Employment and Jobs

Advancing a Pro-Worker, Pro-Climate Agenda in Texas

September 21, 2022  • Economic Opportunities Program & Bo Delp

Bo Delp, Executive Director, Texas Climate Jobs Project

Photo of Bo Delp

“The need for climate action in Texas is urgent, and so too is the need for quality jobs,” according to Bo Delp, executive director of the Texas Climate Jobs Project (TCJP). As evidence, Bo explains, “Texas is responsible for more pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than any other state. At the same time, Texas is battling rising inequality. Here, the top 1% of income earners make 26.9 times more than the bottom 99%.”

The Texas Climate Jobs Project, launched in 2021, is a project of the AFL-CIO and Fair Shot Texas. The organization’s mission is to advance a pro-worker, pro-climate agenda in Texas and to help solve the climate crisis while creating millions of union jobs that sustain families and communities. A labor union advisory board of 23 members of different unions across the state provides strategic focus and direction to TCJP. To advance that mission, TCJP is employing a number of approaches including strategic research, policy analysis and formulation, campaign mobilization, coalition building, and stakeholder education.

Using Data and Research to Advance Worker Organizing and Job Quality

Labor unions and others involved in job quality advocacy – often engaged in building worker power – have long recognized that knowledge is power, as the saying goes. Improving job quality, whether nationally, regionally, or locally, rests in part on raising consciousness about the issues among workers, policymakers, employers, and other stakeholders. As a result, providing quality data and research is a critical component of many job quality strategies and for many, an essential step toward engaging and building coalitions to support the work. This is often true for job quality strategies at any stage of development, but is especially critical for those who are just starting such as The Texas Climate Jobs Project.

The organization has already started a bold research agenda, which it knows is necessary to create campaigns that will help them to organize workers and supporters. “We believe the foundation of advancing job quality is research-driven, focused, comprehensive, and effective campaigns that bring broad coalitions of directly impacted workers together, that build and exercise collective power, and that result in clear, tangible gains for working people in their workplace,” Bo Delp states.

The organization partnered with the ILR Worker Institute at Cornell University early on to develop and release a report, Combating Climate Change, Reversing Inequality: A Climate Jobs Program for Texas. Data in the report highlight the income gap, the lack of wage growth, and racial disparities in earnings. The report also includes industry-specific analysis and recommendations for various clean energy sectors, potential strategies for decarbonizing school districts, options to encourage electric vehicle manufacturing, and plans to help workers in fossil fuels transition to other careers. The report is not simply a piece of research, but is being used by the organization and its labor union advisory board to develop and set the organization’s strategic priorities.

TCJP’s other research work has included analysis of federal funding streams to help support the school decarbonization work. TCJP also provided the United Steelworkers, and the 650 workers at the Beaumont refinery they represent, with strategic research and policy analysis to help push ExxonMobil to end its lockout of workers. In addition, TCJP just obtained funding to partner with the University of Texas Ray Marshall Center to research how eliminating industrial methane emissions in Texas can create jobs.

Research and strategic analysis will be a continuous part of the Texas Climate Jobs Project’s work, but Bo knows having good communication strategies and other expertise is as important as the research itself. And he knows none of this can be done alone, so he and his team are ”ensuring our campaign work is informed by legal, legislative, industry, and communication experts to maximize impact.”

A large focus for the organization is building worker power and having workers drive the conversation on job quality. Bo has supported and helped lead other organizations to do the same. He’s worked with UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers’ union, and served as the Better Builder Program and Policy Director at Workers Defense Project, a statewide worker center in Texas dedicated to building power for construction workers and their families. “Whether it is in the workplace, city hall, or the legislature, we believe the question of job quality fundamentally comes down to a question of power dynamics – who has power and who doesn’t?” Bo elaborates, “A critical component of any operating definition of job quality for us must contemplate whether directly impacted workers have the power to define for themselves what job quality is, and to negotiate and actualize that definition with their employers or with policymakers.”

TCJP believes the best tool for improving job quality is collective bargaining. “Our focus is collective bargaining because it is a replicable, scalable, and sustainable method of building and exercising worker power to achieve these ends,” Bo says. Collective bargaining, however, is also the strongest tool TCJP sees in pursuing equity. According to Bo, “TCJP believes deeply in the power of collective bargaining because of the transformational impact it has had, and continues to have, in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Collective bargaining gives employees, no matter their racial or socioeconomic background, the power to have a voice in shaping their working conditions.”

TCJP is just getting started, but has an ambitious agenda as it approaches the end of its first year. Among the organization’s strategic priorities are to increase union jobs in the renewable energy and fiber broadband sectors, support and expand efforts to decarbonize schools, and lend assistance to unions in other clean energy sectors. “Bold climate action has the potential to generate millions of good union jobs in clean energy sectors, but only if working people have a seat at the table,” Bo says.


Advancing a Pro-Worker, Pro-Climate Agenda in Texas: A Profile of @AspenJobQuality Fellow Bo Delp, Executive Director of @TXClimateJobs.

The Texas Climate Jobs Project @TXClimateJobs advances a pro-worker, pro-climate agenda — helping to solve the climate crisis while creating millions of good jobs. Learn more in this profile of Executive Director Bo Delp, an @AspenJobQuality Fellow.

Knowledge is power, and quality data is crucial for advancing #jobquality. See how @TXClimateJobs, led by @AspenJobQuality Fellow Bo Delp, is using research to raise awareness and build support for good jobs in the clean energy sector.

“Collective bargaining gives employees, no matter their racial or socioeconomic background, the power to have a voice in shaping their working conditions.” #JobQuality Fellow Bo Delp, Executive Director @TXClimateJobs

“The need for climate action in Texas is urgent, and so too is the need for quality jobs… Bold climate action has the potential to generate millions of good union jobs in clean energy sectors, but only if working people have a seat at the table.”

Learn more

Bo Delp is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Job Quality Fellowship, Class of 2022-23. The Job Quality Fellowship is convened by the Economic Opportunities Program.

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.

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