UE Helps Shape Labor Plans to Respond to Climate Crisis

July 15, 2019

On June 28-30, UE leaders and staff participated in the 3rd Labor Network for Sustainability Climate Convergence in Chicago. General President Peter Knowlton, Northeast Region President Autumn Martinez, and Western Region President Carl Rosen were joined by Local 506 President Scott Slawson, Local 1177 President Larry Hopkins, and Local 1118 President Delores Phillips. UE Field Organizer Fernando Ramirez and Co-Director of Education Kari Thompson also attended.

The UE delegation participated in conversations about what they hope to see in labor plans to respond to the climate crisis, particularly by shaping legislation being put forward in Congress as part of the “Green New Deal.” This is a plan initiated by several progressive legislators hoping to use investment in American workers to move away from carbon-based energy production and use. The outline of the Green New Deal includes creating good, union jobs, healthcare for all, improved union rights at work, and many other provisions that the labor movement has sought for years. The Green New Deal suggests that our communities already need investments of many kinds, and that focusing on these opportunities will provide plenty of jobs to make up for those that will be lost by cutting off fossil fuel use.

Rosen said he hoped the Green New Deal will focus on “direct job creation through massive infrastructure and green energy investments as well as well-paid social service jobs. Simultaneously, it needs to target employment for those losing jobs in high-polluting industries as well as those currently un- or under-employed.”

“The biggest message that stuck with me throughout the whole convergence was the need to place more focus on participation from the impacted people and communities,” said Martinez.

UE participants also took part in workshops that dove deeper into this subject for different sectors of work, including transportation, the public sector, and agriculture (farmworkers). Other workshops focused on connections between climate change and broader concerns such as worker health and safety and race and militarism.

Attendees also grappled with the need for labor and the movement as a whole to deal with white supremacy in our ranks. This means developing a more inclusive and forward-looking program, taking leadership from diverse rank and file members/participants, and directly addressing the needs of people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ people in the climate justice movement. UE looks forward to continuing to engage in a process that can unify and uplift all workers and move the labor movement to meet the urgency of this moment.