by Michael Lawliss, JMA Senior Policy Coordinator
As states and cities begin to receive funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), President Biden signed off on two new laws that will continue the flow of federal funds to our communities. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act are landmark pieces of legislation that are likely to create hundreds of thousands of new, clean manufacturing jobs, helping us build critical domestic industries.
But we must ensure that we develop the economy of the future in an equitable way, providing opportunities for all. It will take additional federal and local action to make certain that the jobs created through these investments are good jobs that lift up workers and communities and address historic inequities.
The IRA makes significant investments to fight climate change. Here are some of the highlights:
- It makes historic climate investments through tax credits that incentivize renewable energy technology and clean transportation, including a $7,500 credit for consumers to purchase electric vehicles with batteries manufactured in North America. These investments are estimated to help our country reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030.
- It also includes $1 billion in grants for local governments to buy certain types of heavy-duty electric vehicles, including municipal vehicles and school buses. Jobs to Move America has been advocating for the electrification of school buses as an opportunity to give children clean air to breathe, lower carbon emissions, and create good union jobs in this emerging sector.
- It creates new manufacturing jobs, by investing more than $60 billion in clean energy industries like battery production, solar panels, offshore wind turbines, heat pumps and recycling. Additional tax credits will help jump start these industries in the United States.
- It addresses historic inequities by investing $60 billion in programs related to environmental justice, including projects to address legacy pollution and bring clean energy technology to low-income and disadvantaged communities.
Meanwhile, CHIPS and the Science Act includes nearly $40 billion to grow the domestic supply chain of semiconductors—which are essential components of electronic devices, including those powering clean energy and transportation—and $11 billion to encourage research, development, and other workforce training initiatives within the industry.
It’s encouraging to see so much federal investment, but we can’t stop there. There’s much more to be done to address climate change and stand with workers and communities that will most profoundly feel the impact of transitioning to clean energy.
As we develop our domestic supply chain for electric vehicles, solar technologies, offshore wind components, and semiconductors, we will need to work together to make sure these are good jobs, and that mining to extract minerals needed for EV batteries is respectful of the environment, workers, and the communities where they operate. It is imperative that the Biden administration work with community groups, environmental organizations, and labor partners to create strong job quality standards attached to this funding.
One change the Biden administration can make right now to center job quality in these investments is to update the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance. Allowing states and cities to consider job quality metrics, like the number of U.S. jobs created, wages and benefits, training opportunities for workers, and targeted hiring policies, will help foster a “race to the top” when states and cities spend public funds.
We look forward to working with the Biden administration on making sure these public investments benefit workers and communities and create good jobs with safe working conditions for those who need them the most.
The Local Opportunities Coalition and supporting partners wrote a comment in response to the Office of Management and Budget’s Request for Information on how the Uniform Guidance can be updated or revised to give state and local recipients of federal financial assistance more tools to create good jobs and promote greater racial and gender equity in their hiring processes.
The Uniform Guidance is a set of federal regulations that lay out how states and cities can contract with federal funds, such as from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act. For decades, states and cities have been asking the federal government to revise these regulations, and the Biden Administration has taken the first steps to making these critical updates.
See the comment below. To read more about this campaign, including details on our policy recommendations, please visit the Local Opportunities Coalition website here.
In April 2022, Representative Karen Bass, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Senator Tammy Duckworth led a letter signed by 73 of their Congressional colleagues in support of Jobs to Move America’s local hire campaign. The attached letter, sent to the Office of Management and Budget, advocates for updating federal regulations to allow cities and states to do local and targeted hiring on all federally-funded projects and to include other labor and equity standards in their procurement.
Yesterday, the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment brought us one step closer to ending the federal prohibition on local hire and empowering states and localities to create good jobs in their communities. The task force, led by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, released a report recommending executive actions the White House can take to strengthen unions and lift up workers in the United States.
Along with our partners, we made the recommendation to the Biden administration that they take a deep look at the Office of Management and Budget Uniform Guidance, get rid of policies that are stifling progressive innovation, and write language encouraging states and cities to use federal dollars to create good jobs for the people who need them most.
The task force was receptive to our ideas, and included many of our recommendations in the report! Some of these include:
- Identifying opportunities to update the Uniform Guidance to empower workers.
- Allowing consideration of job, wage, and worker empowerment impacts as part of the application evaluation process
- Ensuring that grantees have the freedom to apply worker-empowering, high-road conditions, including local-hire and PLA obligations, on their subgrantees.
The task force also recommended ensuring that federal financial assistance programs cannot be used to deny workers the right to organize.
Taken together, these provisions can substantially increase the ability of state and local agencies to use their procurement processes to create fulfilling, safe, high-road jobs for workers in their communities – especially for people of color, women, returning citizens, veterans, and other workers facing barriers to employment.
A little background
Among the recommendations was one we’ve been championing with all of our partners at the state and national level: removing the ban on local hire and permitting states and cities to take job quality into account when they spend federal dollars to procure goods and services. As the administration begins to implement the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, these policy changes will ensure states and cities have the necessary tools to create good-paying jobs for their residents and that the economic benefits from these projects remain in their communities.
The current ban on local hire is found within the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance, a set of regulations which dictate how states and localities can spend federal money in contracting. For too long, these regulations have made it next-to-impossible for states and localities to craft innovative, progressive policy when spending federal dollars. As the White House recognized, changing these regulations presents a real opportunity to open up federal procurement rules, and reorient federal government spending away from its current laser focus on competition and towards investing in our communities.
While this report is a strong first step, there is still work to be done. Jobs to Move America is committed to working with the Biden administration, our union partners, and the many national and local advocacy organizations within our network to get these policy changes across the finish line.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill currently in Congress presents an opportunity to rebuild from the pandemic and prepare for the worsening climate crisis. Both the pandemic and increasingly common extreme weather events have disproportionately affected BIPOC people and women—from those living in areas that are vulnerable to climate change to the women who have been pushed out of the workforce in droves.
Read more on Forbes.com