Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 Study on Green Jobs impact of water treatment infrastructure in the US suggests path to Green Jobs Strategy in North and Central America

A technical report on the projected job creation impacts of recent Clean Water Act rules released by the Water Environment Foundation in September 2014 projects that investments in the water utility and waste water infrastructure will result in close to 300,000 jobs in 30 communities in the US over the next decade.  These jobs range from those requiring just a high school education (sales, production, maintenance, construction, administration) to those requiring college and advanced level training and education (civil and environmental engineering).  EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy highlighted the connection between sustainable economic and environmental development during her speech at the Water Environment Foundation's conference in New Orleans on September 29th.

It is no wonder that the environmental policy community is focusing on the job creation and economic impacts of water infrastructure improvements in the wake of ongoing impacts of the 2008 financial crash and ensuing economic crisis.  Necessary improvements to our nation's water and waste water treatment infrastructure will not happen unless state legislatures are convinced that these improvements are financially feasible.  This focus on job creation by the environmental policy community demonstrates once again that environmental protections can be good for the workforce if they are implemented hand in hand with effective education, labor market and training policies.  The report falls short by not incorporating racial and gender analysis more explicitly into its discussion, however.

What stands out about the communities analyzed in the report is that many are located in areas of high unemployment among African Americans and other minorities - particularly the Washington, DC metro area, Camden, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City Missouri, Baltimore and Atlanta.  A February 2013 article by Sherrell Dorsey on green jobs for African Americans in Black Enterprise magazine highlighted the 14% level of unemployment in the African American community and noted that African Americans in the US may be unable to participate in the green economy without the necessary education, training and access.  Dorsey quoted former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson who pointed out that promoting a public health perspective as well as access to training and creative, non-traditional educational programs will have an impact on African American participation in the the green economy.  An April 2013 article by Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd in Ebony magazine emphasized that African Americans will be excluded from a "new generation of professionals that understand changing weather patterns, climate science, wind and solar engineering, environmental sustainability, and mitigation-adaptation strategies" without improved representation in science, technical, engineering and mathematical careers.  Access to green jobs is also an issue for women (US DOL program on Women and the Green Economy) and Latinos (NCLR study on overlap between green economy and Latino communities) in the US.  In addition to highlighting high unemployment and a desire for access for green jobs in their communities, Native Americans are leaders in US movement to build a green economy through initiatives like the Navajo Green Economy Trust, solar and wind energy development on native lands and green development initiatives in native communities.

The connection between environmental protection, water treatment and other utility infrastructure improvement and job creation has international and regional as well as national implications.  This is especially the case in the NAFTA and CAFTA-DR regions, where viable regional institutions have been established to address environmental issues in North America (North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation) and Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR Secretariat for Environmental Matters) but not to address regional labor and employment issues.  Despite arguments made in free trade policy circles that agreements like the NAFTA and CAFTA-DR are supposed to improve economies and create jobs, viable regional institutions to help member states design regional job creation strategies, educational policies and improved labor law enforcement do not exist under NAFTA and CAFTA-DR.  The tri-national labor secretariat established under the NAFTA was ineffectual in (and, arguably, disempowered from) assisting member states in designing regional employment policies and job creation strategies.*  Tying job creation to environmental issues such as water infrastructure development within the regional frameworks under the NACEC and the CAFTA-DR SEM may be the most effective way to get jobs on regional policy agendas in North and Central America.  It is also a way to tap innovative regional policy and idea generation through the NACEC's Joint Public Advisory Committee mechanism, to generate excitement about environmental infrastructure development and a new Green Jobs strategy for North and Central America.

Just as a Green Jobs strategy can be a way to secure financing for important improvements to water and waste water treatment infrastructure and afford access to employment for under-served groups in the US, a Green Jobs strategy can have similar impacts while opening a sustainable path to regional job creation strategies in North and Central America.  International advocates can rely on job creation and economic improvement arguments to spur public and private investment in infrastructure improvements in Latin America and elsewhere. According to an October 2013 article by Juan José Gregorio in BNAmericas, inadequate water and waste water treatment facilities in Latin America - particularly in Central American countries and to a lesser extent in Mexico - pose both public health and environmental risks.  Close to $20 billion in financing is needed to bring water and waste water treatment up to par in Latin America.  Considering that $23 billion in investment to improve and maintain water and waste water treatment facilities in just 25% of the US covered in WEF's study, $20 billion does not seem to be a huge amount of money to have such positive impacts throughout Latin America.  As demonstrated by the WEF's study, investment in improvement of water and waste water treatment facilities can contribute not only to positive environmental outcomes, but to positive economic and jobs outcomes as well. 

The example of WEF's 2014 study sets a clear path for regional policy makers in North and Central America.  Regional institutions such as the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and Central American Secretariat on Environmental Matters can be important mechanisms for establishing a Green Jobs initiative in North and Central America that has a positive impact on public health, the environment and employment.  North and Central American Green Jobs strategies will not be effective, however, unless regional policy makers generate and incorporate innovative ideas and programs to ensure that members of local communities have access to creative training and educational programs to equip them to take advantage of Green Job opportunities.  Thus, an effective regional Jobs Strategy in North and Central America will require the involvement of environmentalists, labor market experts, utility infrastructure experts, education policy specialists as well as community groups, labor, human rights, environmental and women's rights activists and advocates.

*  In fact, the NACLC closed in August 2010.  In the wake of the lack of viability of sustainable regional labor cooperation and policy development under the NAFTA, negotiators of the CAFTA-DR decided not to establish a labor cooperation institution similar to the CAFTA-DR Secretariat for Environmental Matters.


Aspinwall, Mark, Side EffectsMexican Governance Under NAFTA’s Labor and Environmental Agreements, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2013.

Biggers, Jeff, "Native America and Green Jobs: Spring Wind Rising from Sand Creek," The Huffington Post, February 2, 2009, available at

Dorsey, Sherrell, "Few See a Path to Green Industry for African Americans," Black Enterprise, February 20, 2013, available at

Gregorio, Juan José, "Latin America needs US$19.6bn in water treatment plants, IDB expert says," BNAmericas, October 14, 2013, available at

LaDuke, Winona, Supporting a Green Future in Native American Communities, Dream of a Nation, available at

McDermott, Mat, "We Want Renewable Energy & Green Jobs Too: Native American Groups Tell Obama," Tree Hugger, January 7, 2009, available at

Shepherd, J. Marshall, "Why African Americans May be Left Out of the 21st Century Job Market," Ebony, April 15, 2013, available at

Singley, Catherine, Bright Green:  Five Metropolitan Areas Where the Latino Workforce and the Clean Economy Overlap, National Center for La Raza, February 2013, available at
Water Research Foundation, National Economic and Labor Impacts of the Water Utility Sector, September 2014, available at

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Enabling women's participation in the workforce in India, Afghanistan, Sweden, Turkey, Brazil, the US and around the world

Thought I would share the ABA-UNDP International Legal Resource Center's contribution to the UN Women E-Discussion on Enabling Environment and Legal Incentives for Women's Employment from earlier this year.  The report contains essays by lawyers on issues women face accessing employment and working in a variety of countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sweden, Brazil, the US and the United Kingdom.  Very interesting reading!  And shows how much more work is to be done.

Here's the link:  Empowering Women: Enabling Environment and Legal Incentives for Women's Employment (January 2014)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Giving women more access to the globe's purse strings

Usually this blog focuses on the have nots and have littles, but I wanted to share my recent contribution to the comments made by the ABA-UNDP International Legal Resource Center as part of the UN Women E-Discussion on "Making Financial Markets Work for Women."  More about this E-Discussion can be found at the following link: Making Financial Markets Work for Women.


Making Financial Markets Work for Women by Making Working in the International Finance and Banking Sector Work for Women
Contribution to UN Women E-Discussion Make Financial Markets Work for Women
June 2014

            The International Finance Corporation and other Bretton Woods institutions have made a point of researching and designing programs to improve women's access to banking and financial services as part of a set of initiatives related to the Women's Economic Empowerment movement in international policy circles.  Examples of the work being done by the IFC and other Bretton Woods institutions can be found on the website of the IFC's Gender Secretariat, where research studies focus on how to better incorporate women in the working world as entrepreneurs and employees and the benefits of better inclusion of women in the business sector.

            Despite the ascension of Christine Lagarde to the role of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and that of Janet Yellen to the role of Chair of the United States Federal Reserve, there appears to be inadequate comparative research about the role women can play as managers, executives and directors of the international and national finance and banking sectors, not just employees and consumers of banking products.  The International Labor Organization, the IFC and World Bank should work together to gather the quantitative and qualitative information about ascension of women to board and upper level executive positions in the world's banks, especially in nations important to the international finance and banking sector such as the United States, Brazil, India, Singapore, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom - to name a few.  It is not enough that international and national policy makers consider how to make banking accessible to women.  They should consider that sharing control of the globe's purse strings is a critical component in women's economic empowerment.

            One set of tools utilized by many nations to address access of women to management, executive and leadership roles in the private and public sector are those in the field of employment equity (Canada), positive action (European nations and the EU), affirmative action (United States, India, South Africa and Brazil) and quotas (Norway and India).  For example, in Canada, the banking sector is regulated at the federal level, so all banks that operate in Canada are subject to that nation's federal Employment Equity Act and are required to submit periodic reports on achievements and challenges in employment equity.  Scotiabank's Employment Equity Report to Canadian officials for 2012 reported that while 66% of Scotiabank's employees are women and half of its professionals are women, only about one third of Scotiabank's senior managers are women (Scotiabank, 2012 Employment Equity Narrative Report, Toronto, Ontario, p. 4).  The report shows improvement since 2008 when only 24% of Scotiabank's senior managers were women, but acknowledges that improvements must still be made.  In other countries, like Brazil, more sound, publicly available research and information is needed about women's participation in executive and management positions in the Brazilian banking sector.  A 2009 study published by the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labor Studies (AIAS) indicates that women constitute 36% of that nation's legislators, senior officials and managers (Maarten, et al., An overview of women's work and employment in Brazil, AIAS, Amsterdam 2009, p. 50.).  While this study provides an overview of participation of women throughout the Brazilian economy, it does not separate information about the private and public sectors and does not provide detailed information about women's participation in upper level positions in the banking and finance sectors in Brazil.

            In 2011, Rohini Pande and Deanna Ford produced an intriguing background paper entitled Gender Quotas and Female Leadership as part of the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development (2011 Pande & Ford Gender Quotas).  Pande and Ford found that while career paths have broadened for women around the world, there has not been a proportionate increase in female leaders.  They also found that gender quotas in Norway's legislative branch have led to more female legislators and more legislative attention to issues that are important to women.  More research would have to be done, but it would be a productive task for the IFC and its Bretton Woods brethren to explore whether an increase of women in directorships on the boards of finance companies and banks would have a similarly positive effect on policies that afford greater access to banking and financial services for women.  While it is a common stereotype that women tend to be less corrupt than men in leadership positions, Pande and Ford cite studies providing evidence that women have been less corrupt than men in the administration of local governments in India (p. 20).  They also note that the lack of a female presence on company boards results partially from the lack of a female presence among top executives in companies.  While Pande and Ford discussed companies in general, the ILO, IFC and World Bank could initiate research on whether this is also the case in particular in the banking and financial services sectors and, more importantly, what can be done about it.

            Literature on the gender gap in leadership and management of the banking and financial sectors in the United States and United Kingdom tends to focus on the small number of women in leadership roles and obstacles to women's advancement.  For example, Catalyst found that in 2012, 23% of senior officers in finance and banking companies and that 18% of board directors in the US were women, although 40% of all banking and finance employees were women (Catalyst, Women in Financial Services).  The Institute of Leadership & Management in the United Kingdom found that women encounter a number of obstacles to progressing to leadership roles in the banking industry in the UK (Institute of Leadership & Management, Women in Banking).  These obstacles include discrimination in promotion, ineffective performance management systems that make who you know rather than what you can do important factors in advancement, lack of female role models, inflexible workplaces and the need for a strong presence of women on the boards of directors of companies in the banking and finance sectors.

            In contrast to the banking sectors in New York and London, which were the epicenters of the global financial crash in 2008, India's banking sector emerged relatively intact.  Aman Dhall and Ravi Teja Sharma of The Times of India attribute better management of India's banks to the presence of a higher number of women in top executive and board positions (Dhall, Aman & Ravi Teja Sharma, "What makes women successful in the Indian banking industry," The Times of India, September 19, 2010, ).  Dhall and Shama point to the hiring of promising female business school graduates by international banks entering the Indian market in the 1980s and 1990s.  Many of these women advanced to top executive and board-level roles.  According to the article, in present day India, three out of the top eleven bank executives in India are women.  Bankers attribute the success of women bank managers in India to affirmative action policies, an emphasis on human resources policies that benefit all employees and family support.  The article indicates that many of the women who advanced to top positions in India's banking sector have paid help at home, making the reader wonder if there may be financial barriers to ascension in bank management.

            While the global literature on women's participation at executive and board levels in the banking and finance sectors is incomplete and requires additional attention, it is clear that women do not participate at top levels in proportion to their participation as bank employees and customers.  Existing literature points to a path ahead for research focused in particular on women in management and executive roles in the banking and finance sectors.  More research must be done to identify the reasons for successful results in some countries like India and inadequate progress in other countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.  It is not just a matter of affording women more power to control the purse strings in the global banking and finance sectors.  As the biography of Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson shows, leadership in the banking and finance sectors can translate directly into leadership in the political arena, and vice versa.  When she was not jailed for her political activism in Liberia, President Sirleaf Johnson spent much of her life in exile in top level positions at the World Bank and as Director of Citibank in Kenya.  One factor in her success as President and as a crusader against corruption who renegotiated a number of unfair contracts entered on behalf of Liberia by her predecessors may have been her extensive experience in the global finance sector.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lack of clarity in North American policy leaves injured truckers in legal limbo

As predicted by observers over a decade ago, the lack of clarity in North American policy governing workplace injuries suffered by truckers who cross international borders under the NAFTA Trucking provisions has left injured truckers in legal limbo.  This legal limbo has empowered Mexican employers to attempt to utilize laws implementing the NAFTA and NAALC to argue that they need not comply with state workers' compensation laws once they cross into the United States, causing their employees uncertainty and lengthy delays in payment for medical treatment incurred in the US when they are injured.

Implementation of the NAFTA Trucking provisions by the US has been partial and highly contested.  After a number of starts and stops over the past two decades, in July 2011 the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reissued regulations and implemented a pilot program allowing some Mexican trucking companies to begin long haul operation in US territory.  The Mexican National Chamber of Transporters, CANACAR, has filed a request for arbitration under the NAFTA in response to what it feels is inadequate compliance with NAFTA's trucking provisions.

Part of the confusion over workplace injuries arises from jurisdictional issues governing compensation for on-the-job injuries in the US and Canada.  While in Mexico, compensation for workplace injuries is a matter of federal jurisdiction, workers' compensation in the US and Canada is a matter of state and provincial jurisdiction.  FMCSA regulations are not crystal clear on the requirement that Mexican trucking companies operating in US territory obtain workers' compensation insurance, although the language of the regulations seems to strongly imply that obtaining state workers' compensation insurance is a requirement for entering US territory.  While each US state and Canadian province has its own workers' compensation statute, interstate motor carriers operating in the US can obtain workers' compensation policies that allow them to operate in a number of states.  As I argued in my article in 2006, however, federal border authorities must include workers' compensation coverage in their checklist when allowing Mexican trucks to enter US territory.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a decision in a workers' compensation case that provides more clarity on the issue.  In its January 14, 2014 decision in Porteadores del Noroeste S.A. de C.V. v. Industrial Commission of Arizona/Valenzuela, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the Mexican trucking company employer in question was required to obtain workers' compensation insurance as required by Arizona law and specifically rejected the employer's somewhat specious argument that the NAFTA and NAALC pre-empted the exercise by the State of Arizona of jurisdiction over Mexican trucking companies operating within Arizona territory.

In 2010, Adan Valenzuela, a Mexican citizen operating a long haul truck for a subcontractor of the Mexican trucking company Porteadores del Noroeste S.A. de C.V. was involved in a trucking accident in the State of Arizona.  While Mr. Valenzuela received wage and medical benefits from the Mexican Institute of Social Security as required by Mexican law, he also incurred tens of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills for emergency and other medical care in the US and Mexico.  Mr. Valenzuela's Mexico-based employer had not obtained workers' compensation insurance as required under Arizona law, so the Arizona Uninsured Workers' Fund paid some but not all of the medical bills incurred by Mr. Valenzuela as a result of his workplace injury.  Mr. Valenzuela and his attorney Wes Montrose filed a claim with the Arizona Workers Compensation Commission which was granted.  The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the Commission's decision to award Mr. Valenzuela's claim based on fundamental public policies underlying the Arizona Workers' Compensation Act.

The Porteadores decision of the Arizona Court of Appeals is an important precedent emphasizing that Mexican and Canadian long haul trucking operators must obtain proper workers' compensation insurance policies while operating in US territory.  Nevertheless, it took almost 4 years for Mr. Valenzuela to be fully compensated for his injuries.  More clarity in regulatory and policy guidance from North American and federal authorities in Mexico, the US and Canada would prevent future injured workers from having to wait such a long time for full compensation in similar cases.