by Gus Speth and Joe Uehlein
During our many decades of work in the labor and environmental movements, there have been many battles that led to tensions between our communities. The Keystone Pipeline is only the most recent example. To help overcome these challenges, we recently convened two dozen leaders of labor, environmental, and other organizations for a frank conversation about the difficult times faced by ordinary workers and the dire environmental prospects we all face. We were motivated by a deep conviction that our communities could unite behind a common vision of a new economy that is good for working families and for the planet. We know that a top priority of most people is decent, dignified jobs that advance a truly sustainable economy. (more…)
[by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith]
This is a call for environmentalists and other critics of coal to come to the aid of America’s miners.
Whenever government protection of workers health and safety or the environment rears its ugly head, America’s coal companies are quick to portray themselves as the coal miners’ best friends. They are ever ready to come to the aid of what they portray as workers threatened by environmentalists and government regulators dedicated to destroying miners’ jobs at any cost.
Today, the jobs of two thousand miners and the healthcare benefits of twenty thousand retirees and their families are threatened - not by callous environmentalists or government regulators, but by their own employer, Patriot Coal.
Patriot Coal was created in 2007 by Peabody Energy to acquire all of its operations east of the Mississippi River. (more…)
At its just-completed Executive Council meeting, the AFL-CIO issued a new “Statement on Energy and Jobs.” While the statement is broadly in line with past AFL-CIO policy, it is worth close examination by those concerned about our twin crises of climate and economy.
To evaluate the significance of this statement, it is important to understand the current context. Superstorm Sandy and other extreme weather events, rising sea levels, pervasive devastating drought, and other effects of climate change are hitting America here and now. But attempts to establish climate protection policies continue to be stymied by rightwing ideologues who deny that global warming even exists.
At the start of his second term, President Obama has begun talking about the necessity to address climate change. With legislation blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives, (more…)
by Brendan Smith
The American labor movement is once again facing a most controversial issue — the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While the KXL debate has largely centered around the environmental risks, from labor’s perspective opening up the Canadian Tar Sands is often seen as an economic, not an environmental, issue. And it’s no wonder: Construction unemployment is double the national average and, from a worker’s perspective, Keystone jobs will be good-paying union jobs in an economy that increasingly offers up only minimum-wage service work.
As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained last year, “mass unemployment makes everything harder and feeds fear. . . opponents of the pipeline [need to] recognize that construction jobs are real jobs, good jobs.” KXL advocates have worked hard to capitalize on this fear by arguing that labor must choose between creating jobs and protecting the planet. (more…)