2020 Annual Report

Confidential Draft: Not for Distribution

A message from our Executive Director and President

What a year it was.

One would run out of adjectives to describe the impact of 2020 on our individual lives, our communities and our planet. Only in sci-fi movies do such scenarios play out the way the Coronavirus pandemic has. It is very much a new world that we wake up to every day.

Although we were never able to convene a gathering in person, the Labor Network for Sustainability–and the labor-climate movement more broadly–grew significantly in our numbers and influence. More workers and unions are engaged in climate dialogue and action than ever before. Environmentalists are expanding their agendas to include policy proposals that strengthen the rights of workers to organize and Just Transition provisions for workers and communities who will be impacted as we shift to a new-energy economy.

LNS was able to move forward with our work in new and innovative ways (“Zoom fatigue,” BTW, is a real thing). 

One of the most important efforts we took on in 2020 was to organize support from the environmental and climate justice movements for frontline workers. In March, we convened leaders from national environmental groups to hear from union leaders about the conditions frontline workers were facing in the midst of the pandemic. We organized joint campaigns to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to provide personal protective equipment and take all necessary measures to protect workers. This COVID-19 Solidarity effort still continues as national labor and environmental partners plan strategies for economic relief and recovery.

The Just Transition Listening Project, which we completed in October was an incredibly insightful and inspired project, giving us the opportunity to learn from the life experience of more than 100 leaders who have lived through major economic changes in their communities and workplaces–plant shutdowns, automation, the pandemic and other circumstances. We learned how workers and communities grappled with these changes and organized in the face of them. As we speak, we are amplifying the launch of our report, “Workers and Communities in Transition: A Report of the Just Transition Listening Project.” 

Transit equity continues to be an example of the power of grassroots organizing and networking. Local unions and community organizations have taken Transit Equity Day, which we commemorate each February 4 to honor civil rights leader Rosa Parks, to new levels in the past year. Activities were organized in 50 cities in 2020 with a multimedia presence that started to place transit equity at the forefront of the public transit conversation for national and local leaders. More importantly, it set the stage in 2021 for our recent Community Hearings on Transit Equity, where dozens of riders and workers from across the country shared their views on improving our public transit systems amid the COVID-19 emergency and newly found hope with allocated funding.

Last but certainly not least, is the expansion of our Young Worker Project–now taking shape as the Young Worker Listening Project. A voice that is often missing among the chorus calling for climate protection is that of young workers–many of whom share the values and concerns of their climate-activist peers but are faced with distinct challenges in moving their unions and other worker organizations to act boldly on climate change. We started the Young Worker Project in 2020 to provide a vehicle for young workers to network with each other and share their ideas and experiences.

With new national leadership that recognizes the urgency of climate change and the importance of empowering workers and communities, 2021 offers incredible potential for achieving important labor and climate-protection goals. We are inspired to move forward together in our continued struggle to achieve these goals.



Michael Leon Guerrero, Executive Director
Labor Network for Sustainability

Joe Uehlein, Founder and President
Labor Network for Sustainability

Our Team

Board of Directors

  • Harriet Applegate, Executive Secretary, North Shore AFL-CIO, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Maria Castañeda, Secretary-Treasurer, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
  • Edgar Franks, Washington State Campaign and Political Director, Familias Unidas por la Justicia,  Mount Vernon Washington
  • Sarita Gupta, Director, Future of Work(ers) Program, Ford Foundation
  • John Harrity, Former President, CT State Council of Machinists (retired 2018)
  • Lisa Hoyos,

    National Climate Strategy Director, League of Conservation Voters, San Francisco, California

  • Jeff Johnson, Retired President, Washington State Labor Council,Seattle, Washington
  • Jennifer Krill,

    Executive Director, Earthworks Washington, D.C.

  • Bob Massie, Former Executive Director, Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts
  • Melvin Montford, Executive Director, NC A. Philip Randolph Institute, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Ananda Lee Tan, Strategy Advisor, Just Transition Alliance, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • Cynthia Phinney, President, Maine AFL-CIO, Livermore Falls, Maine
  • Joseph B. Uehlein,

    Labor Network for Sustainability President and Founder, Takoma Park, Maryland


  • Joseph B. Uehlein, President
  • Michael Leon Guerrero,  Executive Director
  • Caro Achar, Strategic Researcher/Maryland Organizer
  • Elizabeth Bunn, National Policy and Maryland State Director
  • Lauren Burke, Organizing Director
  • Mike Cavanaugh, Senior Strategic Advisor/Organizer
  • Joshua D. Dedmond, Youth Organizer and Southern Regional Conference Organizer
  • Veronica Wilson, California Organizer 
  • Margaret Chambers, Operations Director
  • Carly Ebben Eaton, Development Director
  • Judy Asman, Communications and Information Director
  • Leo Blain, Content Producer
  • Jeremy Brecher, Senior Strategic Advisor

Mission & goals


To be a relentless force for urgent, science-based climate action by building a powerful labor-climate movement to secure an ecologically sustainable and economically just future where everyone can make a living on a living planet.


  • To put federal, state and local governments on a path to a sustainable, climate safe economy – with well defined metrics and goals based on the guidelines established by the consensus of climate scientists.
  • To assure that the sustainable, climate safe economy promotes social, racial and economic justice by creating quality jobs, strengthening the social safety net, protecting the commons and democracy.
  • To assure that workers and communities are engaged in shaping a Just Transition to the sustainable, climate safe economy.



We extend our heartfelt thanks to all who participated in this work. In particular, we would like to express our gratitude to the following foundations and all of our other supporters. The work of the Labor Network for Sustainability would not be possible without you.

  • 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation
  • Building Equity and Alignment for Impact Fund
  • Chorus Foundation
  • Energy Foundation
  • Fonda Family Foundation
  • Foundation for the Carolinas
  • Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing
  • Just Transition Fund of Rockefeller Family Fund
  • MacArthur Foundation
  • Joyce Mertz Gilmore Foundation
  • Open Society Foundations
  • Scherman Foundation
  • Wallace Global Fund
  • 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation
  • Building Equity and Alignment for Impact Fund
  • Chorus Foundation
  • Energy Foundation
  • Fonda Family Foundation
  • Foundation for the Carolinas
  • Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing
  • Just Transition Fund of Rockefeller Family Fund
  • MacArthur Foundation
  • Joyce Mertz Gilmore Foundation
  • Open Society Foundations
  • Scherman Foundation
  • Wallace Global Fund

Statement on the COVID-19 Crisis

This is a time for solidarity. This is a time for sustainability. This is a time for the Green New Deal.

A time for solidarity: The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic must not become the occasion for a war of all against all. Blaming China, or immigrants, or the opposition party is a way to divide us just when we need to be united. Instead we need to reach out to each other and ensure that everyone—especially the most vulnerable—are fully protected. Remember: the life you save may be your own!

A time for sustainability: Our public health crisis and our economic crisis are the predictable result of policies that put private profit first and the needs of people and the environment last. We are paying the price in an unsustainable economy, society, and environment—by destroying our own future. Let us use this time of crisis to quit this foolish, self-destructive course and commit ourselves to creating a sustainable future by all means necessary.

A time for the Green New Deal Bankers, oil executives, and possibly drug company officials have been meeting secretly with President Donald Trump while healthcare workers are forced to do their work without minimal protective equipment and others must choose between working while sick or not paying their bills. Unless we act, the fight against Coronavirus will be turned into one more way for the rich to steal from the poor.

After the 2008 economic meltdown, millions chanted: “Banks got bailed out—we got sold out.” Will we soon hear the chant: “Corporations got bailed out—we got Coronavirus”? The answer this time must be, “No!”.

All emerging stimulus money must go to helping people and putting our planet on a sustainable basis. It must go, in short, for the program of the Green New Deal.

COVID-19 Solidarity

To say that 2020 was not the year that we anticipated is a clear understatement. This has been a year of unprecedented challenges for our country. In March, our team pivoted quickly from engagement and turnout efforts for the Earth Day climate strikes to re-focusing the priorities of environmental and environmental justice organizations to the health and safety issues and economic hardships confronted by essential workers due to COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, we formed a joint coordinating committee of 5 national unions and 6 environmental organizations to develop and drive strategy for the COVID Solidarity effort. This group has met consistently since then, building critical new relationships between labor, environmental and climate justice organizations on immediate relief and now long-term economic recovery.

In April, as reported in The Hill, a letter to President Donald Trump signed by an alliance of more than 100 unions, advocacy organizations, and environmental groups demanded the administration immediately provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to hospital workers, cleaning staff, restaurant workers, manufacturers, and others who cannot work from home. 

As U.S. Senators vacationed in July, several  were met by a wave of organized protest in ten states demanding that they stop stalling and address the needs of workers in an upcoming stimulus package. The #SenateFail Day of Action highlighted the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass relief legislation. The Day of Action took place at a time when many organizations were unsure of what action to take next in response to the ongoing crisis. 

On July 14, LNS  and the National Committee for Occupational Safety and Health released “In Memoriam,” a video honoring essential workers who have lost their lives after exposure to COVID-19. The launch event featured LNS member, actor, activist, and founder of Fire Drill Fridays Jane Fonda. Ms. Fonda was an active participant in the COVID-19 solidarity process and envisioned and produced the project. The launch also featured family members and colleagues of essential workers whose lives were lost to COVID-19.

On October 8, the Center for Biological Diversity led a groundbreaking effort of labor unions representing healthcare workers, teachers, transit operators and millions of other frontline workers and national environmental groups to sue the federal government over its failure to provide adequate PPE to essential workers. The lawsuit demanded that the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security act immediately to ensure the manufacture and distribution of PPE. These agencies failed to respond to an August petition that demanded emergency action, violating federal law. The agencies had refused to properly manage PPE production and distribution, leaving states and industry to compete and frontline workers short of supplies. 

Collectively, these actions represent an unprecedented effort led by LNS to build power among labor unions and environmental groups to fight together in this COVID crisis—and now for an economic recovery program that will create good jobs while confronting the climate crisis. The environmental community has given its legal and campaigning muscle to work  shoulder-to-shoulder with the labor movement to push our political leaders to protect frontline workers. 


Photo: Peoples Climate March | Wikipedia Commons, Anthony Crider

THRIVE and the Green New Deal

A tangible outcome of our COVID solidarity work is the push for the THRIVE Agenda. THRIVE stands for “Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy.” THRIVE is a plan for economic renewal that provides a bold and forward-looking agenda to address the interlocking issues of racist policy, global pandemic, and ongoing climate crisis.

All five of the national unions represented on the COVID Solidarity coordinating committee have signed on to the THRIVE agenda. This includes American Federation of Teachers, American Postal Workers Union, Amalgamated Transit Union, Association of Flight Attendants-Communications Workers of America, and the Service Employees International Union.

The THRIVE Agenda lays out eight pillars to put millions of people back to work, building a more just, healthy, and equitable society. The Agenda will: 

  • Create millions of good, safe jobs with access to unions.
  • Build the power of workers to fight inequality.
  • Invest in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. 

At the Labor Network for Sustainability, we see our role being both to build bridges between the labor and climate movements, and to press us all to go further and faster to address the urgent climate crisis together. At the same time, we are working to engage the climate movement to understand more profoundly the central role of unions and the connections between economic inequality and the climate crisis. We believe that real change for working people – in whatever climate and infrastructure initiatives emerge – will be enhanced if there is as much alignment as possible between labor and the broad climate and environmental justice movements. We support the THRIVE Agenda and have worked to build support for it in the labor movement because, if enacted, THRIVE will be a huge step toward a Green New Deal and a Just Transition to a more equitable and sustainable future.

Support for THRIVE and the Green New Deal grew throughout 2020. At its July convention, the American Federation of Teachers adopted a resolution backing the Green New Deal proposal to counter climate change. Saying that the labor movement must be at the center of shaping climate policies, “including tax-base support for impacted communities, wage replacement and parity for affected workers”—along with retirement protections, and job and training guarantees—the resolution declares that the AFT will work to “ensure that no worker is left behind.”

We applaud this leadership from one of our closest labor partners and look forward to continuing to build the labor-climate movement together.

Just Transition Listening Project 

In 2020 LNS completed one of our most ambitious projects ever. The Just Transition Listening Project involved over 100 interviews with workers and community leaders. The purpose was to capture the voices of people whose lives and communities are being disrupted by plant closings, automation, the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and other causes. Historically the United States has not managed such transitions well, leaving workers and communities behind – with often devastating consequences. The Just Transition Listening Project aims to center the voices of affected people in shaping future economic transition and development decisions. 

The JTLP also included a monthly series of webinars addressing different issues relating to just transition: “The Pandemic, The Economic Crisis and Just Transition”, “Black Workers and Just Transition”, “Young Workers and Just Transition”, “Love It, Hate It: You’ve Heard the Term, Now Hear the Story”, “Young Workers and Just Transition”, “Transformative Strategies on the Frontline of Struggle’, and “Workers and Just Transition: A Global Perspective”.

The project was guided by a national Organizing Committee of environmental justice and labor partners and a group of labor leaders who served as Project Advisors. A report summarizing the results of the surveys was released in March 2021 written by just transition scholars J. Mijin Cha (Occidental College), Vivian Price (California State University Dominguez Hills), Dimitris Stevis (Colorado State University) and Todd Vachon (Rutgers University).

Image Credit: Taylor Mayes, Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs

Transit Equity Day

Public transit was one of the sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19. The Amalgamated Transit Union and Transport Workers United reported hundreds of workers that died from the pandemic. Riders struggled with the risk of being exposed to the virus and service being scaled back or suspended in their neighborhoods. Transit systems suffered major cuts in revenue placing the future of many systems at risk.

In this context, our work on Transit Equity grew significantly. Prior to the pandemic, our powerful network of transit rider groups, labor unions, civil rights, climate and environmental justice organizations organized our largest Transit Equity Day ever, with activities in 50 cities in 16 states on February 4, 2020. On a day where the debacle of the Iowa Caucuses and the impeachment effort against Donald Trump dominated the news, #TransitEquityDay was trending in social media several times during the day. Congressional Representatives Barbara Lee and Ilhan Omar also tweeted about TED.

As the pandemic unfolded the network mobilized grassroots support to encourage the Trump administration and the Congress to provide federal support to struggling transit systems. This work built momentum into a major event we organized on Transit Equity Day 2021: The Community Hearings on Transit Equity. We convened eight hours of video testimony over 2 days, plus several hours of pre-recorded stories workers and riders dependent on public transit. The testimonies are summarized in a “white paper” to be shared with lawmakers and others to promote understanding of public transit in addressing economic inequality and climate change.

Young Worker Project

The goal of the Young Workers Project is to center the voices and experiences of young workers in the movement for climate protection. In 2020, we formed a national Coordinating Committee of a core group of young workers that meets regularly to discuss the short and long term goals for the Project. 

In August 2020, the group organized a “Young Workers and Just Transition” webinar that attracted over 100 attendees. The webinar framed the unique challenges and opportunities that young workers see in a Just Transition, as well as exploring the intersection of labor, climate, racial, and economic justice issues. Panelists touched on the difficulty of engaging the leadership of their unions both at the local and international level in these struggles. 

In 2021, the YWP will launch a Young Worker Listening Project, modeled after the Just Transition Listening Project.

Strike! Commentaries on Solidarity and Survival

In February LNS launched a new online resource: “Strike!: Jeremy Brecher’s Corner: Commentaries on Solidarity and Survival,” The Commentaries are written by LNS Research and Policy Director and renowned author on social movements Jeremy Brecher. Inspired by the 1972 book he authored of the same name, simply, “Strike!” (celebrating its Fiftieth Anniversary Edition this year), Brecher says each commentary of “Strike!” (the blog) “will examine the past and present on social movements – how they develop and how they can be effective.” In his introductory post, Jeremy wrote:

“For half a century I have been participating in, studying, and writing about social movements and their contribution to common preservation. In Strike!: Jeremy Brecher’s Corner I will bring history to bear on the problems we face today, their possible solutions, and the process of implementing them.”

Brecher’s first commentaries laid out the background and strategy for labor participation in the massive global climate strikes. With the advent of the COVID pandemic the Strike! commentaries provided unique coverage of the emerging labor movement around worker rights to public health protection. In that context they laid out proposals for an Emergency Green New Deal, many aspects of which have been included in the Biden Rescue plan and the THRIVE agenda. With the explosion of the Black Lives Matter uprising, Strike! Provided historical background on the movement and reported on its relation to worker and climate protection. With the rising threat of a Trump coup, a series of commentaries explored the history of successful popular resistance to coups around the world and strategies to block or roll back an attempted Trump coup. As the inauguration of President Biden approached, the commentaries presented a detailed analysis and evaluation of his plans for climate protection. Upcoming commentaries will continue to bring historical and movement experience to bear on the pressing issues faced by the labor-climate movement.

State-Level Organizing


LNS has been an active participant in a growing labor-climate-equity transit coalition. With our partners we developed a suite of legislative transit priorities that would increase funding for Baltimore transit, spur electrification of passenger and school buses, and center jobs and equity in Transportation Climate Initiative Program efforts. We co-sponsored the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition’s Transit Solidarity Day on December 21, 2020 and led the social media support for it. We used BTEC’s event as the springboard for our national Transit Equity Day (Community Forum on Transit) February 3-4 activities. 

We continue to advocate for quality job creation and equity to be a central component of the Maryland Climate Commission through active participation in its Mitigation Working Group and we have been working to build the foundation for a larger climate-labor-equity table that goes beyond transit.


Throughout 2020, labor-climate leaders, organizers, and rank and file activists used a Green Growth Program for California study to promote support for state-wide policies. LNS is engaged across the state in ongoing efforts to build a Just Transition for California workers; in Los Angeles, we served on the Los Angeles County Just Transition Task Force to consider the County’s motion to transition away from dependence on fossil fuels, including a job creation program to clean up deserted oil wells. 

In April 2020, LNS hosted a California COVID-19 Solidarity webinar. The stacked crises of racial injustice, climate change, COVID-19 and economic collapse devastated communities of color, exposing structural racial inequities. Leaders from healthcare, warehouse, building services, grocery, hospitality, manufacturing and education spoke about needs and demands for recovery. Environmental organizations, environmental justice and community organizations listened to the experiences of workers on the frontlines of the pandemic and heard from union leaders whose members had lost their lives to the virus. 

United Steelworkers (USW) Local 675; California Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 57; United Auto Workers (UAW) Locals 5810 and 2865; and Communications Workers of America- District 9 submitted a letter to California’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery promoting recommendations in A Fair and Sustainable Economic Recovery Program for California by Robert Pollin, released in June 2020. The initial report served to generate necessary labor-to-labor conversations and increase endorsements by unions across the state for a full study to be released in the summer of 2021. Currently 10 union locals in the state are strategizing the rollout of the full report and its impact on Governor Newsom’s executive order to develop a just transition roadmap by July of 2021.