Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Blue-Green Alliance Conference
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Good morning everyone!
It's great to be a part of this event today and speak with so many strong labor, environmental and business leaders across this country.
I understand my good friend Nancy Pelosi was just here.
The Speaker is a champion for the environment both in the United States and abroad.
I thank her for her leadership!
I want to thank Larry for that kind introduction.
And let me also thank Leo Gerard, Terry O'Sullivan, Carl Pope and all of the leaders of the Blue Green Alliance and its member organizations for their dedication to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy.
Congratulations on growing this conference - it could not come at a better time!
Our economy and our workers are facing many challenges today.
Our unemployment rate stands at 9.7% and 15 million people are out of work with millions more underemployed.
For our youth and persons in underserved communities these numbers are shamelessly higher.
This is unacceptable.
While the steps we have taken over the past year have begun to put the economy back on the right track we still have a lot of work to do.
Together we must "invest, innovate, and act" to restart our economy.
Green jobs can re-start our economy and put Americans back to work.
Green jobs can secure our energy supply and promote economic sustainability.
Green jobs can rebuild our communities more equitably... including all Americans regardless of socio-economic background.
Our workers are our nation's most valuable asset and it is critical that as we invest in clean energy jobs, we ensure they are good jobs for everyone.
This means we are investing in the manufacturing sector so we are exporting products not paychecks.
It means encouraging and, at the same time demanding, innovative partnerships.
It means fair wages, retirement security and affordable health care.
It means workers having a voice in their workplace, with the right to organize and bargain collectively.
And it means every worker going home safe at the end of their shift.
Let me pause here because we all know this has been an intense month for worker safety.
We lost 29 miners in West Virginia, 7 steelworkers in Washington State and 11 workers lost off that oil rig in the Gulf Coast.
Let's please have a moment of silence for those workers and their families.
Leo you and I both know 14 workers die a day in this country.
These are not just numbers.
Each one of them is a person treasured by their family and loved ones.
I brought you this poster Leo because I know you'd appreciate it.
It has a quote from Mother Jones "Pray for the dead, but fight like hell for the living."
I think everyone in this room can agree no one should go to work afraid that they might not return home safe after their shift.
Whether it's a dramatic explosion or slow steady exposure to unsafe chemicals, we can and we will hold employers accountable and say NO MORE to preventable accidents and injuries!
That's why green jobs must be safe jobs.
Just because we are moving from blue collar jobs to green jobs, there should no trade-off for worker safety!
Green doesn't mean less, it means MORE!
This is what I am working toward at the Department of Labor.
And, while safety is a priority, we are also working to put people back to work and assist unemployed workers who need our help.
And that's why our President, with the help of Speaker Pelosi worked to pass the Recovery Act.
This effort provided a crucial safety net for millions of Americans, created and saved millions of jobs, and at the same time put a down payment on the future of our country and economy.
As you all know, I have long been a believer that careers in the clean and renewable energy sector were going to be the jobs of the future.
That is why as a Member of Congress I authored the Green Jobs Act.
Now as your Secretary of Labor we have been begun to make the necessary investments to make green jobs a reality for all Americans!
We've invested more than $500 million in worker training and labor market research for jobs in the clean energy economy and high growth industry sectors.
We pushed for innovative partnerships and directed training toward underserved communities where the recession created unique sets of challenges.
When I announced these new training grants I did it at Sharp Solar in Memphis Tennessee a union facility that used to make televisions and kept good jobs in their communities because now they make solar panels.
I think one of the best kept secrets is the union apprenticeship and training programs and I am working to tell that story because that is part of how we ensure these are good jobs with real career ladders.
And I am proud to be working with many of you to ensure that women, African Americans, Latinos, veterans, and young people members of all communities and workers like my Father a teamsters shop steward in a battery recycling plant who organized his immigrant co-workers - have access to these good jobs.
So we invest in training for individuals that may lack job readiness skills or literacy or need childcare or transportation.
And we invest in training programs for all workers to move them up the career ladder into better opportunities.
That means portable credentials and standards for training.
That means making sure these are GOOD JOBS.
That's why I am proud that many of them are recipients of the grants the Department has awarded!
At the Department of Labor, the Recovery Act grants were just the beginning of our investment in the clean energy economy.
We are "greening" our entire system.
From registered apprenticeship programs to YouthBuild and Job Corps... from our Disability Employment Programs to our Women's Bureau and our programs for Veterans.
From enforcement of worker safety laws to prevailing wages and project labor agreements, the Department of Labor is innovating and investing to prepare our workforce for the clean energy future!
During my time in office, I've traveled throughout the country and I've met with workers, employers, labor unions, and community based organizations.
I spoke with young men and women in Arkansas learning manufacturing skills.
I toured lithium battery facilities in Michigan.
I've met with coal miners in West Virginia.
And I have visited with returning veterans in San Antonio.
I have seen the difference that green jobs can make and have made in their communities.
I know there is a place for all of them in a clean energy economy.
A place for them in safe, secure and good jobs.
That is the commitment I have brought to the Department of Labor.
By working together, we can make sure that clean energy jobs are not just jobs but green career pathways for vulnerable populations and sustainable employment for the middle class.
Let's invest, innovate and act to secure our clean energy future... we can create this new future together!
That is our President's vision and it is my commitment a new green economy that strengthens all of us
Are you fired up?
Are you fired up?
I know you are and I am too!
Thank you for all your hard work.
Now let's roll up our sleeves to get Americans working again.