At its 29th Constitutional Convention in June, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution on “Climate Change, Energy and Union Jobs.”
The resolution begins by pointing out the threat of climate change and the necessity of reducing emissions to meet it:
The effects of climate change in the United States and around the world are serious and growing. Severe weather, including floods, droughts, wildfires, extreme heat and sea-level rise are affecting working people, our health and our communities in ways that call for an urgent and sustained response. We need increased investment in reducing emissions and adaptation to the unavoidable challenges across our economy and to our infrastructure.
The resolution goes on to address the problem of climate justice:
We know that climate change places a disproportionate burden on childhood development, low-income families and communities of color, raising serious issues of socioeconomic and racial justice.
It emphasized the importance of union jobs and of having clean energy technologies be “mined, produced, constructed and operated under union contracts.”
And, without using the phrase, it called for what is often termed a “just transition”:
We will fight for investment in communities that have suffered from pollution and historic underinvestment, and in communities dependent on lost or at-risk fossil-fuel employment, thereby creating jobs for the future and renewing the tax base that supports public services.
We will ensure workers affected by changes in technology get the training they need to keep the good union job they have, and that those who lose jobs have free training that is connected to a job, appropriate and acceptable.
The resolution is also notable for what it does not include:
There is no mention of meeting the targets and timetables for greenhouse gas reduction that climate scientists and the world’s governments have established as necessary to escape the most devastating consequences of climate change.
There is mention of old and new nuclear technologies, hydrogen, continued use of natural gas and coal, and carbon capture and storage. But there is not even a mention of such renewable energy sources as solar energy, wind power, and geothermal power, even though these are now producing far more new jobs than fossil fuel production and use.
There is no mention of the millions of jobs that would be created by programs like the Green New Deal and Build Back Better, both of which have made the creation of union jobs a centerpiece of their proposals.
Various member unions of the AFL-CIO have advocated science-based targets and timetables for greenhouse gas reduction; rapidly expanded renewable energy; and the Green New Deal and Build Back Better programs. These policies were not included in the AFL-CIO climate resolution.