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Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS)

Workers and Riders Unite for Transit Equity Day

By Bakari Height - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 2022

For the past four years on February 4, Labor Network for Sustainability and a network of transit rider unions, community organizations, environmental groups and labor unions have organized Transit Equity Day (TED)–a national day of action to commemorate the birthday of Rosa Parks by declaring public transit a civil right. This year, TED made a big splash. Two states (Wisconsin and Minnesota) passed formal proclamations that declared February 4th Transit Equity Day—as did dozens of cities. Local transit activists organized more than 60 events across the country, LNS hosted a massive livestream, and we launched a transit equity workforce investment report with some of our partners!

This year, Transit Equity Day showcased many of the local transit organizers and their heroic efforts in making sure that Transit Equity remains a top priority in planning and maintaining our transit systems. Whether it was Fort Wayne, Indiana, Buffalo, New York, Atlanta, or Wisconsin, our network put Transit Equity front and center. And thanks for special guest appearances by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Department of Transportation Administrator Nuria Fernandez – see the Secretary interview the Administrator at https://twitter.com/SecretaryPete/status/1489634427630141444?s=20&t=EJ9WFljXJeUkxa35CtziSg

Let’s continue to make our voices louder and our presence stronger.

Court Blocks Giant Gulf Fossil Fuel Lease Sale

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability - March 2022

In November 2022 the Biden Administration prepared to sell oil and gas permits for 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico – the largest such sale in US history. Now a federal court has halted the sale because of the failure to adequately assess the impact on climate change.

The court ruled that the Biden Administration must consider the emissions and climate impacts in the leasing program. This ruling will stop not only Lease Sale 257 but future leasing decisions as well.

A sign-on letter urges President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland not to appeal the decision.

The DOI should now accept the court’s ruling on Lease Sale 257 to vacate the sale and correct the Trump administration’s flawed climate impact assessments that falsely conclude that the resulting emissions from offshore drilling would have no impact on the climate crisis. The DOI should not continue to defend unlawful drilling for oil and gas in public waters in appellate court given the impacts on our climate, clear violations of federal environmental standards, and public commitments made by President Biden to end the practice. https://www.labor4sustainability.org/strike/climate-safe-energy-production-from-below/

LNS and 45 Environmental Groups Call on the Green Building Community to Stop Partnering with Kingspan

By Sydney Ghazarian - Labor Network for Sustainability - March 2022

Labor Network for Sustainability is proud to be among 45 climate and environmental justice groups calling on the green building community to stop partnering with Kingspan, an international building materials company that’s so-called ‘green’ manufacturing processes are polluting the indoor air and local watershed (learn more here).

We call on those who deal with Kingspan to reconsider rewarding it for behavior that weakens the credibility of the green building community, and that goes against the values of safe and sustainable buildings and communities.Read the full statement and list of signatory organizations here.

This effort is part of Clean up Kingspan, an inspirational campaign led by Kingspan factory workers in Santa Ana, CA who are holding the global manufacturing company accountable for health, safety, and pollution issues in their community and demanding a fair process to decide whether to unionize. In collaboration with UC Irvine pollution scientist Dr. Shahir Masri, these workers measured unhealthy levels of PM2.5 pollution inside their workplace.They also blew the whistle on Kingspan for misrepresenting its daily operations and water pollution clean-up efforts to the CalEPA.

What this campaign makes clear is that the struggle we face isn’t ‘jobs vs. the environment;’ it’s corporate greed vs. everyone else. LNS is proud to stand with workers, community activists, faith leaders, & environmentalists in this campaign for true economic and environmental justice. It’s time for the green building community to stand with us too.

Join us in calling on the green building community to stop partnering with Kingspan: https://cleanupkingspan.org/take-action/

‘Just transition’ bill for oil industry workers exposes labor rift

By Jesse Bedayn - Cal Matters, February 17, 2022

A leading environmental lawmaker has proposed a bill that would create a state fund to support and retrain thousands of oil industry workers as California tries to phase out fossil fuel production.

The idea of guiding California’s 112,000 oil industry workers out of their current field and into other careers is often referred to as “just transition,” and is considered by policy researchers a necessary step to counter job losses as the state strives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

But even with a Democratic supermajority in the state Legislature, such a proposal faces an uphill battle because it’s pitting unions against unions.

Community and environmental groups say the state should start moving half the industry’s workforce out of oil fields, refineries and plants now in order to meet California’s goal of cutting 40% greenhouse gas emission by 2030. But a union that represents a portion of these workers has opposed efforts in the past. 

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – known as the Trades – which represents labor groups that include Ironworkers, electrical workers and Teamsters, worry about losing good-paying jobs. Last year, The Trades opposed a bill that would have prevented oil drilling near schools and communities, citing job losses. 

This time, however, the Trades is being countered by another group of unions including steelworkers, municipal workers and teachers. Although the current bill doesn’t specify an amount, those unions hope the state will dedicate $470 million annually for wage subsidies and training to help workers move into the growing green energy sector. 

Trades leaders say that beginning to dismantle the industry now will only push workers into lower-paid jobs. Instead, Trades officials say, the state should invest in big-ticket infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail and offshore wind projects that will create comparable jobs to what workers have been doing for decades.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s bill exposes a rift among labor unions on how the state should address the transition to a green economy at a time of growing income inequality and fewer well-paying jobs for middle-class workers. 

It also puts labor’s main organizing body, California Labor Federation, in an uncomfortable position after Steelworkers requested that the organization convene “labor to labor” talks on the subject. Both sides say talks haven’t happened yet.

Transit Equity Day: Livestream 2022

Invest in Transit Equity, Invest in Transit Workers

By Julie Chinitz, et. al - Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and TransitCenter, February 2022

On Transit Equity Day 2022, Transit Riders and Workers Join Together to Call for Prioritizing Workforce Investments

A new report by the Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and TransitCenter shows how inadequate investments in our public transit workforce have resulted in service cuts in cities, towns, and states across the country. Investments in the public transit workforce are urgently needed to boost economic opportunity and racial equity in our communities.

The report, released on Transit Equity Day, February 4, 2022, notes how inadequate investments in job quality, the aging transit workforce, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced transit staffing levels, and left many public transit systems unable to meet the needs of the communities they serve. That’s a problem for the millions of people in cities and rural communities across the country who rely on public transit every day.

The report also includes recommendations to help rebuild a strong transit workforce in communities across the country. The report emphasizes that the starting point to addressing any workforce problem is to engage in a dialogue with transit employees themselves, through their democratically elected union representatives, as well as riders and other community stakeholders. Operators, maintenance employees, and other transit workers know better than anyone how to improve job quality in order to hire and retain a skilled, stable and professional transit workforce. Labor-management negotiations can forge the most appropriate policy solutions to providing safe and healthy environments for transit workers; improving their working conditions; expanding access to good transit jobs; and ensuring workers have the skills and training needed to adapt to modernization efforts like electrification.

Read the full report below, including detailed recommendations for building a stable, skilled, and experienced public transit workforce.

About the Alliance for a Just Society

The Alliance for a Just Society’s National Campaign for Transit Justice is working to ensure just transit drives the future of the economy. Started in response to the emergency faced by public transit systems around the country during the pandemic, we mobilize riders, transit workers, small businesses, and transit agencies to #SaveTransit. Learn more at allianceforajustsociety.org

About Labor Network for Sustainability

Founded in 2009, the Labor Network for Sustainability sets out to be a relentless force for urgent, science-based climate action by building a powerful labor-climate movement to secure an ecologically sustainable and economically just future where everyone can make a living on a living planet. Since 2018, LNS has convened the Transit Equity Network joining together transit riders, workers, environmental and environmental and climate justice organizations to host actions on Feb. 4, Transit Equity Day, recognizing public transit as a civil rights, workers’ rights and climate justice issue. Learn more at www.labor4sustainability.org. Learn more about Transit Equity Day.

About TransitCenter

TransitCenter is an applied research and advocacy foundation dedicated to improving transit in major US cities. Learn more at transitcenter.org.

Read the text (PDF).

Tom Morello: “Rhythm is the Rebel”

By Joe Uehlein - Labor Network for Sustainability - February 2022

“Over the course of 20 albums and three decades I’ve walked the tightrope of rock and race.”

Tom Morello has also walked the tightrope of rock and politics, rock and labor, and now rock and climate change. Inspired by Joe Strummer and the music of the Clash — wearing a Clash t-shirt with “the future is unwritten” over the heart — Tom has set out to make his mark in creating a future where everyone prospers, and the planet thrives. His advice to activists: “Dream big and don’t settle. Aim for the world you really want without compromise or apology. Find the courage, and help others find theirs, to forge a more humane, just, and peaceful planet.”

With support from Tom, his son Roman and pre-teen Nandi Bushell recently wrote and recorded the song The Children Will Rise Up laying out the urgency of reversing global warming and halting climate change. Nandi Bushell said of the song: “I am not a scientist. I am an 11-year-old girl who understands the simple meaning of science, and while I’m not old enough to vote, I can bring awareness to this problem.”

Watch this powerful music/info video — and watch till the end!

How You Can Join the Green Workers Alliance

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, February 2022

The Green Workers Alliance is a new multiracial organization that fights for more and better green jobs. More than 400 workers have already joined GWA online. On-the-ground organizing will begin in Virginia and other southeastern states this spring.

The GWA is initially focusing on the 100,000 workers in the utility-scale renewable energy field. According to Mathew Mayers, GWA executive director,

These workers travel around the country to work on solar and wind projects. They are usually employed by subcontractors or temp agencies, who are under pressure to lower costs to win contracts from utilities or other companies financing the projects. Too often, health and safety conditions suffer, pay is low, and workers face job insecurity as they are constantly hustling for the next gig.

Mayers says, “Ultimately, it is the electricity utilities who have the power to improve these conditions, as they either finance the projects or buy the electricity which they produce.” The GWA is demanding that the utilities use 80% renewable energy by 2030.

The GWA is already helping workers fight sexual harassment and wage theft on the job. IAnd it is providing trainings on worker rights and job applications for workers who work – or want to work – in renewable energy. Next recruiting target: rooftop solar installers in the West.

All green workers – and anyone who wants to work in this sector – are welcome to join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/greenworkers

All green workers–and anyone who wants to work in this sector–

Sign the GWA petition demanding that the utilities use 80% renewable energy by 2030.

Check out the GWA website: https://www.greenworkers.org

Getting Infrastructure Dollars for Your Union and Community

By Oren Kadosh - Labor Network for Sustainability, February 2022

The federal rollout of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA” – colloquially known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law”) is now beginning.

The IIJA set overall requirements that any construction jobs created with IIJA funding would pay a prevailing rate of wage (the “Davis-Bacon” standard). This can help to ensure a minimum wage rate (a “floor,” so to speak) for construction jobs.

The IIJA also allows Department of Transportation-funded construction projects to require local hiring. The DOT’s first IIJA competitive grant rollout is the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant Program. Eligible applicants include State, local, and Tribal governmental entities, transit agencies, or a consortium of these. Applicants are asked to include information in their applications about how their projects would create good-paying jobs, including through strong labor standards, the use of project labor agreements, and distribution of workplace rights notices. To be the most competitive, applicants are encouraged to utilize registered apprenticeship and local and economic hire agreements.

Grant funds may not be used to support or oppose union organizing — an attempt at requiring employer neutrality. DOT says it will prioritize projects that “address environmental justice, particularly for communities that disproportionately experience climate change” and that “to the extent possible, target at least 40 percent of resources and benefits towards low-income communities, disadvantaged communities, communities underserved by affordable transportation, or overburdened communities.”

It remains to be seen how much force this language will have. A powerful labor-climate movement is can help ensure that projects actually create family-sustaining jobs, halt climate change, and move us closer to racial, environmental, and economic justice.

Climate-Safe Energy Production–From Below

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, February 2022

Climate-safe energy is being produced locally all over the country in ways that also produce jobs and increase racial, social, and economic justice – fulfilling the basic principles of the Green New Deal.

Protecting the climate requires meeting the original Green New Deal proposal’s goal of 100% of national power generation from renewable sources within ten years.[1] That requires greatly expanding climate-safe sources of energy. It involves an unprecedented transformation of the energy system, and that requires national investment and planning. But much of the transformation will actually be composed of local building blocks – and those can begin right now. Indeed, hundreds of local initiatives around the country, ranging from community solar to municipal ownership to local microgrids, are already expanding renewable energy production.

Sunlight, Jobs, and Justice

Solar gardens are sprouting up all over Denver.

On November 3, 2020, Denver voters overwhelmingly approved Ballot Measure 2A, the Climate Protection Fund, to raise approximately $40 million per year dedicated to climate action. As stated in the ballot measure, the intent of this fund is to “fund programs to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution and adapt to climate change. Funding should maximize investments in communities of color, under-resourced communities and communities most vulnerable to climate change.”[2]

Community solar gardens use photovoltaic (PV) panels to produce electricity from sunlight for an entire neighborhood. Now such solar gardens are dotting sites owned and financed by the City of Denver, including rooftops, parking lots, and vacant lands. The power generated from the solar gardens will be shared between city facilities, income-qualified residents, and publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations.

In accord with the principles of the Green New Deal, Denver’s solar garden program has a strong justice dimension. Since Denver owns the project, it can set its own standards. Ten percent of the energy generated by the solar gardens is allocated to low-income housing through the Denver Housing Authority. An additional 10 percent will be allocated to low-income households through Energy Outreach Colorado, and will be exempt from subscription fees. A paid workforce training program available to Denver residents will provide 10 percent of the city and county’s solar workforce.

The solar gardens are designed to contribute to the goal of Denver’s “80 x 50 Climate Action Plan” to transition Denver to 100 percent renewable electricity for municipal buildings by 2025; achieve 100 percent community-wide renewable electricity by 2030; and reduce Denver’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent, as compared to a 2005 baseline, by 2050.[3]

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