Final Report for UC Berkeley Contract with the Contractor State License Board for contract CSLB-20-01, entitled “Energy Storage Systems Consultant Services”
Labor-Management Partnerships Program
Carol Zabin (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) directs the Labor Center’s Green Economy program. She is a labor economist whose research has addressed low-wage labor markets, labor standards, workforce development, and other economic development and labor issues in the United States. Dr. Zabin has consulted with numerous unions and nonprofits on strategies and policies to improve jobs in human services and the green economy. Her current research focuses on the impact of climate and clean energy policy on California’s economy, workers, and labor unions. Recent publications include Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs and Climate Action Plan for 2030, Diversity in California’s Clean Energy Workforce, Advancing Equity in California Climate Policy, and Workforce Issues and Energy Efficiency Programs. Appointed by Governor Brown, Dr. Zabin sits on the executive council of the California Workforce Development Board. Before joining the Labor Center, Dr. Zabin was on the faculty at Tulane University and UCLA.
A series of briefs summarizing the recommendations for some of the critical climate sectors addressed in the Jobs and Climate Action Plan for 2030: electricity generation, energy efficiency, electric vehicle manufacturing and charging infrastructure, public transit and infill development, trucking, and waste.
Jobs v. environment is a false choice. And with the pandemic-induced economic downturn and the fires hurting Californians around the state, it’s clearer than ever that we must make meaningful progress on both fronts simultaneously, crafting an economic recovery that advances equity, climate resilience, and job quality.
California’s ambitious path towards a carbon-neutral economy is complex, involves and affects different industries and occupations in multiple ways, and holds both promise and challenges for the state’s working families. The analysis and recommendations here present actions that show a high road to climate policy is both valuable and feasible.
This report analyzes a major barrier to successful implementation of new clean truck standards: the common trucking industry practice of classifying (and often misclassifying) truck drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.
Recognizing things will change for workers in a decarbonized economy, the County of San Diego has undertaken a study to better understand how different policies may affect the region’s labor force and to identify tailored workforce development resources to adapt the skills of our region’s workers, including those from disadvantaged communities.
Zabin wrote that it’s hard to estimate the true impacts on natural gas jobs right now due to a “lack of clear policy signals” and research on the topic.
Dr. Zabin spoke about the current leadership of Gavin Newsom as governor, and Joe Biden as president, and the opportunity to advance climate solutions during their terms. This means labor, as well as environmental preservation. All will have a seat at the table to confront the critical issues we share.
“When the labor market does its thing, we produce tremendous wage inequality and tremendous growth in low wage jobs,” said Carol Zabin, who directs the Green Economy Program at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center.
“The folks who are justifiably critical of the conventional approach say it’s about train and pray — train a bunch of people in skills that you think they might want and pray that they might get hired,” said Carol Zabin, co-author of research for the UC Berkeley Labor Center that backed High Road.
Providing support for workers affected by the energy transition could prove critical to accelerating climate action, Zabin said. If these communities fear they won’t be able to support their families, she said, their fear will turn into resistance that may stall climate policy.
Excessive focus on job training, the declining power of unions and other trends over the last few decades mean that green energy jobs are, in many cases, not the quality, family-supporting jobs still available in the fossil fuel industry, according to Carol Zabin.
“It’s a stark choice,” says Zabin at UC Berkeley. “Either we have low-wage, dead-end jobs or we use the tools of government to make companies better employers and create real careers.”
“Instead of spreading the cost of new cleaner technologies to whole industries, you’re putting that on the backs of workers,” said Carol Zabin.
As president, Biden would have a number of means at his disposal to enforce better labor standards in the industry, said Carol Zabin, a labor economist who directs the Green Economy Program at the University of California, Berkeley. His administration could make sure individual workers aren’t expected to cover the costs of environmental initiatives.