Labor and climate activism

United fight

The prevailing myths about U.S. workers and the organized labor movement — that labor and climate action are in conflict, that jobs are more important than the environment — will be in the trash bin of history after the Sept. 20 Global Climate Strike.

U.S. labor is coming forward to support climate protection policies in their unions representing a wide range of industries from coast to coast. 

The Blue-Green Alliance is a joint project of eight of the largest national unions — including the United Steelworkers, the Communication Workers, the Service Employees, the American Federation of Teachers and three craft unions — and six activist environmental organizations — including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Action Fund and the League of Conservation Voters.

This strategic alliance, which issued a statement June 24 titled “Solidarity for Climate Action,” will turn out thousands upon thousands of their members all across the country. 

The Labor Network for Sustainability is devoted to seeing “a transition to a society that is ecologically sustainable and economically just.” Its purpose is to “advance a climate action program that will help the labor movement be a leading force for a just transition to a climate-safe and equitable economy.” LNS, which strongly supports the Green New Deal, aims to be labor’s voice at the table in order to shape it in the interests of the working class. (

Meanwhile, a new Data for Progress poll shows that 62 percent of  workers support the Green New Deal, with only 22 percent opposed. A study based on data from national surveys showed that “union members are on average more likely than the general population to display pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors.” To further this, Data for Progress has created a toolkit to help allies and supporters identify and promote pro-union climate policies. (The Guardian, Sept. 10)

Many state AFL-CIO federations, like that in Maine, and statewide unions, like the Oregon State Association of Letter Carriers, and city labor councils like that in San Francisco have passed resolutions in support of the strike and the GND.

Truly global support for GCS

Support for the Global Climate Strike is indeed global. The Public Services International, which represents over 30 million workers from 152 countries, is calling on unions around the world to join and take “strike action where possible,” wrote PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli in the Sept. 12 op-ed in Common Dreams.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 207 million workers worldwide, told Common Dreams: “Where [striking is] not possible, [workers] will take stop work action and other forms of protest.” 

Bill McKibben, noted environmental activist, reported in the Sept. 3 YES that major trade unions in South Africa and Germany are telling their members to take the day off. “This is actually a pivotal time for the labor movement to be in collaboration with other advocates and activists against corporations like Exxon and Chevron, which have lied to all of us,” said immigrant rights activist Thanu Yakupitiyage in the same article.

Legions of Amazon workers have announced that they are planning a walkout to protest Amazon’s environmental policies and press the capitalist mega-monopoly to reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. Even Ben and Jerry’s is closing its headquarters in Vermont.

As PSI head Rosa Pavanelli stressed, “To build the political will needed to change the system, we must be bolder than ever.”

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