Today, the House passed a major and historic clean energy bill (ACES). In the midst of all the Michael Jackson coverage, you may miss a little-engine-that-could story of how a group of unlikely allies secured key “equity provisions” in the bill. It also shows that Green for All remains a potent force for good even as founder Van Jones has moved into the White House and Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, the new CEO of Green For All, has led us to a big win for the African-American community at large. As you know, both Van and Phaedra have blogged here at JJP. In the video above, you can see President Obama speaking in the Rose Garden to urge passage of this bill. You and all JJP community members can also take credit for this victory (go ahead, pat yourself on the back)!

For all the discussion about consumer protection from rising energy prices, ACES was a 1,000 page bill without a word about economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities.  Pretty outrageous for legislation that President Obama called “a jobs bill”.

As it turns out, this is also a story of a CBC Member of Congress coming to the rescue.  Thanks to Representative Bobby Rush, the national advocacy organization Green For All, and their partners, the bill passed with key provisions to ensure inclusion of low-income communities.

The two equity provisions that actually fulfill Green for All’s inspirational call that we give the jobs that most need doing to those who need them most are (drum roll, please) :

1. $860 million allocated to the Green Jobs Act. The Green Jobs Act, a major legislative victory for Green For All last year, creates training opportunities for workers who need new skills for clean energy jobs.  Such programs promise to be the first step out of poverty for many who are in desperate need of work.

2. Local access to quality jobs, through the creation of a green-construction, careers-demonstration program.
Rep.Bobby Rush authored this demonstration program, which will promote middle-class careers and quality employment practices in the green construction sector. The language in the bill empowers the Secretaries of Labor and Energy to ensure job quality standards for these green construction jobs.  It also ensures that a portion of the jobs will be accessible to low-income and local workers.

This second provision is perhaps the most notable.  If signed into law, this will be the first time that a local hiring provision will be included in federal legislation.  Wow. Local hiring is a proven best practice on the state and local level.  Through ensuring that a certain percentage of workers come from local and low-income communities, local hiring includes disadvantaged communities in the gains of new economic development, and, combined with training, pulls people without high levels of formal education into the workforce.

This policy is something that Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins became an expert in through her work in Silicon Valley, where, as chair of Working Partnerships USA, she negotiated “community benefits agreements” to ensure that low-income residents got a slice of the economic pie.

Even with these provisions, the bill is far from perfect.  Leadership in the House made many concessions and compromises, in order to craft a bill that would get through.

But the victory here is not just the inclusion of the equity provisions.  It is the way in which Green For All has steadily been building a broad coalition of prominent organizations, and ordinary people, that previously have not been engaged in the debate around energy and global warming.  The NAACP, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Center for Community Change, Democracia USA and more all lobbied for the equity provisions. And members of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, such as Representatives Rush, took leadership on the bill.

This is certainly a far cry from a year ago when, during the debates around the now-failed Warner-Lieberman climate bill, a campaign led by the Congress on Racial Equality (with dubious connections to the dirty energy industry) labeled climate legislation a “War on the Poor”.

In part because of Green For All’s instance that people of color and low-income people be at the center of the movement for global warming solutions, they have been able to bring in a broader range of partners than have traditionally been brought together over global warming.  Labor, environmental, civil rights, faith, social justice, and community groups all joined the push for the equity provisions.

Along with environmental and civil rights partners, they then mounted a 48-hour grassroots push — with your help — to ensure that the right language was included in the bill (it was, at the last minute, through Henry Waxman’s Manager’s Amendment), and once it was, that the bill passed.

Whatever the downsides of ACES (and there are many) one thing is clear: It wasn’t passed by your mother’s environmental movement.  Or civil rights movement.  It’s with your continued help that we will make sure that turning America’s economy around will mean future clean energy jobs for those of us who need them most.

Cuz the fact is that the fight ain’t over. Now it is the Senate’s turn to take on energy legislation, and the fight over the future of America’s economy is sure to intensify. We’ll be keeping you posted. On to the next battle, y’all. Nice work and congratulations to our allies over at Green for All.

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