The Labor Network for Sustainability held its Third National Labor Convergence on Climate in Chicago, June 28-29. The theme was “Strengthening Labor’s Voice to Help Shape Green New Deal.”
With over 250 participants hailing from 86 different union locals, 9 national and international unions, 7 labor councils and state federations, 23 labor support organizations and networks, 2 worker centers and 33 ally organizations, this Convergence was our largest ever.
People came from 25 states, the District of Columbia and British Columbia, Canada. It was a powerful and productive event that highlighted the growing strength and incredible potential of our labor-climate movement, as well as fundamental challenges we face to build the movement we need to guarantee a climate-safe future.
Today unions are no longer locked into resistance to action; indeed, some have already endorsed the Green New Deal. One dynamic new leader, [Sara] Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, explained that the climate crisis was already harming her members through increased turbulence, on-the-job injuries, and lost income through rising weather delays. “The Green New Deal is the moonshot of our time,” she declared forcefully, “We cannot allow the idea that labor is opposed to addressing climate change to continue to exist.”
Many other union leaders in the room agreed, including those from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which had also endorsed the Green New Deal. The SEIU is the second-largest union in America, with nearly 2 million members working primarily in three industries: health care, public services, and property workers.
The Convergence opened with a video welcome from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose advocacy helped project the Green New Deal into the center of the debate on our national future. An opening panel on “The Green New Deal, Labor and Climate: Impact of climate change on work and working people” featured Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO; Cecil Roberts, President, United Mine Workers of America, AFL-CIO; and Maria Castaneda, Secretary Treasurer, 1199 SEIU United Health Care Workers East.
Convergence workshops covered many key topics, including:
- A Just Transition for Workers and Communities
- Building Transportation Systems with Justice and Equity
- Farmers and Workers in the New Deal and the Green New Deal
- Public Sector Workers: Helping Lead the Way to a Green New Deal
- Engaging the Members: Doing a Local Inventory of Jobs and Climate
- Transforming Waste Systems
- Setting the Stage for the Green New Deal: Lessons Learned from State-level Union Campaigns to Secure Good Jobs, Strong Climate Action and Effective Just Transition Program
- Labor, Race, Climate Change and Militarism: What’s the Connection? – Complacency Kills: Climate Change and Worker Health and Safety
- Kicking Ass for the Working Class: Democratic Control through Public Ownership—Creating A Plan to Win for Workers and their Unions in the Era of Climate Change
Other articles in this newsletter provide accounts of some key results of the Convergence.
Photo Credits Within Article: Veronica Chavers, Amalgamated Transit Union 443 and Michael Eisenscher, Labor Rise for Climate, Jobs, Justice & Peace