebuilding our manufacturing base. That requires including labor standards in public investments to ensure the creation of good union jobs with community benefits for all Californians.  The state already has strong labor standards in public works and utility-scale construction that should be protected and expanded. To ensure good jobs in the new economy for manufacturing, operations, and maintenance, labor standards with community benefits must be embedded in all public funding including procurement contracts, loans, grants, credits, subsidies, and benefits like streamlining.

Below are Labor’s Principles to Build California’s New Economy in Climate, Manufacturing, and Infrastructure.

  1. Support Union Job Creation: There is no substitute for a collective bargaining agreement that gives workers a seat at the table. Investments in climate and infrastructure projects should include or support the negotiation of provisions that allow workers to unionize and negotiate higher standards without interference or intimidation. All public funds should require or incentivize mechanisms such as signed collective bargaining agreements, project labor agreements, labor peace agreements when allowed by law, or commitments to allow the free and fair decision to form or join a union.

  2. Job Quality: Public funding can support the creation of high-quality jobs that build a path to the middle class and spur economic development in regions across the state. Funding should prioritize applicants that can demonstrate they provide living or prevailing wages, if applicable, quality health care, retirement contributions, use of joint labor-management apprenticeship programs, skilled and trained requirements, full-time secure jobs, and proper classification of workers. The state should prioritize and coordinate funding for companies that have already demonstrated they meet these standards to set a high road industry standard for all employers.

  3. Workforce Equity Standards: The communities hardest hit by climate, racial, and economic injustice have historically been left behind when new industries emerge. To address inequity, the state must have requirements that companies do targeted recruitment, hiring, and retention of disadvantaged, underrepresented, and marginalized workers and have local hire policies to foster careers and prevent turnover. The benefits of projects should stay in communities and create an equitable path to the middle class for workers historically excluded.

  4. Community Benefits: The best way to create good union jobs that benefit, rather than harm, communities is to engage unions and communities from the beginning of the project. The state should require companies to submit community benefit plans that outline how they will engage labor and community in project planning and job quality and community benefits goals, including how they will meet federal Justice40 Initiative goals.  The plans should be specific, measurable, and enforceable and serve as a roadmap for how the company will make them a reality. These plans also serve as an important compliance and accountability tool to ensure public funds are not wasted. Companies that sign binding community benefit agreements to formalize partnerships should be given priority or bonus funding.

  5. Transparency, Implementation, and Enforcement are Essential: Without scoring and enforcement, labor standards and community benefits are meaningless.  The state can safeguard public money by using scoring that assigns weight or points to meeting or exceeding labor standards. Data submission and public transparency are necessary to monitor compliance and enforce standards with real penalties such as claw back of funding or other mechanisms. Companies also need a clear process and support to meet standards and engage meaningfully with labor and community. Pre-award disclosure and technical support for companies allows unions to connect and engage with companies to develop community benefit agreements.

  6. Build on Existing Models: There are already labor standards models at the federal, state, and local level that California can build on and expand on public funding. Federal funding requires a range of labor standards and community benefits using various tools to achieve the goals of building a new economy through climate, infrastructure, and climate jobs, and other tools have been used for decades to ensure labor standards on public projects. Models include the ARCHES community benefit agreement, Department of Energy’s community benefit plan template, the federally approved U.S. Employment Plan, among others. Many of these tools are flexible and can be shaped to fit the funding type, industry, and agency.

Whether investments in climate, infrastructure, and manufacturing projects create good union jobs and advance economic and climate justice is up to us. It is urgent that the state act now to support a new economy that builds a road to the middle class and a clean energy future.