By Judy Asman, LNS Communications and Information Director
At the end of March, it seemed for a minute like Earth Day to May Day actions would be non-existent with the devastating spread of COVID-19—especially with executive orders throughout the states that suspended (and rightfully so) live events to mandate social distancing.
But in the 50th year of honoring and fighting for the existence and sustainability of our planet, environmental and climate justice organizations, civil rights groups, environmental groups, unions, and labor allies around the country were not about to let that happen. Nor was May Day, the International Day of Labor, which in 1886 resulted in workers’ rights still threatened in the current day, about to be forgotten. The existential threat of a global pandemic would not eclipse the preceding and increasingly existential threat of the climate crisis but instead bring to light that the two crises are very much linked.
Throughout the country, unions and climate allies teamed up to hold panel discussions, digital rallies and Twitter storms that aimed for the attention of lawmakers. Some activists developed templates for live, in-person actions, adhering vigilantly to CDC guidelines and shared online so they could be heard and seen on the streets without causing further damage amid the pandemic. At home in Takoma Park, where LNS was founded, an idea was launched to perform one song each day, first on Earth Day to honor sustainability, then on to solidarity on May 1 (May Day), and then about peace on May 4—50 years since the massacre at Kent State. Music and the arts remained at the core of this year’s #ED2MD as songwriters and musicians contributed their songs to the LNS video library.
If you missed any part of it, you can still see a roundup of actions organized by groups and individuals who understood and acted on the inherent relation between the climate emergency, the COVID crisis and their obvious higher impact on lower income communities, the working class and ethnic minorities. What resulted was 10 days of dialog, mobilization and education on what the COVID-19 crisis currently means to the labor-climate movement and how going back to “normal” will not be an option in the post-pandemic era if we continue to strive for making a living on a living planet.
#ED2MD 2020 Highlights
Earth Day History and Labor’s Role: Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day told Labor Network for Sustainability President Joe Uehlein that the first Earth Day would not have happened without labor support. Some of the larger Earth Day planning retreats/meetings were held at the United Automobile Workers’ Black Lake training center in upstate Michigan. Here’s how the 50th Anniversary was celebrated.
Wednesday, April 22: Earth Day
Songs of Sustainability, Solidarity and Peace
By Leo Blain, LNS Social Media and Online Community Manager
Music has always held a core role in the labor movement and the climate movement. To honor the role of music in change-making, this year, from the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, where we celebrate our fight to right the environmental wrongs and turn back global warming, to May Day, an internationally recognized worker holiday, to May 4, the 50th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre, where government troops opened fire on Vietnam War protesters killing four students, LNS featured labor, climate, and peace-themed songs from our President Joe Uehlein and others on our social media. We kicked things off with this cover of “Paradise” by the incomparable John Prine, who died shortly before Earth Day from COVID-19. We also accepted song submissions from groups and individuals within our talented network.
Below is the song list from the week:
John Prine Tribute
- “Paradise,” by Joe Uehlein
- “Paradise,” by Bob and Katie Massie
- “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore,” performed by Joe Uehlein
- Steve Earle’s “Gulf of Mexico,” performed by Joe Uehlein
- David Mallet’s “Inch by Inch,” performed by Anna Grace Uehlein and Joe Uehlein
- Emma’s Revolution’s “Silent Spring,” performed by Joe Uehlein
- Jesse Palidofsky’s “Respect Your Mother”
- Peace Poets “Keep on Striking
- “Bread and Roses,” performed by Anna Grace Uehlein and Joe Uehlein
- Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid,” performed by Anna Grace Uehelein and Joe Uehlein
- “They Will Never Keep Us Down,” and “Which Side Are You On?,” performed by Martha Hawtorne
- The U-Liners’ “Sweet Lorain”
- Jim Garland’s “I Don’t Want Your Millions Mister,” performed by Joe Uehlein
- Pete Seeger’s “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”
- Phillip Bliss’ “Hold the Fort,” performed by Joe Uehlein
- Hazel Dickens’ “Working Girl Blues,” performed by Anna Grace Uehlein and Joe Uehlein
- Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Edelweiss,” performed by Anna Grace Uehlein and Joe Uehlein
- Michael Leon Guerrero’s “Sheriff Joe”
- Rick Casey’s “What are We Fracking For”
Chicago Coalition: Earth Day Town Hall
The Chicago Earth Day to May Day coalition, made up of over 70 organizations, came together on Earth Day to delve into many of the intersecting crises of our time. Watch it here.
Speaking from the Trenches Zoomcast
People in healthcare, food supply, warehouses, delivery, renters, detainees, homeless, students, teachers and more organized for race gender and economic equity while “Speaking from the Trenches.” LNS LA Organizer Veronica Wilson spoke on the Community Panel as part of the event hosted by LNS partner, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, California State University Dominguez Hills Vivian Price and Jorge Cabrera. Other panels were on Labor and Social Justice Education and Justice for the Incarcerated and Detained. Watch it now.
Happy Earth Day! with Kris Welch on KPFA, Berkeley
On April 22, Kris Welch, host of The Talkies on Berkeley, California, station, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, talking with Joe Uehlein who is the Founding President and Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Voices for a Sustainable Future. Listen now.
#JustRecovery: Celebrate Earth Day to May Day with Voices of Youth, Community and Labor.
San Francisco and Bay Area union members, PODER, Jobs with Justice, and Senior Disability Action gathered for presentations by youth, songs by Martha Hawthorne and the Peña Govea family, poems, photo sharing, and more. Watch highlights | Enjoy the full live event >>
Earth Day Happy Hour
The NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program hosted a virtual happy hour where climate and civil rights activists could discuss the enormous challenges but also the vast opportunities in acting on climate change. The program also had a conversation with two local leaders from Indiana and Michigan about Earth Day and the state of the environmental movement in communities of color. Read it here.
Intersection of Climate Change & Coronavirus: a Live Panel & Town Hall
The Albuquerque Climate Coalition presented a live webinar speaking to the effects of the COVID-19 on communities and how it has exposed disproportionate vulnerabilities of poor, marginalized and rural communities. It also addressed how these vulnerabilities intersect with the looming climate crisis underlining the need for our focus on a Just Transition to a fossil fuel free world. Watch it here.
United in the Fight: Making the Connections Between the Labor and Climate Justice Movements
Livestreamed by EarthDayLive.org, this panel featured Service Employees International Union President Mary Key Henry plus Kate Walton, Renata Kamakura, Adriana Alvarez, Ernesto Garnica. Read about the event | Watch the video >>
350 San Francisco Zoom Action and Defund-a-thon
The SF Climate Justice NVDA Spokescouncil including Idle No More, Diablo Rising Tide, Extinction Rebellion, Code Pink and others hosted a panel discussion and defundathon, to encourage attendees to move their money out of banks that fund fossil fuels. Participants were encouraged to multimedia and various art forms to rally for #GreenJobs. Here are a few:
Also, check out the photos and galleries:
Thursday, April 23
Union City Radio: Labor and the Environment
Union City Radio hosts Chris Garlock and Ed Smith interviewed LNS President Joe Uehlein about Earth Day at 50 and labor’s role in the development of the first event. Joe also talked about the Earth Day to May Day to May 4 online music series he put together, amid the inability of musicians, such as himself and his bandmates, The U-Liners, to tour live amid COVID-19. Listen now >>
Save the Post Office. Save Our Democracy.
On the second day of Earth Day Live, the Labor Network for Sustainability proudly presented “Save the Post Office. Save Our Democracy,” a panel discussion on the frontline experiences of postal workers in the COVID crisis and the fight to save our democracy. Moderated by LNS Organizing Director Lauren Burke, the panelists included:
- Debby Szeredy, Executive Vice President, American Postal Workers Union
- Courtney “CJ” Jenkins, Baltimore Stu Filbey Area Local, Maryland Postal Worker, APWU
- Teresa Marie Oller, Portland Area Local, Oregon Postal Worker, American Postal Workers Union
- Tamara Twinn, Branch 504 Albuquerque, NM, Letter Carrier, National Association of Letter Carriers
Friday, April 24
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice: Friday ‘Sick Out’!
Amazon tech workers are SICK of profits over people. On Friday, April 24, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice held a day-long livestream calling for an Amazon-wide “Sick Out” (like a “Walk Out” but adapted to this time of COVID-19). The event featured stories from warehouse workers about what it’s like on the ground right now, talks from climate leaders, Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, discussions about the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and Amazon and other “fun activities throughout the day. Watch it here >>
Toot a Salute to Transit Drivers
In Charleston, South Carolina, Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit, saluted local transit operators by pitching its “Power in Togetherness” banner at a major intersection in downtown Charleston where several major bus routes taking people to and from the city’s Medical Complex pass. Calling the campaign #heroesmovingheroes, while encouraging participation by few people for safety purposes, BFLT honored transit operators as they took medical care workers home at the end of the work day. Like BFLT on Facebook for updates of their actions.
Labor & Environmentalists: Coalition to Repeal Right to Work
On Friday, April 24, Joe Uehlein, President of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Voices for a Sustainable Future, led a discussion on labor and the environmental movement. Veteran of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department and 30 years of organizing and music.
Saturday, April 25
#CT4ClimateJustice Virtual Rally
On Saturday, April 25, Connecticut Climate Crisis Mobilization hosted a three-part virtual rally featuring almost a dozen speakers and online actions to delve into topics, such as Killingly, fracked gas, renewable energy, immigrant justice, COVID-19, Puerto Rico, Keystone, Indigenous action, public transportation, and war, and a musical performance from State Troubadour Nekita Waller. Solidarity tweeting to place for each action; pausing in between to target state and local leaders on all of these issues. Watch it here >>
Monday, April 27:
For the Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Movement, Earth Day to May Day was #WorkersandEnvironmentWeek. Throughout the week, they called for climate, labor and energy justice in the Tennessee Valley! On April 27, pushed on Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to stop utility shutoffs by “FLOODING his Facebook livestream and with a car ‘honk-in’ outside the capitol building!” The action took place during the Governor’s press briefing that afternoon to rally against “this inhumane practice by some utilities in TN!” View photos here >>
Tuesday, April 28:
Workers Memorial Day
This year, we faced the grim reality of lives lost amid the pandemic. Tributes such as the one above from Amalgamated Transit Union, honored workers who died from COVID-19. This day would underscore the emergency need for greater protection of and benefits for essential workers.
Transit Equity Digital Day of Action
The Transit Equity team convened by the Labor Network for Sustainability, joined up online to build awareness of the need for emergency funding for transit amid COVID-19. This action followed the April 21, 2020 letter to Congress urging for an increase in the allocation for emergency assistance to public transit in the proposed next round of economic stimulus to address the coronavirus crisis and its economic impact. Follow the conversation here >>
Wednesday, April 29:
Essential Workers Bill of Rights Zoom Rally
On Wednesday, April 29, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Ro Khanna and Ai-jen Poo teamed up to talk about the Essential Workers Bill of Rights. The event had been postponed from April 23 after Senator Warren had found out her brother passed away from COVID-19 complications. The rally featured real-life stories as told by frontline workers to highlight the need for more PPE, hazard pay, guaranteed paid sick and family leave and free healthcare. Watch it here >>
Friday, May 1: International Day of the Worker
Bring Buses Back to the Beach
On May Day, Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit rallied to “Bring Buses Back to Beach,” a major Charleston Roadway and webcast their action from the roadside. All socially distanced, the action caught the attention of drivers by visitors who practiced safe social distancing. Christian King, the leader of the Pink House neighborhood center located West of the Ashley, will join BFLT Executive Director and Treasurer William Hamilton on the stream. Charleston’s tourism and resort economy depends on low-wage service workers to keep our hotels, restaurants and attractions functioning. Beach businesses struggle to find workers and workers at the beach struggle to reach their jobs, often walking miles on some of the Lowcountry’s most dangerous roads like the IOP Connector. Last year Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit was instrumental in getting a bus line extension 1.4 miles away from the beach. But there’s more work to do to support #transitequity. Watch the livestream >>
Just Transition and a Just Recovery: What Workers Need Now
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 704, hosted a Fire Drill Fridays workshop, “Earth Day to May Day. Just Transition and a Just Recovery: What Workers Need Now,” featuring Carly Ebben Eaton (moderator), Development Director for the Labor Network for Sustainability; Todd Vachon, union carpenter, labor educator, and faculty member in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University; and Theresa Yoon, an organizer and strategic researcher with Service Employees International Union Local 1. Watch it here >>
Fire Drill Fridays: Just Transition
LNS friend and supporter Jane Fonda hosted Fire Drill Fridays: Just Transition featuring with many other LNS friends and supporters. This epic and engaging conversation featured Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights Activist and Founder & President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation; Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA; Maria Castadena, Secretary Treasurer, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and LNS Board Member, Mijin Cha, Assistant Professor, Occidental College; Fellow, Worker Institute at Cornell University; Senior Fellow, Data for Progress; Mateo Nube, Co-founder, Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project; and Diana Tellefson Torres, Executive Director of the UFW Foundation and a National Vice President of the United Farm Workers of America. Watch it here >>
Earth Day to May Day: Solidarity in the Gulf South
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, RISE St. James, the Coalition Against Death Alley, Sunrise New Orleans, and Healthy Gulf for an #EarthDaytoMayDay event. Our speakers will share their stories and connect the struggles on the frontlines: that of utility and electrical workers, petrochemical workers, and the communities that are sickened by industry. We’ll discuss local environmental justice organizing in South Louisiana and Central Texas, and why the Gulf South must be a leader in fighting for a just climate future. #GulfSouth4GND. Watch it on Zoom >> Password: 2K&u#59@
Mapping for the Common Good
Bargaining for the Common Good announced a new database of contracts that are set to expire in 2021 and 2022. The May Day digital campaign continued its call to as many unions as possible to share their info to build an interactive map that would allow them to plug into each other’s campaigns and build labor-community partnerships to make common good demands, like climate justice. Read more about it here >>
#ShutDownDC collected #IAmEssential stories and visions for the future from “all types of working people”–healthcare workers, warehouse workers, grocery store workers, solid waste workers, students (students are workers too!), people working in prisons, and laid-off and unemployed workers.” #ShutDownDC posted those stories all over the city. Check out their Facebook feed to see photos and videos. They also swarmed the Capitol. Watch the video >>