Bridging the labor and climate movements is a year-round focus for the Labor Network for Sustainability–hence why we hold in such high regard the 10-day period from April 22 (Earth Day) through May 1 (May Day, International Workers’ Day). Heading into the 51st Earth Day this year, we reflect on how the occasion originated. Right before the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, LNS President and Founder Joe Uehlein wrote:

“A billion people participate in Earth Day events, making it the largest secular civic event in the world. But when it was founded in 1970, according to Earth Day’s first national coordinator Denis Hayes, ‘Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!’

Less than a week after he first announced the idea for Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson presented his proposal to the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO. Walter Reuther, (then) President of the UAW, enthusiastically donated $2,000 to help kick the effort off, ‘to be followed by much more.’ Hayes recalls:

‘The UAW was by far the largest contributor to the first Earth Day, and its support went beyond the merely financial.  It printed and mailed all our materials at its expense — even those critical of pollution-belching cars. Its organizers turned out workers in every city where it has a presence. And, of course, Walter then endorsed the Clear Air Act that the Big Four were doing their damnedest to kill or gut.’

Some people may be surprised to learn that a labor union played such a significant role in the emergence of the modern environmental movement. When they think of organized labor, they think of things like support for coal and nuclear power plants and opposition to auto emissions standards.

When it comes to the environment, organized labor has two hearts beating within a single breast. On the one hand, the millions of union members are people and citizens like everybody else, threatened by air and water pollution, dependent on fossil fuels, and threatened by the devastating consequences of climate change. On the other hand, unions are responsible for protecting the jobs of their members, and efforts to protect the environment sometimes may threaten workers’ jobs.”

– From “Earth Day, Labor and Me”

Happening This Year


This Earth Day to May Day, LNS will lead digital actions reflecting several key areas the organization focuses on when ensuring its mission of helping workers and their allies build a society that is ecologically sustainable and economically just. We also encourage you to view or participate in actions hosted by our allies.

Thursday, April 22 (Earth Day)

Friday, April 23

  • Fire Drill Friday with Jane Fonda
    Following the Earth Day Leadership Summit on Climate, Jane is joined by Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan and Senior Campaigner at Oil Change Collin Rees

Monday, April 26

Tuesday, April 27

Wednesday, April 28

Thursday, April 29

Saturday, May 1


Other Actions You Can Take

Enjoy the Songs of Earth Day to May Day

  • Produced last year by Leo Blain, these videos feature songs of sustainability, solidarity and peace. Mostly performed by LNS President and lead vocalist and guitarist of the The U-Liners Joe Uehlein and his daughter Anna Grace Uehlein plus performances from LNS staff and allies. Watch and enjoy

More details will follow throughout Earth Day to May Day. Please visit and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.