IEA joins union-led coalition to champion Carbon Free Schools Initiative, support Illinois transition to 100% clean energy by 2050 and create union jobs and investment in historically underserved communities

Springfield, Ill. — Climate Jobs Illinois today announced the Illinois Education Association (IEA) has joined the union-led coalition to transition Illinois to 100 percent clean energy by 2050, specifically in support of the group’s Carbon Free Schools initiative.

“IEA is excited to be part of this coalition, which will focus on clean energy,” said Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin. “This will result in healthier school environments for students and educators while saving money for school districts through energy efficiency programs.”

“At a time when schools need all the resources they can access, our plan would save a school district over $6 million a year on average by switching to solar power generation and through energy efficiency improvements,” said Nikki Budzinski, executive director of Climate Jobs Illinois. “The climate and economic challenges we’re currently confronting present an opportunity for Illinois to boldly reimagine how we power our economy and support our schools bringing up the next generation. This plan does just that.”

CJI’s Carbon Free Schools Initiative seeks to save schools money by installing 4 gigawatts of solar power by 2030, which would cut carbon emissions by 9 million metric tons (12%), equivalent to powering 897,000 homes. The plan also calls for retrofitting facilities with updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, which paired with new solar systems, would deliver substantial cost reductions estimated between 25 percent and 33 percent on annual school energy costs. The investment would support over 67,000 total jobs across Illinois, including over 25,000 direct jobs for skilled construction workers.

Over 25 years, solar power would save the average school district $3.2 million ($127,000 per year) and energy efficiency improvements could save an additional $2.9 million ($115,000 per year). As a result, the Carbon Free Schools Initiative can save schools nearly $5.2 billion over 25 years.

Climate Jobs Illinois represents the hundreds of thousands of Illinois working men and women who are best suited to build Illinois’ new clean-energy economy from the ground up. The organization’s Governing Board includes Illinois AFL-CIO President and Chair Tim Drea, Illinois AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Pat Devaney, Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter and Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council President Ralph Affrunti.

Executive Committee members of Climate Jobs Illinois are: Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers State Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, Laborers International Union of North America Great Lakes Region, Laborers International Union of North America Midwest Region, Service Employees International Union State Council and United Auto Workers Region 4.

Climate Jobs Illinois is a state affiliate of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center. CJI has partnered with The Project for Middle Class Renewal at UIUC, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Cornell University Worker Institute.

By advocating for bold clean energy investments with comprehensive labor standards, including prevailing wage, apprenticeship requirements, labor peace agreements, project labor agreements and responsible bidder requirements, Climate Jobs Illinois is working to ensure these jobs create more pathways to the middle class, especially for communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

To read the CJI’s full 10-point proposal, visit, and follow CJI at @ClimateJobsIL on Twitter or join its Facebook page.