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Center for Labor Research and Education


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Setting the Record Straight on AB 32 and Jobs

San Francisco Chronicle

The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education released a report in 2008 on jobs and California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, known as Assembly Bill 32. In that report, we concluded that AB32 would lead to net job growth in the state. Three years later, we still think generating new jobs in California is a great idea.

So we’ve been stunned over the last six months to see our research cited repeatedly by supporters of Proposition 23 who are working to overturn AB32. Most recently, Jim Kellogg of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union wrote an opinion piece (Insight, Sept. 12, 2010) citing our paper to claim that the law will hurt employment.

Kellogg is incorrect and we want to set the record straight – again.

We reported that new jobs would be created through greater energy efficiency and production of renewable energy. Our state’s leadership in clean energy policy will help generate opportunities for California by fostering leading-edge technologies, processes and products.

The fact that 67 percent of the United States’ clean energy venture capital is invested in California (with a dramatic spike in the year following the passage of AB32) suggests that clean energy policies attract capital and create jobs. In fact, jobs in the clean energy sector have grown by 5 percent during the recession while overall employment has fallen.

Our study noted that there are 3 million jobs in what the California Air Resources Board defined as “heavy carbon emitting industries” that may be affected by this clean technology law. We indicated that these industries would have to adapt to clean technology in the same way every industry has had to adapt as technology breakthroughs have occurred.

For example, when California switches to cleaner trucks because of the new law, the number of trucking jobs will not decrease, but the trucking industry will need updated processes and workers will need new skills in manufacturing, truck repair and maintenance. Our study found that additional investment in job training would be a good method for easing these transitions.

We also pointed to the negative impact on the economy and our communities if no action is taken to address climate change.

Kellogg’s piece may mislead readers to think that labor unions are for Prop. 23, but the ballot measure is strongly opposed by the vast majority of California’s unions. The California Labor Federation, representing more than 2.1 million California workers and more than 1,200 affiliate unions, voted almost unanimously in July to formally oppose Prop. 23.

Many unions are playing leading roles in shaping the clean energy economy. To name just a few, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is doing cutting-edge training in energy-efficient advanced lighting control systems and solar technology. The Communication Workers of America are advancing smart grid technologies that will help us use energy more efficiently. And the Sheet Metal workers are installing efficient heating and cooling systems that significantly reduce the consumption of peak-demand energy, the most expensive and dirtiest energy consumed in our state.

Taking one step beyond our initial report on AB32, it is our best, educated estimate that recession or no recession, Prop. 23 is the real threat to California’s jobs today.