Here at the Labor Network for Sustainability we are very excited about the the Green New Deal (GND). The Green New Deal is a visionary program to protect the earth’s climate while creating good jobs, reducing injustice, and eliminating poverty. Its core principle is to use the necessity for climate protection as a basis for realizing full employment and social justice.

The GND opens the door for millions of people to embrace and struggle over the first real aspirational proposal that will confront the climate crisis, economic inequality and historic social injustices at the same time. Some critics say that the bill tries to do too much – the reality is these issues need to be addressed hand-in-hand. Single-payer healthcare, which also started as an aspirational idea is continuing to gain traction as policy.

There will certainly be much debate and struggle over the actual policies that will make up the GND– but it can and must be informed by a bottom-up process. Even if it doesn’t pass we can move the conversation to another level and build power around the solutions we need and not what some believe we have to settle for. I hope that we would all consider this effort “ours.” Ours to fight for, ours to fight over and ours to win!

A Green New Deal—From Below

The Green New Deal first emerged as a proposal for national legislation, and the struggle to embody it in national legislation is ongoing. But there has also emerged a little-noticed wave of initiatives from community groups, unions, city and state governments, tribes, and other non-federal institutions designed to contribute to the climate protection and social justice goals of the Green New Deal. These make up the Green New Deal from Below (GNDfB).

History of the Green New Deal 

The original 2018 Green New Deal resolution submitted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for a national 10-year mobilization to achieve 100% of national power generation from renewable sources; a national “smart grid”; energy efficiency upgrades for every residential and industrial building; decarbonizing manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and other infrastructure; and helping other countries achieve carbon neutral economies and a global Green New Deal. It proposed a job guarantee to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one; mitigation of income and wealth inequality; basic income programs; and universal health care. It advocated innovative financial structures including cooperative and public ownership and public banks. Since that time a wide-ranging discussion has extended and fleshed out the vision of the Green New Deal to include an even wider range of proposals to address climate, jobs, and justice.

National legislation remains an essential element, and with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, some components of the Green New Deal have been passed into law. But meanwhile, there are thousands of efforts to realize the goals of the Green New Deal at community, municipal, county, state, tribal, industry, and sectoral levels. While these cannot substitute for a national program, they can contribute enormously to the Green New Deal’s goals of climate protection and economic justice. Indeed, they may well turn out to be the tip of the Green New Deal spear, developing in the vacuum left by the limitations of national programs.

Read more about the Green New Deal from Below in this set of commentaries: 

18 Strategies for a Green New Deal

How can these goals be achieved? The Green New Deal provides a framework for moving beyond piecemeal solutions to a set of integrated strategies. As with the original New Deal and the subsequent mobilization for World War II, the GND will need to combine unprecedented visionary initiatives with experimentation and correction. All the while it will need to win and maintain popular political support and ward off the attacks of its opponents.              

We should be organizing conversations in union halls, community centers, churches and online. We need to build the momentum and political power for the idea at the grassroots. Just as the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council in California, SEIU Locals 32BJ in New York and 1021 in San Francisco, and IBEW Local 103 Business Manager Lou Antonellis in Dorchester, MA are doing.

So how do we get there? LNS co-founder Jeremy Brecher wrote a list of 18 strategies to make the climate mobilization work for a Green New Deal from below. Click here to read the paper.