Why U.S. unions supported the Washington March for Climate, Jobs and Justice

LNS at 2017 Washington Climate MarchThe May 5th Newsletter of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy provides an early assessment of  “Why U.S. unions marched for the climate” . The article lists some of the many unions who marched in Washington D.C. on April 29 in the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, highlighting the unique perspective of the National Nurses Union and 1199 SEIU, who see the public health effects of climate change in their daily work.  TUED also mentions  a meeting convened by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis and hosted by the American Postal Workers Union, “bringing together roughly 30 labor, community and social movement activists and organizers, to reflect on possibilities for building on the Canadian Leap Manifesto framework to advance the struggle for energy democracy and just transition in the U.S. context.”

Finally, the TUED article credits the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) with much of the work in building participation in the March.  The latest LNS newsletter reports that over a dozen unions and more than 3000 members marched in Washington,  including 100 members from AFSCME’s local DC37 in New York. The newsletter also describes marches on the West Coast, where climate change was included in the May 1 messages. The LNS Facebook page has more details and photos. 

joint press release  (April 26)  includes brief statements from each of the members of the labour steering committee for the march:  Service Employees International Union  ( SEIU), Communications Workers of America (CWA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) (including the local from the EPA),  and BlueGreen Alliance.

After the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate: What next?

Panels not pipelines by Abdul Malik

From Edmonton, photo by Abdul Malik, posted on People’s Climate Movement Facebook page

The  March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate drew thousands to Washington D.C., and cities around the world, including communities across Canada. Coverage in Canada, so far, seems limited to brief overviews – see  the CBC and here  and the Energy Mix.    For the most complete   photos and posts from across Canada, as well as video from Washington, go to the  People’s Climate Movement Canada Facebook page – where the group is hosting a conference call on May 3 for a discussion of “what’s next?”.

A report in Vox  brings together photos and video of the Washington crowds, while noting  that, compared to the Science March on April 22, the Climate March was  “more explicitly anti-Trump, more intersectional, and more social justice oriented.”   Organizers are quoted as claiming  more than 150,000 people attended,  including 43 labor union buses, indigenous  people and communities of color, and a big faith and youth contingent.   Other U.S.  reports are at Think Progress  ;  Inside Climate News , and mainstream media, which generally focussed on crowd estimates  and photos of “the best signs”:   “Climate March draws thousands of Protesters Alarmed by Trump’s Environmental Agenda”   in the New York Times ,  and  the Washington Post report , which was republished in the Toronto Star  .

As for that obvious question of “what’s next?”,  read “It can’t just be a march it has to be a movement. What’s next for climate activists”  (April 30) in the Washington Post or The Climate March’s Big Tent Strategy Draws a Big Crowd: But will it make a difference?” in  The Atlantic (Apr. 30), which states:  “Whether the protest will eventually result in political success is an open question. Due to the hyperpolarized politics of climate change, it may ultimately depend on other factors—whether the Democratic Party can harmonize a political message, for instance. And the lack of any one unifying climate policy may prove troublesome when it comes time for the movement’s leaders to govern again.

But protests are not only about legislative success. …Rather it is for people to register their mass discontent and mobilize around a movement’s shared goals. For the moment, the People’s Climate Movement seems to have accomplished that. ”

Sudbury climate march

From Sudbury Ontario Climate March, posted at People’s Climate March Facebook page

Two Marches in April: for Climate action and Science-Based Policy

In releasing its  most recent working paper , the Labor Network for Sustainablity (LNS) states : “On the eve of the second Peoples’ Climate March, we offer this as a contribution to the conversation that we must continue in earnest and move us to bold, decisive and immediate action.”  Comments are invited, as is participation in Labor Contingent of the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on April 29.  According to 350.org,  , more than 100,000 people have already RSVP’ed for the Washington March alone, as of April 13.   See information about the March in Toronto or Vancouver.

The LNS paper, Jobs for Climate and Justice: A Worker alternative to the Trump Agenda , describes  a Jobs for Climate and Justice Plan – a four-part strategy to defeat  the Trump ideas,  and develop  a climate-safe and worker-friendly economy.  Author Jeremy Brecher states that “protecting the climate requires a massive and emergency mobilization” comparable to the industrial transformation of World War 2.   The paper suggests ideas to create new climate-friendly jobs and protect the workers and communities who are threatened by climate change, and while most of these have appeared in earlier LNS publications , the sheer number of positive, concrete examples of worker  initiatives across the U.S. makes this an inspiring document .

According to an article in Common Dreams, “The Fights to Protect Science, People and Planet Are Inherently Connected” (April 6)   .  A  blog post from Legal Planet,  “The War on Science continues”  also makes clear how the Trump administration disregard for science is impacting climate change research, and how closely intertwined the two issues are.  So on April 22,  Earth Day, watch for or join the March for Science “the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments”. “….. We are advocating for evidence-based policy-making, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

ScientistsThe main Science March is set for  Washington D.C., but there are sister marches around the world, including in 18 cities across Canada . The Canadian organizers, Ottawa-based  Evidence for Democracy , state: “The politicization of science, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted”.  This is not just an American issue.  Canadians remember the muzzled scientists of the Harper era, and can see current examples  – Evidence for Democracy published a report on April 6, Oversight at Risk: The state of government science in British Columbia   – the first of several planned surveys of provincial government scientists . Some results:  32 per cent said they cannot speak to the media about their research; 49 per cent think said political interference reduces their department’s ability to create policies and programs based on scientific evidence.

 

New York Climate Summit: Labour Marches and Business Makes Pledges

The New York Times Editorial Board pronounced its verdict on the U.N. Climate Summit – focussing on the People’s March rather than the official meetings, and noting “a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity, and not a burden”.

The article notes that cooperation between the U.S. and China could create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement in 2015, “But what might really do the trick – if Climate Week is any guide – is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change”. In an article in Truthout, Abby Scher summarizes the support for the People’s March by national unions in the U.S., including Service Employees (SEIU) and Communication Workers of America, as well as the New York state and city unions and the community-labour alliances which have taken root in New York since Hurricane Sandy.

The business community made headlines with its reports and announcements over the Climate Summit week: a Global Investor Statement by nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets, calling for stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing and a phase-out of fossil fuels; the Carbon Tracker Initiative published a report for investors to measure their risk exposure and start directing capital away from high cost, high carbon projects; the new We Mean Business coalition released The Climate has Changed report; and iconic companies like Kellogg’s, Nestle, Apple, and IKEA and others released their own statements supporting climate change action.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the U.S., pledged to measure and publicly disclose the carbon footprint of its $300 billion investment portfolio, and the California State Teachers Retirement System announced that it will increase its clean energy and technology investments from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion over the next five years. And according to a New York Times summary of business initiatives: “The major Indonesian palm oil processors, including Cargill, issued a separate declaration on Tuesday pledging a crackdown on deforestation, and asking the Indonesian government to adopt stronger laws. Forest Heroes, an environmental group, called the declaration “a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening”.

And for an interesting, more neutral point of view: consider the special report Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement, presented to the German Federal Government on the occasion of the UN Climate Summit in New York. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) recommends a dual strategy for international climate policy: governments should negotiate the global phasing-out of fossil CO2 emissions at the Paris meetings in 2015, while civil society initiatives, including those of trade unions and religious organizations, should be supported and encouraged.

LINKS:

“A Group Shout on Climate Change” Editorial in the New York Times (September 27) is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/opinion/sunday/a-group-shout-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_th_20140928&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67440933&_r=0. In contrast, see also “Moving Forward after the People’s Climate March” in Canadian Dimension at: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/moving-forward-after-the-peoples-climate-march

“At Least Some Unions Step Up for Big Climate March!” by Abby Scher in Truthout at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26137-at-least-some-unions-step-up-for-big-climate-march, with a list of the unions who officially endorsed the People March at: http://peoplesclimate.org/organizedlabor/. See also the BlueGreen Alliance statement at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/latest/members-of-labor-environmental-partnership-front-and-center-in-peoples-climate-march

For Business documents, see Global Investor Statement is at: http://investorsonclimatechange.org/; Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating Financial Risk to Oil Capital Expenditures is at the Carbon Tracker Initiative at: http://www.carbontracker.org/report/carbon-supply-cost-curves-evaluating-financial-risk-to-oil-capital-expenditures/; We Mean Business website is at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/, with The Climate has Changed at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/stories. CalPERS statement is at: http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/newsroom/news/montreal-carbon-pledge.xml; California Teachers Retirement System press release is at: http://www.calstrs.com/news-release/calstrs-commits-increase-clean-energy-and-technology-investments; “Companies take the Baton in Climate Change Efforts” in the New York Times at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/business/energy-environment/passing-the-baton-in-climate-change-efforts.html?_r=3

Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement by the German Advisory Council on Global Change is at: http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/sondergutachten/sn2014/wbgu_sg2014_en.pdf

People’s Climate March Under the Eyes of the World

The Climate Leadership Summit convened by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York City on September 23 has created a flurry of reports and statements, some of which are summarized below. Most world leaders are expected at the Summit, with the notable exceptions of the leaders of China, India, and Canada – which will be represented by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. See the official U.N. website at: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit. Oxfam International has published The Summit that Snoozed, which calls for government action at the meeting and provides a checklist/toolkit for sorting out promises from greenwash at: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bkm_climate_summit_media_brief_sept19.pdf.

On September 21, the People’s Climate March, organized by 350.org and Avaaz, brought together people from diverse social movements from across the globe to demonstrate the size and diversity of the support for urgent climate action. In New York, Avaaz presented a petition containing 2.1 million signatures. Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress marched – as did an estimated 311,000 other people, including U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray as well as Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. According to the New York Times coverage at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/nyregion/new-york-city-climate-change-march.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, “the People’s Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big”… and it was only one demonstration of hundreds across the globe. The official March website is at: http://peoplesclimate.org/; see also the Toronto Star coverage, which reported 3000 demonstrators including leaders from the Sierra Club, Toronto 350, and Quebec-based Equiterre, at: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/09/21/3000_join_climate_march_at_nathan_phillips_square.html; CBC Vancouver estimated a crowd of 1000 for that city at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/un-climate-summit-vancouver-joins-thousands-in-worldwide-rallies-1.2773535, see the CTV video from Calgary for a taste of the demonstration there at: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canadians-join-global-climate-protest-in-nyc-1.2017167#, and the Montreal Gazette at: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Montrealers+march+back+climate+summit/10223004/story.html.