In summary

The auto workers and environmental group support AB 794 and the push for electric vehicles and high-quality jobs.

Lea este artículo en español.

By Roland Hwang

Roland Hwang is the managing director of the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, rhwang@nrdc.org.

Cindy Estrada, Special to CalMatters

Cindy Estrada is vice president of the United Auto Workers International Union, cestrada@uaw.net.

Green jobs should be good jobs. We need to make this more than just a catchy phrase in California. We can take action on climate change by incentivizing the purchase of clean vehicles and at the same time raise up the workers who make those vehicles.

As we emerge from the pandemic, the state has an opportunity to lead a just transition for workers in the manufacturing sector, and to ensure that disadvantaged and dislocated workers can benefit from quality manufacturing jobs. In this way, California can redefine sustainability by pursuing the twin goals of reducing harmful pollution from transportation and supporting high-quality jobs that sustain families and communities.

The United Auto Workers and Natural Resources Defense Council are proud to work together in the fight against climate change and for good union jobs. The seeds for this alliance were planted more than 50 years ago when the UAW made the first contribution to Sen. Gaylord Nelson’s Earth Day cause. 

We know, as former UAW president Walter Reuther put it, that “our members and their families are directly affected by the environment around them, whether inside the plant or outside the plant.” 

Now with the transition to electrification, UAW members’ work inside the plant will help improve the environment for us all.

We understand the importance of ensuring that electric vehicles are built in the U.S. and that the workers who build them are paid fairly, work in safe conditions and have the right to form unions. These goals are not in conflict, and with California leading the way, we can build a sustainable auto industry that raises up the people making the vehicles that will protect the future of our planet.

California’s leaders should act to transform clean vehicle incentives into true engines for sustainability that include workforce equity, the growth of union jobs and a clean transportation future. We can create a truly sustainable auto industry by ensuring that public spending is targeted to the purchase of vehicles that are manufactured by workers in the U.S. and that wages and working conditions meet high-road standards.

We are at a unique point in time and it is clear that what we do today will shape our economy, the auto industry and our communities for decades to come. Given the importance of this moment, we must take every opportunity to ensure that the push for clean vehicles is also a push toward high-road employment practices – high wages, good benefits, secure employment and the unfettered ability for workers to form unions.

Labor, environmental and community groups stand together in supporting Assembly Bill 794 and the goal of sustainability in our jobs, our communities and the energy we use to power our vehicles.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.