Study shows labor unions essential to fight climate change

Mechanical Insulators LMCT | NRDC Report | Unions Essential To Climate Change Fight

Insulators Local 50 showcased in report

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) demonstrates union jobs are essential in the fight against climate change.

Additionally, the study shows strong labor standards can shift to a clean energy economy and produce better outcomes for both workers and the environment.

Titled “United: Union Jobs Improve the Clean Energy Economy,” the report highlights various examples where labor has played a role in shaping the industries needed to shift to a cleaner, healthier economy.

“Our unions are positioned to lead the way as we transition to the clean energy economy of the future,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), during an online round table discussion to unveil the NRDC report.

The examples show how unions and their members have played a fundamental role in a successful transition to clean energy, and that strong unions help industries recruit workers and properly train them to help make the shift to support green initiatives.

One of the projects showcased by the report is the work performed by Insulators Local 50 at the Groveport Madison School District.

When the decision was made to build a new high school, school leaders made energy efficiency a top priority.

A contractor signatory to Local 50 won the bid after the Local released an educational video with extensive supporting documents to remind school board members of the economic and environmental benefits of high-quality, properly installed mechanical insulation for heating and cooling pipes and systems.

Representatives from Local 50 attended school board meetings and explained how non-union contractors often sell an inferior product that will create greater long-term costs. The documents also cautioned against not using the correct or enough mechanical insulation as called for in the specifications in an effort to cut project costs.

Local 50 members spent about 12,000 hours onsite performing insulation work at the new high school. The Local provided the material to officials considering seven other school construction projects in the area.

The members reputation for on-time, on-budget, high-quality work has spread around the area, as a $730 million expansion project at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus included specifications seeking workers trained through a certified apprenticeship program.

The NRDC report stated renovation work in Ohio in public buildings such as schools, hospitals, universities and municipal structures can reduce energy use in this sector by 20 percent, create or sustain 30,000 job years (a job-year is one full-time job lasting one year), reduce energy costs by $5.5 billion, and save more than 70,000 gigawatt-hours of energy by 2030.

“Most people don’t think about the impact of insulation on climate change, but it is one of the most effective measures we can take to reduce carbon pollution,” said Insulators Local 50 Business Manager Dan Poteet. “In addition to reducing the number of tons of emissions in the atmosphere, mechanical insulation is also vital to the health of buildings by preventing mold, slowing the spread of airborne disease and helping to stop fires. Insulation makes our buildings healthier, more efficient and comfortable, and is absolutely critical in fighting climate change.”

As the report details, the clean economy is already here and is increasingly being shaped by unions and their members.

“When more American workers see the benefits of being in a union, we will see communities transform and the work to transition to a clean energy economy will be more equitable and effective,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

The NRDC report concludes that Congress can foster high-quality jobs in the clean energy economy by significantly increasing funding for clean energy policies and programs and updating federal grant and loan programs, including those supporting clean energy, to require hiring from disadvantaged communities

It also calls upon Congress to create an enforceable federal safety standard to protect all workers, pass long-term updates to clean energy tax incentives with high labor standards and create new worker training programs.

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