Green Jobs: The Promise and the Reality of AB 32


When running for office politicians make many promises to gain your support and vote for them. Once they get into office they seem to forget those promises hoping that you won’t notice.

It is the same when politicians propose new laws. They promise that if you support their proposals you will be rewarded with some kind of benefit.

So it was in 2006 when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then Speaker of the Assembly Fabian Nuñéz, introduced Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32). The promise was that if AB 32 was enacted the benefits to California would be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions leading to cleaner air and a healthier environment.

For Latinos the bigger and more important benefit was that the politicians who supported this sweeping legislation promised it would create thousands of new well paid “green” jobs.

But the so-called “green” jobs never really materialized. Then disaster struck California’s workers.

When the Great Recession crushed the nation’s economy in 2008, California was hit especially hard and unemployment skyrocketed.

And who was hit the hardest? The hard working men and women of the state’s Latino community who at the height of the recession had a statewide unemployment rate of almost 16% and food stamp usage was at 18%.

While the benefits of AB 32 have been few, the burdens on working families have been great.

This law gives government bureaucrats the power to place new onerous regulations on gasoline stations, truckers, shippers, farmers, factories, and small businesses. It also gives them the power to increase fees that add cost to everything we all buy as consumers.

The result is higher prices on, among other things, gasoline and food – the basic necessities of life.

AB 32 is one of the reasons why California still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation and why hundreds of companies have left California and opened up business in other states. With them went thousands of jobs that our families and community depended on.

The only thing we were left with were the empty promise of “green jobs.”

And what are these “green jobs”?

According to environmentalists and politicians a “green job” is defined as a job that contributes to preserving or enhancing environmental quality.

By that definition you might already have a “green job” and not even know it.

If you are a landscaper and plant trees, that is considered green job. If you recycle as part of your job, that is a green job. A person who repairs bicycles has a green job. If a teacher talks about conserving water or recycling, that is now a green job.

Counting jobs as “green” doesn’t actually mean the creation of new jobs. It is just a way for the government bureaucrats and politicians make California’s Latinos believe that this is in the best interest of our community.

While manufacturing and other small businesses have shut down in our neighborhoods, what we are left with are millions of part-time jobs that don’t provide enough income to support our families. Many in our community have to work two or three jobs and live two families in an apartment meant for one just to get by.

In the end, I don’t believe for a minute that Latinos care what color the job is. We just want jobs that pay well, with fair benefits like health insurance and that give our families a future.

Reclassifying jobs that have been around for years and trying to sell them as new ones is fundamentally dishonest and does nothing to empower our community.

You deserve honesty from the politicians in Sacramento not empty promises meant only to gain your support come election time.


Jon Coupal is president, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Luis Alvarado is co-founder of GROW Elect, an organization dedicated to electing Latinos & Latinas to local office. 


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  1. Charlie Peters on

    Do you want $2 gasoline at the pump?

    Do you want clean air and water?

    Ethanol waiver and elimination of E-85 flex fuel credit can cut our CO2 transportation pollution over 50%

    Let’s improve performance of CA climate change law AB 32 (Pavley) in 2015 for future generations

  2. Dear Ms. Frank, I wish you’d look at the facts. The fact is California is trailing on GSP growth, UE trends. Oh, and wage disparity. The ‘hundreds of thousands of green jobs are more than offset by the loss in traditional employment caused by the higher costs for everything caused by AB32. Ironically, California’s AB32 is causing economic growth elsewhere…and with it (through emissions leakage) higher global GHG emissions.

  3. This op-ed is misguided in so many ways, it’s tough to know where to start. California’s economy is thriving in large part due to our clean economy, and all Californians are benefiting, regardless of their ethnicity. Our clean air standards are helping clean up the air in disproportionately impacted communities and they are creating real jobs – hundreds of thousands of job in fact. Latino businesses and associations around the state strongly support California’s approach to climate progress, and workers are benefitting from it. As Orson Aguilar from Greenlining writes in this publication today, California’s AB 32 is “changing Latino lives for the better all over our state.” I hope your readers reach out and get the facts.

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