ThinkProgress Green is reporting live from the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York City.America’s labor unions are banding together to accomplish what Wall Street bankers and multinational corporations have chosen to ignore and Republicans have fought to prevent — putting people back to work rebuilding the United States. A billion-dollar collaboration between unions and public pension funds is spearheading a nationwide effort to invest in energy efficient infrastructure projects, labor leaders announced today at the start of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting.
With his initial announcement of the unions’ accomplishments, Bill Clinton praised their willingness to seize an opportunity the nation’s bankers have ignored — figuring out innovative ways to make money by putting more people back to work, instead of increasing profits by laying off employees. “They are America’s employment banks,” Clinton said of the union-pension fund partnership. “This is a huge deal.”
This summer, at CGI’s first meeting dedicated exclusively to challenges within the United States, the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers established the goal of using union pension funds to invest in American infrastructure, particularly energy efficiency projects, with the goal of creating good, long term jobs for American workers:
This commitment, made by the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and developed in collaboration with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and Center for American Progress (CAP), encourages union pension fund managers and trustees to invest up to $10 billion in assets of working families into energy efficient infrastructure as an opportunity for America to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, develop new industries, enhance our global competitiveness, and reduce the threat of climate change.
In less than three months, these unions have made great strides. The AFL-CIO and AFT are now working with many other employee unions, including SEIU, AFSCME, NEA and the Firefighters. In California, the public pension funds CalPERS (public employees) and CalSTERS (teachers) have already pledged $1.1 billion for specific green infrastructure investment projects. Moreover, CalPERS hopes to expand its $800 million investment in California green infrastructure to a $4 billion nationwide effort.
AFL-CIO has surged past their initial $20 million commitment for energy retrofit projects, as the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT) has funded a $134 million dollar energy efficiency and asbestos removal project in New York City. The union has committed several hundred million dollars towards projects around the nation, working with Fannie Mae and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to renovate homes and businesses.
This project represents not just an investment in cleaner infrastructure, but also a smarter workforce, with a deep commitment to worker training.