I’ve worked installing solar electrical systems in Illinois for 6 years. I show up to work every day and know that I’m building the future and leaving behind a better planet for our kids.

Climate change is already here in Illinois. Just look at this spring’s flash floods or the drought we’re in. These extreme weather events are hitting working people in our state first and worst. And those of us on the frontlines of the clean energy economy know that this is a serious, life-or-death crisis. Which is why we need our state leaders to act — now.

But we have to get it right. Our response to climate change can’t come at the expense of working people or the communities of color that have already gotten the short end of the stick for decades. We need investments in renewable energy that create good-paying union careers like mine — not low-wage jobs that let people barely scrape by.

We also need to make sure our transition away from fossil fuels does right by the workers in those industries by making sure that new climate jobs are even better than the oil and gas jobs we’re leaving behind.

This is our chance to right decades of wrongs. We can take on racial and income inequality in Illinois by expanding opportunities to good union jobs in communities that have been excluded from them for far too long. To make it happen, we need to make sure these new jobs pay prevailing wage and create more career pathways for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color through apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.

None of this can happen without strong worker protections that guarantee no worker will be left behind or exploited in our clean energy transition. We have one shot to pass a bold climate bill that creates good climate jobs and sets Illinois on a path to net-zero emissions. Working people in Illinois are counting on our state leaders to get it done this month.

Fabian Abrego, Solar Electrical Installer, IBEW Local 134

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