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MA – Next month marks a year since the Massachusetts legislature passed the Next-Generation Roadmap Act, and Massachusetts has done little to bring the state into line with its emissions goals. Labor unions, disability, social justice organizations, youth, environmentalists, and other activist sectors in the Mass Renews Alliance (MARA) coalition have called on the legislature to support investments in food systems and housing justice when implementing the New Gen Roadmap Law. 

On Wednesday, February 2, a panel of Massachusetts State Representatives and MARA activists made the case that their bills, Building Justice with Jobs, Food Justice with Jobs, and Food Justice Frontline, are necessary to bring Massachusetts in line with its goals stated in the Next-Generation Roadmap Act. All three bills also have strong equity and justice components, promoting the creation of well-paying jobs and investing in frontline communities.

Building Justice with Jobs, sponsored by Sen. Pacheco, Rep. Robinson, and Rep. LeBoeuf, would create a task force to develop and implement a plan to provide housing emissions renovations to one million homes in Massachusetts over the next 10 years.

Brian Doherty, Vice President of MA AFL-CIO, believes the technology and training is already there on the building trades side, and the legislature must follow. The Greater Boston Building Trades Union, which represents 35,000 construction families, invests $50 million per year in cutting edge, green technology training with 20 training programs across Boston.

The Building Justice with Jobs Task Force would be comprised of representatives of key communities, a departure from the legislature’s tendency to rely on state agencies over community participation. The task force would prioritize retrofitting homes in environmental justice and lower household income communities.

“This bill gives us the unique opportunity to retrofit housing and create jobs at the same time, but importantly it gives our community a seat on the Building Justice With Jobs Taskforce – allowing us to ensure these updated homes and new jobs are accessible to all Massachusetts residents,” said R Feynman, Senior Community Organizer at the Disability Policy Consortium.

Food Justice with Jobs, sponsored by Sen. Eldridge (initially filed by Sen. Boncore) and Rep. Madaro, would provide funding for residents to establish community gardens, creating well-paying jobs for low-income and environmental justice communities.

Nelly Medina, Organizer for Justice with Jobs-Parents Union of MA, spoke to the urgency of the need to improve Massachusetts’ food systems.

“Massachusetts is ranked the worst in New England regarding food insecurity, and we are close to the bottom ranking for the entire country,” said Medina. “The introduction of community gardens can reduce the impact of food deserts in low-income areas like Worcester and allow residents greater access to nutritious food necessary to live a healthy life.”

Food Justice Frontline, sponsored by Sen. Jehlen and Rep. Minicucci, would fund organizations dealing with food insecurity and enable them to provide jobs to individuals living within communities overburdened with air pollution and other environmental risks.

Tarang Shah, youth organizer with Sunrise Worcester, made the case that “it is immoral that one-in-eleven children go hungry in this state,” that we “need to invest in healthy, local food accessible for everyone,” and that the Food Justice Frontline and Food Justice with Jobs bills would “decrease our carbon footprint, support local economies and feed our communities.”

MARA’s press conference comes on the day of the Joint Rule 10 deadline, which requires bills to be reported favorably from committee in order to be considered for a vote this legislative session.

Cabell Eames, Political Director for 350 Mass and MARA Steering Team member, commented that “we are nervous that some key legislators’ are uncomfortable with the idea of a community task force that centers those most impacted, as laid out in Building Justice with Jobs.” Cabell went on to say that members of the MARA coalition are “optimistically awaiting news of Food Justice with Jobs and Food Justice Frontline’s favorable reporting from committee.”

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