“B” in IBEW Does Not Mean Black For Future Energy Jobs Act

“B” in IBEW Does Not Mean Black For Future Energy Jobs Act

I never considered my self an angry black woman but I may have to don a baseball cap with ABW!!! emblazoned on it. I’ve marched. I’ve protested starting way back with the Viet Nam war and Earth Day. On the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. M.L. King, Jr. I quietly hoped somethings had changed though I saw little evidence to suggest a change especially over the last 1 year, 88 days, 2 hours, 7 minutes and 0 seconds (at this writing)  that Trump has been in office. What, you may say, has launched my rocket? You  might be surprised to find it’s because of a piece of legislation that was signed into law last year by Governor Rauner that assists the development of renewable energy in Illinois. What could possibly make me angry about increasing renewable energy, sustainability and clean jobs creation? After all, my entire not for profit is dedicated to those ideas. I’m no climate denier.

Enter the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) of Illinois. According to the announcement made by Com Ed, FEJA allocates a total of $30 million to develop and implement a number of major energy job training programs. The $30 million in funding will be allocated in three $10 million increments paid in 2017, 2021 and 2025, and used to support job training programs over the next 12 years. As FEJA outlines, the solar pipeline training effort will focus on individuals who are from economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities, alumni of the Illinois foster care system and Returning Citizens. What a great idea? Or so I thought until I attended by invitation, a meeting sponsored by the Sierra Club on April 17th and held at the spanking, brand new IBEW Local 134 building located at 2722 South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Remember this address.

The assembled group of around 30 – 40 individuals represented people from all over the City, from organizations dedicated to things from sustainable building, energy, education, etc. The first order of business after we defined some norms and rules was to say what “equity” means. Charles Sutton of Bronzeville Urban Development (the organization we co-founded) spoke of the importance of inclusion and opportunity. No one disagreed.

The next topic was presented by a member of IBEW local 134. The local responded to the RFP to provide comprehensive year long education to three local high schools for solar jobs and some shorter duration classes for local community colleges. We gave him our undivided attention. This is something we need in the community especially when you consider the mandate that economically disadvantaged, alumni of the Illinois foster care system and Returning Citizens are to be the beneficiaries. 60% of the prison population in Illinois is black. As of 2015 statistics 51% of children in out-of-home care in Illinois were black, 7% were Hispanic (https://www.cwla.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/ILLINOIS-revised-1-1.pdf) Surely this project will greatly benefit the black community. NOT.

Of the three schools chosen two were in predominantly hispanic communities and one in a community that was not predominately black. Let me state right here that the hispanic community deserves help. It is a fact that one of the most environmentally impacted communities is Pilsen. EPA continues to be concerned about air pollution in the Pilsen neighborhood. In January 2013, EPA and the State of Illinois signed a consent decree with H. Kramer and Co. to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act and state air pollution violations at the firm’s copper smelting foundry in the Pilsen neighborhood (https://www.epa.gov/il/environmental-issues-chicagos-little-village-pilsen-neighborhoods) The community fought to get a coal plant shut down. So I understand the need in Pilsen.

If you recall I suggested you remember the address of the IBEW local 134 building. Here’s a refresher. The new digs of 134 is located at 2722 S. Dr. M.L.King, jr. Drive. Dunbar Vocational High School is located at 3000 S. Dr. M.L.King, jr. Drive. It is separated from local 134 by a parking lot. Dunbar is 98% black. 99% of the students are on the free lunch program which means they are economically disadvantaged. I asked about this and was told not once but twice that Dunbar has an electrical program. Yes, I said but is there a program relating to and leading to these new jobs in solar. After three tries I was told no and that maybe in the future. That is not a good answer but it does remind me of the long history of discrimination by the union. I guess not much has changed not even with the FEJA do we see a concerted effort. Shame on the IBEW I guess the “B” doesn’t include black.

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