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.
“Certification can really support good wages, and it does identify skills that help employers know what they’re hiring,” says Zabin.
Without a statewide plan, funding and timeline to support oil workers, Carol Zabin said, a just transition “sounds like an invitation to a fancy funeral.”
“Fossil fuel workers are unionized,” Carol Zabin, director of the UC Berkeley Labor Center’s Green Economy program, told Recode. “Most clean energy workers are not.”
“It’s really important as we move to a carbon neutral economy that we don’t let all the cost fall on one small group of workers who’ve really built up our energy system over the years and powered our economy,” said Carol Zabin.
“As we develop the specific policies to address greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the economy… we really have to incorporate labor standards and labor policies that result in good jobs in those industries that we are trying to change,” Zabin says.
Carol Zabin said she and her team — which included a chemical safety expert — found little difference between the cost of a solar system installed by a firm using certified electricians and a firm not using certified electricians.
Some critical coalition-building opportunities in California have already been lost, according to UC Berkeley’s Carol Zabin, director of UC Berkeley’s Labor Center Green Economy Program and a governor’s appointee to the executive council for the California Workforce Development Board.
“Over time,” says Zabin, “the skilled and trained workforce standard allowed the Building Trades to have enough leverage with these contractors and these oil companies to get project labor agreements on this work.”
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.