Somerville, MA is an inner suburb of Boston with 81,000 residents undergoing rapid development – most of it non-union. In 2017, more than a dozen unions and several allies established Somerville Stands Together (SST), a community-labor coalition advocating a new orientation for development.
Initially there were no environmental groups in SST. But the head of the municipal workers union hosted a local cable TV show on labor, climate, and the Green New Deal with Joe Uehlein of the Labor Network for Sustainability, which led to the holding of a Somerville Labor-Climate Summit in September 2020. It established an SST working group that proposed carbon neutrality by 2035; established interim benchmarks; delineated labor standards; and incorporated plans to meet equity goals. Another SST working group developed a program for “shovel-ready” projects for anticipated federal funding. The working groups developed a Somerville Green New Deal statement that set out four goals for the city: Increase economic, social, and racial equity; target projects to meet city carbon neutrality by 2035; adopt model project labor standards; and build Workforce of the Future.
Nearly $72 million is now on its way to Somerville under the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) and more is expected from other national and state programs. SST aims to use that funding for nothing less than what it calls a “Green New Deal for Somerville.”
We can renew the city’s built environment in a way that forsakes dependence on fossil fuels that damage the environment to reliance on renewable energy sources that save the environment. And doing this will create many new, well-paying jobs, that can raise the living standards of all the city’s residents, and promote social, economic and racial equality. The city can become a model of a local Green New Deal, that can be emulated by other cities across the state and the country.