by Judy Asman
If you’ve been paying attention to news about Florida, the so-called “Sunshine State” may appear to fall short in the areas of public safety and economic empowerment. This past summer alone, mainstream media focused on the state’s long history of election woes  (usually a trending topic come election time), reckless decision-making by its Governor, who lifted COVID restrictions despite the growing number of cases and fatalities, and Disney World layoffs to the tune of 6,700 non-union employees, which were announced practically in the same breath as the $150 million price tag on Disney’s Orlando-based 2020 NBA Bubble.
Despite these reported misgivings (or as an unintended consequence of), a bright spot shines over Central Florida, where a resilience movement that had been brewing for several years resulted in Central Florida Climate Action–a new coalition aimed at empowering and sustaining neighborhoods gravely impacted by climate issues such as heat stress, disaster inequity, job loss and climate displacement.
Joining together 20 groups that include union locals and civil rights, faith-based and environmental justice organizations, “CFCA resulted from conversations that have been happening for several years,” Carlos Torrealba, climate justice coordinator for Central Florida Jobs with Justice, says. He adds that the visioning for CFCA started in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma as part of the Central Florida Disaster Resilience Initiative–led by Organized Florida, with whom Carlos worked at the time. The organizers found themselves asking how they can bring different groups together “in alignment with climate justice. A lot of community organizations were not prepared to deal with disaster, especially in under-served communities, where disaster exacerbates the problem,” Carlos says. “We wanted to build a coalition with a community organizing framework to support resilience and long-term support systems in our neighborhoods.”
Before the pandemic, an in-person launch of the coalition was in the works. But like the rest of the world, CFCA was forced to take its work online, kicking off with an August 26 virtual event that featured Sara Nelson, President of the American Flight Attendants-CWA (and LNS ally who penned the preface of Jeremy Brecher’s Strike! The 50th Anniversary Edition), Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Leah Pennimen of Soul Fire Farm.
At this event, CFCA shared a glimpse of why it’s critical for this coalition to exist in this moment, showcasing a documentary of residents from Puerto Rico who were displaced in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria. A poignant portrayal of slow government response to climate catastrophe–and how quickly and drastically thousands can be left without homes, let alone jobs–the video also highlights solidarity and the power of the people coming together to support those affected by disaster.
Carlos expects climate displacement to lead to an area of greater demand for CFCA. “Central Florida will continue to be a hotspot for massive migration. We’ve seen this from Maria and Central Americans with farming who come from rural areas because we aren’t affected by sea-level rise,” Carlos says. “Our objective will be to hold the state and local governments accountable to supporting our communities.”
To learn more and get involved, visit cfcaction.org.
Who’s Part of the Central Florida Climate Action?
Its founding members below:
- Organized Florida
- Farmworkers Association of Florida
- Hope Community Center
- Central Florida Jobs with Justice
- National Association of Letter Carriers
- Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1596
- Florida Immigrant Coalition
- Islamic Center of Orlando
- Florida Student Power Network
- 1199SEIU (Service Employees International Union)
- Communications Workers of America Local 3108
- Poder LatinX
- Orange County Classroom Teachers Association
- Muslim Women’s Organization
- International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees 835
- HOPE Community Center
- East Orlando Coalition for the Environment
- Blue Trunk Community Garden
- Uprooted and Rising
Judy Asman is the Communications and Information Director at the Labor Network for Sustainability and Managing Editor of Making a Living on a Living Planet.