Fight for green jobs for all


by Rachel Dykoski • Last Friday the Green Jobs/Good Jobs conference ended, after a morning plenary that featured Winona LaDuke and Van Jones, where we were stimulated by more than hope, concerned with something more than green jobs.

Rachel Says – Thoughts, from the political to the personal, by Rachel Dykoski

We were volun-TOLD to bring about social justice for all. NOW!!!

LaDuke has an ethereal style that’s blithe, right and true. She can tell people how her people – Anishinaabeg / White Earth Ojibwe, have known global warming was coming for centuries and say “we told you so” in a classy way.

“Native people have borne the brunt of America’s past energy policy,” she reminded us, “from uranium mining in the southwest to massive hydro-electric projects in the sub-arctic. It is time for energy justice, and it is time for a new energy policy.” (More about LaDuke on her website.)

Van Jones is the hippest, most fly brotha’ around. Jones is unique — accessible in his tone, jubilant yet relentless at the same time. He is able to transform complex problems into clear, concise concepts, and here’s the kicker: he then provides solutions to them. And invites you to join him in his efforts. (More about Jones on his website.)

The plenary ended with an un-prayer by Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., a patriotic, no-holds-barred, sanctified hip-hop messenger for peace and prosperity. The Rev. told his story:

Reverend Yearwood served in the Air Force, was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base as its chaplain and was later asked to address the Commander in Chief, his whole battery of staffers and troops about to deploy to Iraq in early 2003. That’s when Reverend Yearwood delivered the much e-mailed essay, “Who would Jesus bomb?” Needless to say, it didn’t sit well with the 43rd president. The Air Force didn’t cotton to it either. And you can read how his assignment and service ended from his own pen.

He fast forwards his account of actions in the name of justice and they are awe-inspiring. But what is irrefutable is how righteous leaders are vilified, discounted and stomped. In 2007, Rev. Yearwood was attacked by Capitol Hill police as he tried to enter the General Petreaus testimony to the Armed Services Committee. Wanna’ see how fear-mongering is done? Here’s the video: He was hospitalized and still limps from this altercation. Amy Goodman interviewed him soon after, and broadcast his tale here.

Reverend Yearwood ended his account, saying, “This isn’t a prayer. This is your call to action.” He had conference attendees stand and join hands. The un-prayer sent chills through us. It mocked nay-sayers and non-doers and called us champions for change … protectors of future generations. Heroes. When he was done, I cried and clung to people beside me. We were called to arms by this man of the cloth. He encapsulated so much of what labor and environmental leaders said to us. His spirit moved us to joyful tears and reverence and action. Oh yes, the Rev was real cool.

But you know what? I wasn’t alone there. More than 100 folks from Minnesota were in attendance. One of the people I clung to was Senator Margret Anderson. Both she and Representative Jeremy Kalin came for the conference.

Imagine my surprise, a few days after the kumbaya moment, to read H.F. No. 680. It was penned by Kalin. And he left a lot out. There’s a nod to Native American inclusion. But the under-represented, under-served, women are sorely missed. It’s filled with code words that minorities know will elicit their exclusion.

They’re entering into testimony and debate today. But you gotta’ read this to appreciate what’s being done on a state-wide level. I’m beyond disappointed. Kalin’s legislation takes a green blanket to green jobs that may help union brothers in need, but at the exclusion of those who may need it most.

Black since birth – hyper-vigilance is a way of life. But won’t you join me in this struggle?

When I see phrases like, “Existing providers of weatherization services must be fully utilized before additional providers of weatherization services are added” I hear, non-union, want-to-be included minorities have to wait their turn.

Congresswoman Hilda Solis and policy advocates made sure that the green jobs act, which passed in 2007 explicitly stated that minorities outside of trade unions must be included in skilled labor training. So, I’m telling you either Kalin didn’t read it. Or someone outta’ show it to him. His legislation hopes to receive funding from the stimulus. And that funding will be instructed by the energy bill that contains the green jobs act. But his legislation restricts the inclusive vision of that 2007 law.

Smacks of modern-day Jim Crowism and what residential transplants call “Minnesota Ice”.

Stand up. Take action. Be heard.