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AFSCME District Council 37

Climate Jobs and Just Transition Summit: Climate Change Racial Justice and Economic Justice

New York Climate Jobs Initiatives

By J. Mijin Cha, Lara Skinner and Josh Kellermann - Global Climate Jobs, September 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In 2014-2015, the New York labor movement and its allies in other movements launched two complementary Climate Jobs initiatives for New York City and New York State. The city-level campaign, Climate Works for All, is anchored by ALIGN, the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) and the NYC Central Labor Council (CLC). Climate Works for All is a broad coalition of over 40 community, labor, environmental justice, faith and other organizations united to ensure that efforts to address climate change also create good, career-track jobs and prioritize low-income, climate-vulnerable communities. The coalition released a 10-point platform in early 2015 that focused on five primary sectors that contribute most to NYC’s climate crisis: Buildings; Energy; Transit; Waste; and Community and Infrastructure Resiliency. The 10-point platform ranges from demanding a mandatory energy efficiency retrofit program for large privately-owned buildings, to solar installations on 100 schools, to flood and stormwater infrastructure improvements, to making NYC’s public hospitals more resilient to climate change impacts.

The New York State initiative, coordinated by The Worker Institute at Cornell, brings together unions in the building, energy and transport sectors to develop a comprehensive climate jobs plan for New York State. A Climate Jobs report for New York State will be released in Fall 2015 along with specific climate jobs policy proposals for the energy, transport and buildings sectors – policies that the labor movement along with its allies will push to implement in the next year. The Worker Institute at Cornell and its union partners have also developed a labor-climate training curriculum for union members and leaders that will be used to build engagement and support for the climate jobs work in NY.

The Greening of the Labor Movement

By Gregory N Heires - The New Crossroads, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Thousands of union members participated in Sunday’s People’s Climate March, which is believed to be the largest demonstration by environmental activists ever to take place in the United States.

National, statewide and local unions played a big role in organizing the New York City march, and unions contributed significant resources to guarantee its success.

A New Movement?

Green activists are hopeful that the march marks the beginning of a movement that will unite a broad alliance of labor, community and traditional environmental groups dedicated to protecting the environment. Unionists who marched say the demonstration shows that the decades-old division between environmentalists and labor over the issue of jobs is finally breaking down.

“I would hope that a new movement will grow out of this,” said Jon Forster, a vice president of District Council 37, the largest public-employee union in New York City. Forster, who heads the union’s newly formed Climate Change Committee, worked with the 70 unions that helped organize the march.

“Building new community alliances is important, not only for creating jobs to but also to address social justice issues,” he said. “Climate change discriminates. Hurricane Sandy hurt the city’s minority and poor communities disproportionately.”

“This is really a class issue,” said Joshua Barnett, who works for the New York City Pubic Housing Authority. “The communities of New York City are unequally affected by asthma and pollution. The highest percentage of garbage dumps, sewage treatment plants and lead paint are in poor communities.”

Labor activists gathered for a lively rally at Broadway and 57th Street before the march kicked off in the late morning. Organizers estimated 350,000 workers, parents and children, human rights and peace advocates, youths, students, people of faith, politicians, celebrities and community activists participated the march, which filled dozens of blocks and extended over 2 miles until the demonstrators gathered between 34th and 38th streets for a block party.

Union leaders and rank-and-file members underscored how climate change is an existential issue for workers.

“Our members work and live in the coastal cities of the East of the United States,” said Hector Figueroa, who is the president of Local 32BJ, which has 145,000 members, who work in the city’s buildings as cleaners, maintenance laborers, security officers, window cleaners, building engineers and doormen. “They all are at risk with climate change.”

As noted by Figueroa, buildings account for a significant part of the city’s gas emission and electrical output. The local, an affiliate of Services Employees International Union, set up a training program for its supervisors to make the buildings they work in more environmentally friendly by conserving water and using electricity more efficiently.

Henry Garrido, an associate director of DC 37, which is an affiliate of the American State, Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, recalled how Hurricane Sandy devastated the union’s downtown headquarters, which was closed for nine months because of damage. Many DC 37 members were among the thousands of residents displaced by the hurricane.

But while DC 37 members were direct victims of the storm, they also were on the frontlines in helping residents, Garrido said.
EMS workers tended to people injured in the storm. Members in the public hospitals evacuated patients. Social workers and clerical employees ran shelters. And mobile libraries became outposts to help residents of storm-ravaged communities charge their cell phones, learn about emergency services, and find shelter and shower facilities.

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