The Green New Deal and the Future of Work in America

Nov. 1-2

This event last occurred Nov. 3, 2019

The challenge for our times is to get our economy to work for people and planet alike. The Green New Deal is not just a response to climate change by another name: it is a framework for enacting massive transformations in work, infrastructure, and political participation, and thus for re-envisioning what a flourishing life inhabitable future looks like.

This conference will bring together leading scholars to discuss the Green New Deal and its potential to both respond to the climate crisis and plot a path forward to a more just and fair nation. The keynote address will be delivered by former president of the American Sociological Association and CUNY Graduate Center Professor, Frances Fox Piven. The conference is organized by Craig Calhoun, University Professor of the Social Sciences, and Benjamin Fong, Honors Faculty Fellow in Barrett Honors College. The conference is sponsored by the Center for Work and Democracy.

The dire predictions of the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change point to the need for sweeping social transformations in order to avoid the mass suffering that global warming promises. Recently popularized by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement, the Green New Deal offers a powerful framework for achieving rapid decarbonization through the creation of green infrastructure and a federal jobs program.

“The Green New Deal and the Future of Work in America” explores questions about the future of work in America through the lens of the Green New Deal, including:

  • How would a Green New Deal shape and address transformations in the nature of work in America? How would federal jobs guarantee change working-class economic and political life? How do we win a federal jobs guarantee that helps alleviate racial and gendered income disparities?
  • How do we achieve the rapid decarbonization of the economy needed to stave off the worst of climate catastrophe while still producing the energy needed for a high quality of life? What are the most important technologies, infrastructures, and industries to invest in? What kinds of new jobs do we need? What kinds of jobs will be eliminated? And what does a true "just transition" look like?
  • How can the Green New Deal be won in such a way that benefits public rather than only private interests, not just in terms of state ownership but rather in terms of a commitment to public projects and goods? Can public sector workers take on a new dynamism, perhaps even becoming "mission-driven"?
  • What kind of political mobilizations/strategic alliances will need to be built in order to win a Green New Deal? What sectors of capital will be friendly and hostile to a Green New Deal? What are the obstacles to gaining organized labor's support of a Green New Deal?
  • How should the GND combine national government leadership with grassroots, local, and state action (including cooperatives and other forms of direct action such as were important to the original New Deal)? How does local work matter in the face of global climate catastrophe?

This conference is the inaugural conference of the Center for Work and Democracy, which brings social scientific expertise to bear on the problem of rebuilding popular voice in an increasingly plutocratic polity. The core thesis of the Center is that the biggest problem that confronts efforts to realize democracy and economic justice is not a lack of policy ideas or an absence of support or resources, but the limitations of politics itself. The goal of the Center is to produce work that contributes to the understanding necessary to rebuild the politics of the majority while furthering a broader democratic renewal.


1-1:30pm: Opening Remarks

  • Dave Regan, SEIU-UHW
  • Craig Calhoun, ASU

1:30-3:30 pm: Lessons from the Old New Deal

  • Stephen Cohen, UC Berkeley: “Intelligent Design”
  • Hillary Angelo, UC Santa Cruz: “Landscapes for politics: Labor and leisure in the Green New Deal”
  • Richard Walker, UC Berkeley: “A Green New Deal and Working People: Lessons from the Original New Deal”
  • Respondent: Evan Berry, ASU

3:30-3:45pm: Break

3:45-5:15 pm: A Planet to Win

  • Daniel Aldana Cohen, UPenn: “A Green New Deal for Housing and the Labor Question”
  • Alyssa Battistoni, Harvard/Jacobin: “From Pink Collar to #RedforEd: For an Expanded View of Green Jobs”
  • Respondent: Hanna Breetz, ASU

5:15-5:30pm: Break

5:30-7 pm: Keynote Address: Frances Fox Piven, CUNY


10 am-12 pm: How do we achieve the political support and will to win a Green New Deal?

  • Harvey Molotch, NYU: “Growth Machines Take Our Breath Away”
  • Harry Boyte, Augsburg: “A We the People Green New Deal”
  • Kate Knuth, University of Minnesota: “Forging an American Identity to Deliver on the Promise of the Green New Deal”
  • Respondent: Juan Mendez, Arizona State Senator, LD26

12-1:15 pm: Break for Lunch

1:15-3:45pm: What is a "just transition"?

  • Todd Vachon, Rutgers: “Fancy Funeral or Radical Rebirth? Just Transition and the Future of Work(ers) in the U.S.”
  • Mijin Cha, Occidental: “Do the ends justify the means?: The challenges of just transition and the Powder River Basin, Wyoming”
  • Wilson Sherwin, CUNY: “Does Everyone Want a Job? Lessons from the past for alternative futures”
  • Aaron Benanav, University of Chicago: “Between Green Growth and Eco-Abundance”
  • Respondent: Jose Lobo, ASU

3:45-4 pm: Break

4-6 pm: The broader political opening of the fight against climate change

  • Clark Miller, ASU: “Designing Future Political Economies through Energy Innovation”
  • Stephanie Luce, CUNY: “Another World (of Work) is Possible”
  • Richard Lachmann, SUNY Albany: “Climate Change and the Decommodification of Jobs”
  • Respondent: Deborah Strumsky, ASU

All are welcome to join conference speakers at the Normal Restaurant at the Graduate Hotel for drinks and dinner immediately following the closing panel on Saturday (though we will not be paying for everyone).

University Club

For more information contact:

Michael McQuarrie
Director, Center for Work and Democracy