A transformative Green New Deal requires inclusive manufacturing
Progressives concerned with climate, democracy, economic justice and sustainability must embed a new economic vision into their plans. The progressive movement needs a distinct industrial policy: a manufacturing renaissance on top of a Green New Deal (GND). We won’t have a sustainable society without a strong manufacturing base. Manufacturing is the only economic sector that can generate new wealth for communities currently excluded from access. Advanced manufacturing can build an expanded working class with much higher incomes and create social capital at work, provide a decent standard of living and be an engine of job growth.
The new HR 5124 presented by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) addresses this issue directly. The bill calls for massive investments across the entire U.S. manufacturing ecosystem and addresses the inadequacy of many of our public schools (resulting from decades of underfunding) as well as the currently prohibitive costs of education. post-secondary and advanced technical training. HR 5124 will foster a diverse workforce equipped with the advanced skills and knowledge to design, manufacture, build, and maintain new energy systems and their components, as well as the lighter-footprint generation and transportation systems of the future. The bill creates the possibility of a dramatic increase in the number of businesses owned by their employees and by Black and Latino entrepreneurs by funding programs and policies that lead to greater inclusion of workers, women and people of color in all aspects of manufacturing, especially in possession. Co-sponsors include Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Michael Doyle (D-Penn.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), and Brendan Boyle ( D-Penn.).
A vital next step is to have 100 or more members of Congress sign the bill and a parallel process in the Senate. The designers of the legislation – a core team of progressive electoral leaders; advanced manufacturing advocates; union veterans; community, religious and educational leaders; and solidarity economy thinkers – launched the Manufacturing Renaissance Campaign.
Without fundamentally rethinking the operation of such a transformational GND, however, the potential default outcome is a system that, while it may be less environmentally damaging, reinforces racial and economic inequality. Neoliberal assumptions and institutions would remain masters of our future. Only a Green New Deal that demands a different approach to power relations in the economy will create new wealth for the working class and people of color, change the control of production, and move toward a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future.
Green New Deal advocates need to think deeply about how the economy actually works and whose interests it serves. Instead of complaining about neoliberalism and fighting to make it less expensive, we must work to replace speculative and cheap capital (real estate, finance, insurance) with productive and high-speed investments in advanced manufacturing: companies committed to technical skills career paths, the continuous development of skills, wages and benefits that ensure a secure future and democratic relations between owners, managers, workers and local communities. We must also aim to transfer control of green production to workers and entrepreneurs who share our commitment to a truly sustainable and inclusive society and away from a “greener” pursuit of the status quo.
Such a radical change in our way of thinking requires a thorough examination of our political economy. We live in the economic wreckage wrought by unproductive landlords and speculative investors who hoard profits but fail to invest in the fair and sustainable future we need. We must work together to form broad coalitions of workers, governments, communities, schools and road contractors to gain local control of the means of production, whether old or new. . We can provide strategic direction by intervening in specific companies. Such a coalition can shape government policy that supports intervention and provides effective regulation and incentives.
Minority-owned workers or entrepreneurs can take over hundreds of thousands of viable manufacturing businesses in inner cities and the countryside whose white owners are retiring. With the right funding and support, worker co-operative ownership can succeed by taking inspiration from the Union Coop model pioneered by United Steelworkers and the example of the longstanding achievements of Mondragon co-operatives in the Basque region of Spain.
Inclusive capital strategies are key to achieving the goals of environmentalists and the labor movement (and others). Environmentalists and trade unionists speak of a “just transition” to new jobs and a new economy, but with no concrete plan on how to achieve it. Public investment in democratic, inclusive and well-funded advanced manufacturing can offer solutions for a just transition and lay the foundations for larger transformations, building popular unity and the momentum for change.
Advanced, large-scale manufacturing is fundamental to achieving progressive goals. While many environmentalists dismiss manufacturing as irrelevant or anti-green, the climate crisis still requires a Green New Deal to turn our energy sources into renewables, design and build new infrastructure, and manufacture equipment, including wind turbines ; solar panels ; wave generators; systems of locks, weirs, trains and rails to transport the components; a new smart grid; and EV charging stations. Currently, American industry and its workforce lack the capacity to produce many of these components, let alone install and maintain them (all potentially well-paying, long-term jobs). For a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable future, we must manufacture new equipment and products with new supply chains, new skills and new production relationships.
The labor movement is primarily focused on its own growth and on negotiating wages and benefits within the framework of “management rights”. It does not systematically compete for power over the way capital is invested or the technology, products and processes used. We need to build management rights into the negotiations. When workers are owners and stakeholders, neoliberal capitalists will no longer maintain absolute command.
We must also address the equally crucial challenge of the intolerable accumulation of wealth and income inequality through more wealth creation as well as a more equitable distribution. We must insist on inclusion as a priority in a renaissance of manufacturing and transformation of the economy. Beyond traditional set-asides for women and minority-owned businesses, inclusion is achieved through public policy that identifies and prioritizes disadvantaged communities for investment in advanced manufacturing and provides training, funding and strategic support to ensure the success of individuals as well as the high road businesses. Inclusion in a manufacturing renaissance creates opportunities for the working class and people of color to develop the technical skills, knowledge, and values to guide revolutionary change in the social relations of production. A truly transformative Green New Deal requires a new inclusive advanced manufacturing paradigm.