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Van Jones’ Legacy Lives On: DOL Doles Out $100M in Green Jobs Grants to Unions

Morgen on January 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

The big policy idea championed by former White House Czar Van Jones – for which he was endlessly lauded – was a very basic strategy to address two liberal priorities at once: global warming and poverty. Jones’ proposal was for the government to provide massive funding for job training programs for the urban poor focused on “green” industries in order to improve energy efficiency and mitigate carbon “pollution”. Get it? Green + jobs = GREEN JOBS. Never mind the question of whether these jobs even exist in sufficient enough numbers to matter, and definitely ignore the fact that Jones’ initial idea included setting gang members loose from prison in order to weatherize our homes and businesses. What’s one little flaw when we are talking about a strategy as GENIUS as this.

Van Jones’ own words and radical history resulted in his (ahem) “resignation” from his White House role last September. But his legacy lives on in the Administration. Yesterday the Department of Labor announced the release of $100M in grants funded by the stimulus bill to “support green job training programs to help dislocated workers and others, including veterans, women, African Americans and Latinos, find jobs in expanding green industries and related occupations”.

This is only a portion of the $500M total allocated by the stimulus bill for such purposes. Back in November an initial $55 million in grants were released, the bulk of which went to state-run job training programs, with relatively small amounts going to community job training programs.

However, the primary recipients of the latest $100M in grants are a little more noteworthy:

  • UAW Labor Employment and Training Corporation – $3,200,000
  • 1199SEIU Family of Funds (disguised as “HCAP, Inc.”) – $4,637,551
  • Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), AFL­CIO – $4,993,922
  • International Transportation Learning Center (whose board consists almost exclusively of union leaders) – $5,000,000
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association  - $5,000,000
  • Institute for Career Development (aka United Steelworkers) – $4,658,983
  • Blue Green Alliance (whose members consist largely of unions) – $5,000,000
  • Communications Workers of America – $3,969,056
  • Thomas Shortman Training Scholarship and Safety Fund (SEIU) – $2,802,269

Most of the remaining grant recipients are joint ventures between labor organizations, business or trade groups, and state or local government agencies. Which would seem to be a much more rational model to ensure that training funds are allocated in a way most beneficial to the broader community. Not just for the benefit of union members.

Considering the close ties between labor unions and Barack “paint the nation purple” Obama, not to mention the entire Democratic party, it’s hard not to see these grants as a blatant political pay-off. And for all the hype we will undoubtedly continue to hear about the Administration’s commitment to “green jobs” and “restoring America”, ultimately these grants will make virtually ZERO impact on the larger employment picture. Even assuming the unions who now control these funds don’t waste or misdirect them for other purposes, less than 35,000 people will receive some form of training as a result. This is according to the proposals submitted by the recipients themselves, and many were honest enough to note that a significant number of trainees will drop out of the programs prior to completion. For those individuals who do complete the training, how many of these will ever wind up in a job applying their new skills?

If the Administration is really committed to providing job re-training for displaced workers, it should be working closely with the business community to better understand where the job demand will be. Not shelling out millions of dollars to its union benefactors based around meaningless slogans and pollyanna views about job creation. Ultimately I think any federal job training funds are better directed to community college programs and vocational schools which have an existing infrastructure in place – and no political agenda.

But I guess that wouldn’t buy very many votes.

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Category: Energy & Economy, Politics |

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