Convention discussion: Jobs, housing and the Green New Deal

BY:Emile Schepers| March 29, 2019


The unveiling of the Green New Deal has set off a flurry of debate in the halls of power and in the nation.  From the ruling class and the right, predictably enough, reactions have ranged from derision to feigned horror.   But worries have also been expressed by some sectors of organized labor—worries that implementing the Green New Deal, and also Medicare for All, will cost jobs in the energy industry, in the health insurance industry, and other impacted sectors.

The latter worries should not be brushed aside—people need well paying, unionized jobs.  So ideas need to be presented and turned into practical legislation and policy that will counterbalance any job losses caused by changes with new jobs, as good or better than the ones that disappear.  And these have to be jobs that the people displaced can realistically occupy.   Older workers, two breadwinner households and workers newly entering the workforce all have to be accommodated and in the planning and implementation.

Workers facing possible displacement have reason to be skeptical when government, business or academia tells them, “oh, don’t worry, we’re working on it”.   Too often, the replacement for well paid, unionized jobs has turned out to be flipping hamburgers at McDonalds or changing sheets at tourist motels.  This is what we hear from working class people in the Appalachian coal country, for example.  Yet one cannot keep industries going that are harmful to the whole of humanity merely to preserve jobs in those industries.  There are other examples:  The armaments industry, which certainly employs a great number of people in this country and worldwide, but it would not be right to push for more and more weapons merely as a source of employment.  The military budget needs to be sharply reduced, but this would entail some job losses also. And don’t get me started on the private prison industry.

So what to do?  In my opinion, progressive and far reaching projects like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All should be combined with a new public sector jobs strategy, on a large enough scale that enough high quality jobs would be created to make up for the disappearance of jobs in fields such as fossil fuel energy production, pipeline construction, the medical insurance industry and the armaments industry.

This idea is not new.   It has been kicked around since at least 1997, but never carried out – yet.

We can easily see many aspects of our nation’s infrastructure that need the infusion of resources that such an approach would provide.

*Transitioning away from polluting fossil fuel sources of energy would itself produce jobs in the development, construction and maintenance of clean, renewable energy sources.  These things are hard to quantify before specific plans are elaborated, of course.  But nor should their potential be ignored.

*Our health care system is obviously inadequate, and if the medical insurance industry were to disappear party or completely, there would be expansion in the actual delivery of services by public entities, especially to poor neighborhoods and isolated rural communities.  For example, there is only one public hospital right now for the whole city of Washington DC, and a vast area on the south side of that city has no hospital at all.  Similar situations exist in many places.   For local clinics and local and regional health care centers to be expanded, personnel would be needed.

*Rising sea levels caused by global warming are doing great damage to infrastructure in coastal areas of this country.  Streets in Norfolk, Virginia, on the Chesapeake Bay, are frequently flooded, with resulting damage.  Similar situations can be found in various parts of the country.  All this requires not only a greatly increased fight against global warming, but also increased work on infrastructure repair and maintenance.

*The physical plant of public schools all over the country is deteriorating, and capacity in many communities is so inadequate that thousands of children are studying in temporary structures. Schools need to be refurbished and new schools built, creating jobs.

*And then there is the issue of housing.  The gentrification process is pushing working class, and especially minority and low income families who need to rent their living space, out of numerous areas of the country.  The increasing cost of rental housing in markets such as New York, Northern California and Metro Washington D.C. is stressing working class budgets to the point that you have people with full time jobs living in the street.  Part of the answer has to be the construction of new housing, controlled and administered collectively by working class people themselves—not by the private real estate industry with its vested interest in rent gouging and the neglect of properties.

To realize these important goals will require the employment of literally millions of people.  That is why, in last year’s Congress, there was a resolution (H J Res 63) which called for the creation of millions of jobs through infrastructure projects.   And the expansion of access to health care and schooling, a pressing need for the working class millions of workers too.

The potential to create more and better jobs is great, but it will require struggle at all levels.  And that struggle can be combined with the struggle for the Green New Deal.

Whenever the Green New Deal idea is promoted to the public, it should be in combination with the promotion of realistic new jobs programs.  Otherwise the ruling class, big business and the right will continue to depict it as an “elitist” project which will harm working people instead of helping them, as they are doing right now.

Our own Communist Party USA works closely with all the key stakeholders in these issues –with workers and their unions, with public health and public education activists, with the environmental and peace movements—and therefore we are in a position to play a key role in creating the necessary united effort.

Let’s do it!






    Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.


Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer