"Green-collar" defined... incorrectly.

Authors: ada "Green-collar" is now in the dictionary. The latest edition of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary was just released, and "green-collar" is one of about 100 words that has been added to it. "Vlog" and "locavore" are a couple others that made the cut, according to the AP. The inclusion of "green-collar" is an indication of how much the concept has caught on over the past couple of years. In the words of the publisher, John Morse:
"We've made the judgment that these are not just words used by specialists.... These really are words now likely to show up in The New York Times, in The Wall Street Journal."
  But there is one small problem - Merriam-Webster got the definition wrong! The dictionary defines "green-collar" as:
"of, relating to, or involving actions for protecting the natural environment".
This definition falls flat in a couple of different ways. Chief among them is that "Green-collar" doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless it is in reference to jobs and the economy. Compare the definition above to how the dictionary defines "blue-collar":
"of, relating to, or constituting the class of wage earners whose duties call for the wearing of work clothes or protective clothing."
This does not exhaustively capture all that "blue-collar" has come to mean - but it does make the crucial link to work and labor that the "green-collar" definition lacks. Take it from the folks who helped coin the term: "green-collar" is a deliberate reference to blue-collar, a connection that Merriam-Webster fails to capture.   "Green-collar" refers to jobs and an economy that does more than protect the environment. Like "blue-collar", it also means creating opportunity for dignified work, lifting people from poverty into the middle class, revitalizing the manufacturing industry, and providing quality, family supporting jobs and careers to America's workers. More connections between "green-collar" and "blue-collar":
  • Green-collar jobs are often in familiar blue-collar fields like manufacturing, construction, and maintenance and repair.
  • Like blue-collar jobs, many green-collar positions do not require a college or graduate degree. With some job training and employment opportunity, green-collar work can provide "pathways out of poverty" to people in need.
  • Green-collar jobs are quality jobs, with family-supporting wages, safe working conditions, and opportunities for career advancement.
According to the Merriam-Webster definition a "green home" would be indistinguishable from a "green-collar home". But if "green-collar" is used to describe a product, it must reflect the process through which it was made. A home couldn't be called "green-collar" unless it was both environmentally friendly AND worker-friendly. Pushing a broom for $7 an hour doesn't count as a green-collar job, even if it's a solar-panel factory you're cleaning. That's a lot to pack into a dictionary definition, I know. But even the most basic definition of "green-collar" should reference the strong legacy of blue-collar work in this country. If dictionaries quoted organizations, Merriam-Webster could just use this simple Green For All definition: A green-collar job is a blue-collar job, upgraded to improve the environment and fight climate change. To learn more about the definition of green-collar jobs, read this or this.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Sign Up Take Pledge