In the wake of the announcement of final results in the 2020 presidential race, Stephen Herzenberg executive director of Keystone Research Center and co-director of the ReImagine Appalachia (RA) campaign, made the following statement to Pennsylvania media on behalf of the RA campaign:
“Like most of us, the people living in the Ohio Valley want future generations to have the opportunity for a better life. The high turnout, voting patterns, and exit polls in southwest Pennsylvania, southeast Ohio, West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky, show that many people living in the region are worried about the future. For decades, some politicians and their corporate backers have sown division based on what we look like or where we come from, while they held down wages and shipped jobs overseas. Absentee corporations in the extractive industries have left too many Appalachian communities in poverty by exploiting the region’s workforce while also leaving the land scarred and the environment polluted. During the COVID-19 recession, inequality has grown even wider, with billionaires seeing their wealth rise by nearly a trillion dollars and our region losing another 90,000 manufacturing jobs.
“Given our new national political lineup, federal leaders have a golden opportunity to rebuild the region by passing an aggressive climate stimulus that voters of both parties would support. In our region, an Appalachian climate infrastructure program could create over half a million jobs, many of them good-paying union trades and other blue-collar jobs that can be performed safely outside, including:
- 100,000 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) jobs paying at least the $15 per hour (the minimum wage level supported by 61% of Floridians and big majorities wherever referenda are on the ballot or polls conducted).
- Thousands of jobs laying fiber optic cable to deliver universal high-quality broadband vital to the economic future of the rural parts of the Ohio River Valley.
- Tens of thousands of clean manufacturing jobs, growing the number of manufacturing jobs in our region for the first time in four decades.
“The new administration and Congress can signal that they got the memo that working people want good jobs and dignity—which the ReImagine Appalachia blueprint would deliver. The ReImagine vision can unite young and old and every race and gender in a collective effort to protect our people, our homes and region, and our country from the more devastating consequence that would result from inaction on climate—while also feeding people’s hunger for opportunity and a chance to contribute.
Congressional leaders from our region, including our U.S. Senators, will have outsized influence on whether Washington embraces a climate stimulus big enough to kick start the recovery and respectful enough of the working people on the frontlines of climate response. We look forward to working with our Congressional Delegation and our new President to enact a New Deal that Works for US and to make our ReImagined Appalachia—and a ReImagined America—a reality.”