Key Takeaways about High Road Standards in Zero-Emission Transportation

July 7, 2021




This post is the third in a series on Gridworks’ project on high road labor standards in transportation electrification.  Check out our earlier post here.      

To better understand high road standards and their application to zero-emission transportation, Gridworks convened an Advisory Committee composed of representatives of California state agencies, labor, environmental advocates, and environmental justice stakeholders.  Over the course of 10 weeks, the Advisory Committee met four times to share their expertise and provided insight on the characteristics of a high road job, what workers and communities need from jobs, and the challenges of establishing workforce standards in the ZEV sector. The Advisory Committee’s input was essential for considering a variety of perspectives and experiences, though the conversation is far from finished.

On Wednesday, July 20 at 11 am Pacific, Gridworks will host a webinar to share what we’ve learned in this initiative.  We offer this summary of key takeaways from the High Road Standards in Zero-Emission Transportation Report to catalyze the conversation.

  1. The High Road Standards in Zero-Emission Transportation Report offers a framework for understanding the potential for high road economic development in zero-emission transportation and highlights workforce standards that may be adopted by employers and/or public agencies when developing program rules and procurement requirements. 
  2. Taking the high road to zero-emission transportation will require that California employers and public agencies adopt and apply “high road standards” addressing three distinct and interrelated areas: workforce, equity, and environmental protection.
  3. Workforce standards are established practices and proven tools that support a high road economy.  Examples include providing prevailing wages, establishing targeted hiring standards, enforcing compliance mechanisms for existing laws, offering training and apprenticeships, and applying domestic and in-state sourcing requirements.
  4. High road standards addressing equity and environmental protection in the zero-emission transportation industry are emerging concepts. Additional dialogue, coordination, and partnerships among communities, policy-makers, advocates, and employers are necessary to define standards and design implementation approaches.
  5. While ambitious, the workforce standards suggested here are not an exhaustive list of solutions, nor are they a blanket set of recommendations, to enable a high road approach to zero-emission transportation.  Instead, the overall framework offers a foundation for community-based organizations, policy-makers, employers, and other interested stakeholders to build upon to define and refine the standards that meet worker, employer, and community needs. 

Workforce Standards for Zero-Emission Transportation

Hiring and Wages

  • Offer industry-specific or economy-wide wage and benefit standards that significantly exceed the California minimum wage or meet industry prevailing wages;
  • Set specific targets to increase hiring, retention, and career paths for ‘disadvantaged and dislocated workers,’ including women, people of color, workers from local and low-income communities, workers impacted by fossil fuel transition, justice-involved workers, LGBTQ+ workers, and veterans;
  • Require Project Labor Agreements, Community Workforce Agreements and/or Community Benefits Agreements for all zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) charging infrastructure and manufacturing facility construction projects; and
  • Restrict temporary labor to temporary and short-term purposes only.


  • Ensure enforcement of all labor and employment laws;
  • Ensure compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local environmental, health, and safety laws;
  • Adopt requirements that compliance with clean vehicle rules and regulations are targeted to entities with common ownership or control over business operations;
  • Make information disclosed by companies around meeting workforce standards and incentives publicly accessible; and
  • Penalize and remedy violations of labor standards and protect against retaliation.

Training and Apprenticeship

  • Require all workers to be certified with suitable Minimum Industry Training Criteria;
  • Invest in training and career pathways through apprenticeship programs and/or the High Road Training Partnership model; and
  • Use certified apprenticeship programs where applicable, require contractually agreed-upon training, and/or comprehensively train workers for career pathways.


  • Protect collective bargaining rights and ensure employer neutrality.

Leveraging Public Spending to Create Demand

  • Require these discrete high road workforce standards for all publicly funded solicitations greater than $50,000 and for incentive programs with significant investments.

Domestic Sourcing    

  • Adopt requirements for domestic production of batteries, cells, non-battery content, and zero-emission vehicles; and
  • Adopt requirements that subsidized vehicles are assembled domestically.
Post by Deborah Shields