By Joe Uehlein
Labor Network for Sustainability
The Labor Network for Sustainability is calling on trade unionists to go to Philadelphia to march for a Clean Energy Revolution on Sunday, July 24. Why?
We face shocking new data that climate scientists have gathered in just the past six months, and the shocking reality of climate chaos that many people are experiencing around the world and in the US right now. What’s real is climate chaos is upon is, and is far worse than anyone ever thought, and coming sooner.
It is not a given that we as a society will meet this challenge. It’s even further from a given that labor will rise to this challenge. That said, the transition is happening — the clean energy transition train left the station a decade ago and many are working to make it real.
It is time for those of us in the labor movement to rise to the challenge and become a central player in the movement to build a sustainable future for the planet and its people – not only for the survival and wellbeing of all, but also for organized labor’s own self-interest.
Workers need jobs. LNS’s report “The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs, Saving Money” outlines a path to 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions by 2050 while creating a lot of high quality jobs in construction and manufacturing, at no new costs. It is part of our new Climate, Jobs, and Justice Project. We consider the Clean Energy Future plan a floor. If we want to spend more money, and we should, trillions more, we can achieve a lot more.
In fact, organized labor needs to develop its own, worker-friendly plan to protect the climate. Ron Blackwell, former Chief Economist at the AFL-CIO joined with Jeremy Brecher and myself to outline such a plan: If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change. (https://www.labor4sustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/NLF541793_REV1.pdf) It calls for a massive national program on the scale of economic mobilization for World War II to address income inequality and climate change.
Of course, naysayers are fond of saying that jobs fixing the climate aren’t “real jobs” – good jobs with security, family-supporting wages, and benefits. Or, they like to point out that if they are real, they are mostly non-union, which is true. We — the labor movement — really need to get busy with strategies to make them union, and part of that is working hard to make them real. That’s our job.
We also need to make sure that “no worker is left behind” in the Clean Energy Revolution. Organized labor needs to develop and insist on its own plan to ensure that transition is a just transition. A “superfund for workers” should be a crucial part.
Workers are organizing in dozens of unions to make the labor movement a champion of the Clean Energy Revolution. In January LNS brought together leaders and activists from more than a dozen unions for the first-ever Labor Convergence on Climate to forge a concerted movement within the house of labor for a labor-friendly transition to climate-safe energy.
The Philadelphia March for a Clean Energy Revolution is being held on Sunday, July 24, the eve of the Democratic National Convention when it will get maximal media and political attention, providing a great opportunity to provide visibility for our concerns and elevate our demands on the national agenda. At a time when labor is often being portrayed as an enemy of climate protection, trade unionists need to be there as visible advocates for a worker-friendly Clean Energy Revolution. At noon, we will convene at City Hall, where an interfaith service will be held. Around 1:00 pm the march will begin, walking about a mile toward Independence Hall. Around 3:00 pm, there will be a rally concluding at 4:00 pm.
I will be on a panel with Rev. Lennox Yearwood on July 23, the day before the march, at the Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution from 9am – 6:30pm at the Friends Center, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia. This panel will provoke an in-depth discussion of a “Visionary Ambitious Transition Plan.” I’m told this panel will close an exciting full day of conversations!