Illinois lawmakers introduce union worker-centered green energy bill

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — A bipartisan group of state lawmakers unveiled sweeping legislation proposed by a labor coalition they said would create thousands of clean energy jobs and address inequality Monday, March 29.

The Climate Union Jobs Act, proposed by Climate Jobs Illinois, would set labor standards and diversity hiring goals across the renewable energy industry, which includes solar, wind and nuclear. 

“This legislation is an important milestone as our state works to build a clean energy future,” said State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris).

Among its many provisions, it would invest $50 million in job training programs, increase diversity with new reporting and enforcement requirements, and establish new accountability requirements for utility companies.

“This bill puts people first, it creates jobs and economic opportunity, it provides clean energy, provides clean air and energy security,” said Illinois State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville).

The Climate Union Jobs Act also assists schools in making the transition to clean energy by creating a Carbon-Free Schools initiative. The state’s 3,300 public schools would be outfitted with rooftop solar panels.

Schools will also receive $30 million a year for five years to convert their fleet of buses to electric. The first electric vehicle-to-grid buses in the country were unveiled last week in Pekin.

“It tackles two crises: it tackles climate change, it tackles the inequality, and it’s going to put people back to work,” said Illinois State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort).

The Illinois AFL-CIO, a member of the Climate Jobs Illinois coalition, hailed the effort and called on the General Assembly to pass the legislation.

“Our representatives in Springfield should make this legislation the model for meeting our state’s clean energy goals so that we get the job done right: build a strong, more diverse workforce in Illinois’ changing energy sector and offer more families a path to the middle class with strong wages and benefits,” said Tim Drea, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

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