Why Labor Should Support the Green New Deal
by Nancy Romer, Professor Emerita, Brooklyn College, PSC-CUNY Environmental Justice Working Group
The bad news is that we must completely transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and we must achieve most of that in the next 12 years or face a level of disaster unknown to our species. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 4th National Climate Assessment and the World Bank Report on Climate Change all agree. The good news is that a new, energized youth movement with supporters in Congress and on the streets, in every part of our nation, is pushing for that transition, calling it the Green New Deal. The danger and the hope stand before us. Which one will we choose?
Mirroring the despair and fear of the 1930’s and the New Deal that transformed American life, the Green New Deal (GND) has a similar scope and purpose. As of now it is a resolution in Congress made powerful by a movement on the ground. It proposes drafting legislation to transform our energy system to be 100% renewable, ending the destructive fossil fuel regime. The broad-strokes plan advances a giant 10-year mobilization that changes how we fuel our economy and transforms our society.
It calls for
- A massive growth in new and renewable technology
- Overhaul of old infrastructure and expansion of renewable energy infrastructure
- A jobs program that would guarantee a job to everyone who wants one
- A just transition for workers in fossil fuel-related industries including retraining, early retirement and new occupations
- The right to organize and prioritize unions, with racial and gender equity in all hiring
- Community-defined projects and strategies and participation in deciding the siting of new energy and manufacturing facilities and removing toxic ones
- Workplace health and safety
- Overhaul of transportation, emphasizing public transportation
- The right to clean air, water, healthy food, and many more positive features.
- It addresses environmental justice concerns by remediating past injustices and preventing further harm to vulnerable communities, including indigenous groups and people of color.
The GND provides a general roadmap to labor prosperity, to sharply decrease poverty and provide good jobs to a wide swath of people often left behind. It enables those new jobs to be union jobs. But unions need to jump in, support the GND, even with some criticisms, lift up the rights of workers and make sure we organize.