The Future for Latinos and Green Collar Jobs

Elli Matkin

This goal of my research was to find out what role Latinos play in the green-collar jobs movement and how that role can best be strengthened. I investigated college programs, green-collar job training programs, green-collar jobs advocacy organizations, and community-based organizations to understand how green Latino-oriented programs are, as well as how inclusive to Latinos green programs and organizations are, and through what approach.

Methods:I began by looking at previous research on the green-collar jobs movement, the socioeconomic conditions of Latinos, Latinos’ environmental actions, and effective outreach to spur Latino mobilization. With this background I concluded that Latinos’ participation in the movement could be beneficial for both parties, but Latino interest and involvement are highly dependent on how the movement presents its cause. Because prior research suggests that culturally appropriate outreach is essential for Latino civic participation, I studied over a dozen college programs, green-collar job training programs, green-collar jobs advocacy organizations, and community-based organizations to see if this was true, largely through interviews. I chose Washington programs primarily, but because of the newness of the green-collar jobs movement was forced to research organizations in other areas of the U.S.

Findings: Latinos do not play a very strong role in the green-collar jobs movement. The majority of green-collar job training programs and advocacy organizations do not practice the culturally appropriate outreach that scholars and many Latino program leaders deem essential for Latino mobilization.

Recommendations: I recommend that green-collar jobs training programs and advocacy organizations adopt more culturally appropriate outreach methods for Latinos. I have outlined four guiding principles that would enable organizations to most effectively ensure that Latinos play a strong role in the movement:

  • Recognize that Latinos are a unique minority group, not just part of a “community of color” or “disadvantaged community.”
  • Establish trust through cultural connection (e.g. language) and regular, personal contact.
  • Make the cause personal by addressing issues that Latinos really care about—like family
  • Establish conditions for equality in the movement by acknowledging Latinos’ traditional environmental knowledge (TEK).

In addition, immigration reform is essential because present immigration policies act as a major barrier to Latino participation by inciting a state of fear.

Community Partners:
* Cynthia Selde, coordinator of the Washington State University Learning Center for South Eastern Washington and director of Walla Walla’s Latino American Forum.
* Devon G. Peña, professor of anthropology at University of Washington and director of the Acequia Institute, Colorado.

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