A new report “illustrates how America’s biofuel industry is growing union jobs and helping to rebuild the middle class,” according to backers in the renewable energy sector.
In a joint statement from the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board, and the Renewable Fuels Association, trade association leaders noted in early November that the report – titled “Union Jobs in Ethanol & Biodiesel Industries: An American Success Story” – “underscores the truth behind President Biden’s declaration that ‘doubling down on these liquid fuels of the future will not only make value-added agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change — reducing emissions in planes, ships, and other forms of transportation — but will also create quality jobs across rural America.’”
The report was authored by veterans of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. General Services Administration, and KPMG International (the world’s third-largest accounting firm). They found that biofuel production supports more than 30,000 union jobs, primarily in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and utilities, construction, and professional and business services. These include jobs filled by members of the United Auto Workers, Steelworkers, Laborers’ International Union of North America, International Union of Operating Engineers, North America’s Building Trades Unions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and many other labor organizations across 20 states.
“Working people are front and center as we tackle climate change,” said Daniel Duncan, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Maritime Trades Department (MTD), AFL-CIO. “It is now clear that union members are not just on the production side of the American biofuel industry, but also build, operate, and maintain the infrastructure that keeps homegrown fuels like ethanol and biodiesel flowing. This sector is an important source of strength for union jobs, especially when it comes to growth in agricultural regions of the nation. We’re proud to be part of a supply chain that delivers for middle-class families.”
“Union labor has helped make America the world’s largest producer and exporter of biofuels,” said a spokesperson for the Seafarers International Union. “We should play to our strengths as we decarbonize energy production, and growing the U.S. biofuels industry means good-paying, green jobs for union members.”
Indeed, the report concludes, “The U.S. biofuel industry supports union jobs in construction and manufacturing, but as importantly relies on sectors with high union densities to store and transport its products. A key takeaway is that continued support for the ethanol and biodiesel industries will have a positive causal effect on union jobs and is a pathway to an increase in union membership. Ethanol and biodiesel industries are also helping to mitigate against a downward trend in U.S. union density rates.”
Another section in the report touches on why increased union membership is beneficial for the country.
“The benefits of unions have long been studied and understood,” the report notes. “There is extensive literature linking union membership to higher wages and greater equality. Unions also increase the likelihood that workers will receive various forms of non-cash benefits, like health insurance and retirement plans, and reduce wage disparity. Unionized workers are significantly more satisfied with their jobs than their nonunionized counterparts in the post-Great Recession period. Unions also protect their members, and others working alongside their members, against dismissals and discipline without good cause, and ensure workers will have a voice in their workplaces, with a result that union members tend to have longer job tenures than non-union workers.”
Those benefits provided by unions “help to define what it is to be a member of the middle class in our country,” the report adds. “For this reason, supporters of the American union movement, and those committed to restoring the American middle class, should welcome the growth of industries that employ a sizable number of unionized workers, particularly in industries that have declined over the last few decades.”