By Glynn Wilson –
HUNGRY MOTHER STATE PARK, Virg. — Some of the most powerful and effective leaders of labor unions and environmental groups in the country, along with a horde of union members, environmental activists and college students, are headed to the nation’s capital this coming week for one of the most interesting and potentially Earth shaking political gatherings ever assembled in one place. I kid you not.
To the uninitiated it might seem incongruous to find out that union members and environmentalists share much political common ground. But it becomes obvious when you think about it.
The Blue-Green Alliance conference on “Good Jobs, Green Jobs” will focus this year on the theme of “Repairing America.” The goal of the conference is to bring labor union activists and environmental activists together to find common ground and fight together to bring political pressure to bear on the need to deal with America’s crumbling infrastructure, while at the same time addressing the long-term problem of climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.
The conference will kick off Sunday, February 9, at 5 p.m. when a diverse group of young people from across the youth justice movement, including environmentalist, labor union members, environmental justice advocates and interested college students, will meet and work to find a way to articulate a unified vision for the future.
According to Evan Feeney, Program Assistant for Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is hosting the opening Youth Climate Caucus, the idea is to get prepared “to effectively communicate our vision for a prosperous, low-carbon future.”
“Having this new forum for the youth voice to be consolidated and projected has energized and invigorated me,” Feeney said.
At last year’s conference, David Foster, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance and president of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, pointed out that one of the main things all the organizations share is a “desire for change” to continuing making government and democracy work, rather than seeing it torn down by laissez-faire politicians and policies that take the country backward rather than forward to a brighter future.
“One of the things all our organizations share is a desire for change,” Foster said. “All of us are driven by a desire to improve our jobs, create jobs and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in our communities, clean up our air and water. How do we work more successfully for the change we want? How do we work together across American with a coalition of 15 million members and turn this into a real agent for change?”
In the closing session last year, the head of the largest and most powerful coalition of unions in America voiced his unequivocal support for the growing alliance. The AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka acknowledged climate change due to global warming is a serious problem backed up by science, and agreed to join hands with national environmental groups like the Sierra Club in the fight to create high paying, green jobs for American workers.
“For the record, I want to make it crystal clear that we firmly believe in and trust a science based approach to regulating our environment and we know that climate change is real,” Trumka said. “We also know that responding to climate change will give America a competitive economic advantage in the global marketplace.”
While Trumka acknowledged that there are some times, in certain political struggles, when unions and non-profit environmental groups find themselves on the opposite side of the debate — as is the case with the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“Right now, to be completely frank with you, our alliance is too often too fragile in too many places,” Trumka said. “We shouldn’t be letting the things that we disagree with divide us. We should be bringing the thousands and thousands of things that unite us together and focus on them. We must get past this — for the good of every human inhabitant on this planet.”
If you look around at the fault lines in American politics, Trumka said, you’ll see that the institutions that safeguard America’s environment are under serious attack. And if you look around you’ll understand that working people are under serious attack.
“The anti-regulation crowd is out to destroy job safety and labor rights protections just as much as it wants to tear apart environmental protections,” he said. “We can all duck down into a defensive crouch. Or we can step up … and stand together. Instead of talking your issues or my issues, we ought to be talking about OUR issues.”
The climate situation can only be solved, he said, “if we retool our world.” That means factories, power plants, homes, offices, rail lines, vehicles, planes, hospitals and schools. “They must all be modernized, upgraded, renovated and replaced with something cleaner, more efficient and less wasteful. We have to fix the leaks and the seeps in America’s oil and gas pipelines. And we have to keep developing green technology.”
That transformation can mean jobs, he said. “It means opportunities for economic growth (and) building a path for a healthier world and a healthier world economy, one less dependent on volatile energy prices.”
The Locust Fork News-Journal was one of the few national news organizations to spend much time and space covering the big news from the conference last year. This year, we are launching a new Web publication from the conference in Washington, D.C. called the New American Journal.
Check out this year’s schedule here, and see who the major speakers will be here.
© 2014 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.