The “Green Jobs Photo Project” is showing now through Feb. 28 at Common Roots Café, 2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. Common Roots is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Photos in the Green Jobs exhibit depict many different kinds of work.

Union Advocate photo

The free exhibit features manufacturing, skilled-trades and service workers from sites around Minnesota doing green jobs – jobs that relate directly to preserving or restoring environmental quality.

Economists expect the green economy to flourish as Americans look to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Minnesota, for example, has passed a renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025. Gerry Parzino, a Steelworker and co-chair of the Blue Green Alliance of Minnesota, said the state now needs to make sure the green jobs that come out of that renewable energy standard go to the Minnesotans who need them.

“We’ve got an opportunity to create good jobs and solve a number of our economic problems, all while adding to our environment and the quality of life for all Americans,” Parzino said at a Jan. 14 reception to celebrate the opening of the photo project. “In Minnesota, we can set that example.”

Workers on display in the project include electricians learning to install solar panels in St. Michael, union members building hybrid buses in St. Cloud and Crookston, roofers building green roofs, cement masons pouring impervious concrete in city streets and pipefitters installing geothermal systems to heat and cool buildings.

But Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson, who also spoke at the reception, said the jobs on display in the “Green Jobs Photo Project” only scratch the surface of what’s possible in Minnesota’s new green economy.

“One thing economists all agree on is this country is a country of innovators,” Knutson said. “We are better at innovating than any other country in the world. I think what we’re seeing in these photos is our own Minnesota-style of innovation. We’re turning jobs into green jobs; we’re really making that shift.”

The photo project also exposes visitors to a different side of the union movement – a side one of the volunteer photographers, Amy Okaya, had never experienced.

“I’d always sort of experienced unions as bargaining issues,” Okaya said. “This project really allowed me to experience how much unions are investing in training and helping to maintain best practices. That was very meaningful for me to see that in action.”

Okaya photographed apprentices training for work weatherizing buildings for energy efficiency. “They were such an impressive group of people,” she said. “Everyone was so focused on what they were doing. Hardly anyone was talking, they were so focused.”

The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation is among the co-sponsors of the photo project, which includes two photos taken by Mary Dahlquist, director of the RLF’s Apprenticeship Opportunities Project.

Other co-sponsors include locals 292 and 110 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Sheet Metal Workers Local 10, the Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association, the University of Minnesota’s Labor Education Service, Clean Water Action, Fresh Energy, the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, the Izaak Walton League’s Midwest Office, the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, the League of Women Voters, the Minnesota AFL-CIO and the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.

The Blue Green Alliance is a nationwide partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations.

Michael Moore edits The Union Advocate, the official publication of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation. Learn more at the federation’s website.

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