By Hae-Lin Choi and Miranda Nelson
When Covid-19 hit New York, millions of workers lost their jobs overnight. Almost 10 months later, many still have no idea when they will get back to work and the daily realities of this pandemic remain bleak. But as Buffalo’s working families have learned all too well, relying on a broken economy won’t make for a brighter future, either.
That is why we’re calling on New York to pass a package of recently introduced state legislation called the Green Transit, Green Jobs bills. These bills would use the power of our public dollars to create good manufacturing jobs up and down the electric bus manufacturing supply chain – the kind of jobs that support working families.
New York is one of the three states with more than 1 million workers either receiving unemployment or waiting to be approved. The economic crisis induced by this pandemic led to high unemployment in upstate communities: Buffalo recorded an unemployment rate of 19.2% in April. But despite a slight decline in unemployment rates, our state’s recovery has been uneven and the road to real recovery is uphill.
Even before the pandemic, our region faced deep-seated problems. Once an anchor for upstate communities, the regional manufacturing sector has shrunk considerably over past decades. Between 2000 and 2008, upstate New York’s manufacturing sector lost nearly 105,000 jobs. We made minor gains in manufacturing jobs over the past decade thanks to growth in industries like computer and electronic product manufacturing. But the economic impact of the pandemic has already wiped out more than half of the manufacturing jobs added nationwide since 2010.
To recover, we need long-term solutions that set Buffalo on the road to a fair economic recovery by creating good, family-sustaining jobs. Together, the Green Transit and Green Jobs bills would do just that. First, the Green Transit bill would make sure that every public transit agency in New York commits to purchasing only electric buses as they replace their fleets starting in 2029. It’s a simple solution that will result in cleaner air and better infrastructure for Buffalo and the communities served by the more than 100 agencies in upstate New York.
The Green Jobs bill would incentivize electric bus manufacturers to create good jobs with high wages and benefits. Too often, the corporations that receive our public money to manufacture public goods do not create good jobs in the communities that need them most. This bill would make sure electric bus manufacturers invest in the communities where they set up shop by adopting high-road labor standards, creating training and apprenticeship programs for workers facing barriers to employment, and climate change mitigation plans.
By passing the Green Transit and Green Jobs bills, New York will jump-start the clean economy without leaving working families behind.
Hae-Lin Choi is legislative and political director for CWA District One. Miranda Nelson is New York director at Jobs to Move America.