by Lauren Burke

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s draft proposal for a Green New Deal contains bold provisions for achieving 100 percent renewable energy, a federal jobs guarantee, a commitment to mitigate racial, regional, and gender-based wealth and income inequalities, and a plan to use innovative public financing to achieve these goals. While these are all important aspects of a Green New Deal, what’s missing are any terms for protecting — let alone strengthening — the right to organize.

A truly transformational Green New Deal — one that reaches every corner of the economy — must also be rooted in the right to organize. Many of the carbon-intensive industries that have drawn the ire of environmentalists grew alongside and within the New Deal order and the labor protections it provides. By contrast, newer “green economy” jobs emerged just as Reagan began his assault on the labor protections laid out in the New Deal. As a result, the types of jobs that a Green New Deal is likely to create will be the sorts of low-paid, precarious work that has increasingly defined the American job since Reagan’s administration.

Without strong worker protections, including the right to organize, a Green New Deal will both exacerbate income inequality and alienate a vital constituency. If this crucial piece is omitted from Ocasio-Cortez’s bold platform, the left will be left wondering why the working class isn’t happy about their new low-wage green jobs.

Lauren Burke was a worker organizer with UNITE HERE! for over a decade. She works on worker-led climate initiatives with LNS. Read the full article here »