AFL-CIO Energy Committee releases letter opposing the Green New Deal

A  letter, dated March 8, was addressed to Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, and signed by  Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America , and Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, on behalf of the  AFL-CIO’s Energy Committee.  The letter  states :   “..the Green New Deal resolution is far too short on specific solutions that speak to the jobs of our members and the critical sectors of our economy. It is not rooted in an engineering-based approach and makes promises that are not achievable or realistic.”  “…We want to engage on climate issues in a manner that does not impinge on enacting other labor priorities, especially much-needed infrastructure legislation…”

IBEW congress logoHow they would engage and what they would propose is contained in a position paper posted on the IBEW website, and drafted by the IBEW, UMWA, and five other unions in the electric utility, construction, and rail transport sectors.  The position paper,  Preliminary  Labor Positions on Climate Legislation , states their opposition to carbon tax legislation and grave concerns about the Green New Deal . It calls for comprehensive, economy wide climate legislation which would include an national emissions trading scheme, to be introduced no earlier than 10 years after enacting legislation, to allow for development of Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS)  technologies.  It also calls for worker transition protections, including compensation and retraining.  The policy document was submitted to the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee for the record of their  February 6th meeting:  “Time for Action: Addressing the Economic and Environmental Effects of Climate Change“.

Reaction:  The Washington Post reported:  “AFL-CIO criticizes Green New Deal, calling it ‘not achievable or realistic’” (March 12)  and  in a follow-up piece , “Labor opposition to Green New Deal could be a big obstacle” ( March 14).  The United Mine Workers re-posted the Washington Post article .  Friends of the Earth, in its reaction to the March 8 letter, states “one-fifth of the unions that make up the AFL-CIO energy committee commented on the Green New Deal”,  and,  “With the energy committee’s position, the AFL joins climate deniers like the Koch brothers, the Republican Party and Big Oil. We encourage the AFL and other unions within it to rethink this position.”

 

Union conference focus: fighting climate change with innovative campaigns

LNS convergence meetingLabour and climate activists gathered to exchange experiences and plan for future action at the Second Labor Convergence on Climate event, held on September 23-24, under the banner “Building Worker Power to Confront Climate Change.”  The meeting was hosted by the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS), which  recently released a report on the meetings  summarizing the impressive initiatives and projects,  including:  the Canadian Postal Workers Union proposal Delivering Community Power,  which envisions expansion and re-purposing of the postal station network to provide electric vehicle charging stations, farm-to-table food delivery, and  community banking ; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters described the San Francisco Zero Waste program that now diverts 80% of municipal waste from landfills into recycling and composting and provides union jobs; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199  described their environmental and climate justice programs, resulting from the impact of disasters  like Superstorm Sandy;  worker training programs at the Net-Zero Energy training facility built by the  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 595 in partnership with the Northern California National Electrical Contractors Association; the United Food and Commercial Workers described their experience with the  Good Food Purchasing Policy as a tool for protecting and enhancing labor standards for workers in the food industry and advancing climate justice; and the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen profiled their successful Green Diesel campaign to win cleaner fuel engines and a visionary strategy called  “Solutionary Rail” ,  profiled in “How we can turn railroads into a climate solution”  in Grist (March 2017) and in “ Electric Trains everywhere – A Solution to crumbling roads and climate crisis”  in  YES Magazine (May 2017).

Participants at the Second Labor Convergence on Climate included over 130 people –  labour union leaders, organizers, and rank and file activists from 17 unions, 3 state federations/central labor councils and 6 labor support organizations,  as well as environmental and economic justice activists.

Nuclear Shutdown in California includes Transition provisions for Workers

Pacific Gas and Electric company of California announced  on June 21, 2016  that it will not renew licenses for its two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, set to expire by 2025. This is being hailed as a landmark because, unlike other U.S. closures which reverted to more polluting sources of energy, the Diablo Canyon agreement will replace the nuclear energy with renewable sources and energy efficiency.  Further, the agreement, which included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245   and the Coalition of California Utility Employees,  pledges  incentives to retain employees until 2025, retraining of employees for the decommissioning process, and severance payments when their employment ends.  See the IBEW Letter to Members here   . But James Hansen, amongst other greens and scientists, have lobbied to keep the plant open; see “If Diablo Canyon does close, America will have lost 14 reactors since 2013, but is it a good idea?”  in Vox.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers promotes Green Skills Training

“Green Skills Training and Certification” was the topic of the opening Plenary session of the Training Conference of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO) in Vancouver on June 4 . The Green Skills session related to electrical vehicle infrastructure technology, photovoltaic solar energy technologies, and advanced energy‐conserving lighting system controls.  NETCO  is  a joint partnership of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) of Canada, and is associated with The electrical training ALLIANCE™ of the U.S.   Another IBEW initiative was highlighted in a  May report from the Don Vial Center on the Green Economy at U of California, Berkeley.  Training for the Future II: Progress to Date  describes the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee (UPCT) program, a model program for entry-level disadvantaged workers in Los Angeles, jointly operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and  IBEW Local 18.    Since 2011, trainees “earn-and-learn” by working full time weatherizing homes and small businesses while learning skills and preparing for civil service exams in the utility. The first Training for the Future  report from 2013 is also available.