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Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS)

Please provide EV Charging Access for All in the 2022 CALGreen Code

Open Letter - various organizations, September 2021

We are a broad statewide coalition of 90 organizations, companies, and individuals, advocating for better and more equitable access to Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in California. Recognizing that over half of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, the state has set a clear path to electrify California’s light duty vehicle fleet. California’s built environment, however, fails to provide sufficient or equitable access to the EV charging infrastructure required to make this necessary transition. Since November of 2020, we have been involved in the CALGreen stakeholder engagement process, and from the beginning our mandate has been to ensure that every new multi-family housing unit with parking has access to some level of residential EV-ready charging. 

Read the text (PDF).

A ‘Place-Based’ Just Transition is Possible

By Judy Asman - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 19, 2021

As with many organizers drawn to work with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Pamela Tau Lee saw first-hand the workplace cruelties and injustices of her ancestors and throughout the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities when she was a young girl. Founder of the Chinese Pacific Association and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Tau Lee recently shared her experience at APALA’s 16th Convention themed, “Rooted in Legacy: Towards a New World Beyond Borders & Across Oceans,” of which she was the opening keynote.

Reminiscing over her early years, Tau Lee shared stories of her grandmother working as a garment worker in a Levi Strauss jeans factory. She remembers her grandmother’s work station, the “denim dust” that was always on her clothing and in her hair, and “women crying.” One such woman, Tau Lee recalled, was bleeding from an injury on the job while the other women comforted her. She also remembers the boss screaming to everyone to get back to work. Her grandmother would later describe this boss as “mean, greedy and too much soy sauce!” The latter, an expression that would denote “something was not right.”

Later in college, while fighting for Asian American studies, Tau Lee found herself exploring and studying the “super exploitation” of workers by multinational corporations “who reap super profits by enlisting subcontractors to operate sweatshops” in Asian communities and foster neocolonialism in “our homelands”–she called this a “grounding experience” that drew her to APALA.

But Tau Lee was not only drawn to APALA as an advocate for exploited workers, but also as someone with a strong commitment to the environment and its meaning and impact in AAPI communities. During her keynote, she talked about the 16th Convention as a pivotal moment where “globally, humanity can thrive and be in balance with Mother Earth.”

From Climate Strikes to the Union Hall

By Teresa-Marie Oller, Travis Epes, and Maria Brescia-Weiler - The Forge, August 19, 2021

The Young Worker Listening Project (YWLP), an initiative of the Young Worker Committee of the Labor Network for Sustainability, is an effort to challenge the “workers versus the environment” narrative by collecting and developing stories of how young workers are pushing climate activism in their jobs, in their unions, and in their communities. In recent years, we’ve seen the right attempt to pit labor and climate activists against each other through an argument that environmental regulations will take away good union jobs. But as leaders in our respective unions and labor-climate network, we’ve learned that building worker power and fighting climate change are connected and that young workers are especially eager to tackle the climate crisis through workplace organizing. The young people we have interviewed as part of our Young Worker Listening Project recognize the jobs versus environment choice is a false one. They want the labor movement to be a mechanism for enacting major economic and environmental change, and they can envision a way to get there.

The Young Worker Committee was formed in the summer of 2020 to strategize how best to organize young workers to take an active role in bridging the labor and climate movements. We had a hunch that engaging young workers on issues – like climate change – that extend beyond mandatory subjects of bargaining would help revive the labor movement and give it the power necessary to lead a just transition to a sustainable future. Indeed, for the first time in a long time, young people are largely pro-union. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 71 percent of people ages 18-34 approve of unions, compared to 63 percent of other age groups. Young people have also been at the forefront of recent climate activism, including the climate strikes of 2019 and protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. They’ve also driven the explosion of youth-led climate organizations like the Sunrise Movement and Zero Hour. 

Alameda and Contra Costa Labor Climate Convergence 2021

US Energy Transition Presents Organized Labor With New Opportunities, But Also Some Old Challenges

By Delger Erdenesanaa - Inside Climate News, July 27, 2021

President Biden’s push for “good, union jobs” in clean energy has increased hope that organizing solar and wind workers can close the pay gap between them and fossil fuel workers.

President Biden’s push for “good, union jobs” in clean energy has increased hope that organizing solar and wind workers can close the pay gap between them and fossil fuel workers.

Two years ago, Skip Bailey noticed a lot of trucks from a company called Solar Holler driving around Huntington, West Virginia. A union organizer with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Bailey saw an opportunity.

“We want to get in on the solar business,” he said, predicting the industry will grow in his home region, which includes historic coal communities in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

Bailey talked to Solar Holler about unionizing its employees who install photovoltaic panels on homes. IBEW showed the company its local training facility for electricians, and explained the health insurance and pension plans it offers. 

“It wasn’t a hard sell in either direction,” said the company’s founder and CEO, Dan Conant. He was already interested in securing union protections for his employees when Bailey contacted him, he said. The move fit with Solar Holler’s dedication to West Virginia’s legacy of energy production and strong union membership.

“It was not just good business, but it just really spoke to our history as a state,” he said.

Conant and Bailey’s efforts paid off in March 2020, when IBEW Local 317 and Solar Holler signed a contract. It’s just a start—Solar Holler only has about 20 unionized employees—but the agreement is an early example of the future Joe Biden is promising. The president frequently pledges to create millions of jobs while transitioning the U.S. to clean energy. Every time he does, he’s quick to add that these will be “good, union jobs that expand the middle class.”

“It’s a great talking point,” said Joe Uehlein, president of the Maryland-based Labor Network for Sustainability, an advocacy group pushing to unionize green jobs. But he added that Biden faces a difficult balancing act to achieve his pledge. 

LNS Executive Director Testifies Before House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Expresses Support of the Justice40 Initiative

By Judy Asman - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 21, 2021

‘The Goal of Creating Good Jobs and Protecting Our Environment Are Not Incompatible,’ Recommends Ways to Protect Workers Amid a Shift to a Green Economy.

On Wednesday morning, July 21, 2021, Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, Michael Leon Guerrero, joined fellow environmental justice leaders and activists to testify in support of the Biden-Harris Justice40 Initiative at a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Led by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Committee highlighted its role in advancing the Justice40 Initiative–including ensuring a whole-of-government response, strong federal data collection, and a voice for state and local partners–to direct 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to the hardest hit communities.

An environmental justice organizer for much of his career, Leon Guerrero opened by saying, “I will speak to you today to affirm, as the title of this hearing suggests, that Environmental Justice is central to the American Jobs Plan, and in particular to affirm the importance of addressing the needs of workers and communities as we transition to a climate safe economy. Let me first say that the goals of creating good jobs and protecting our environment are not incompatible.”

A national network of unions and climate and environmental justice organizations working for urgent, science-based climate action, the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) strives daily to bridge the labor and climate movements to “secure an ecologically sustainable and economically just future where everyone can make a living on a living planet.”

“We commend President Biden […] for rooting his climate protection strategy in policies that foster job creation, the rights of workers to organize unions, and the ability of communities to achieve environmental justice,” Leon Guerrero added. “We support the Justice 40 Initiative as a strategy to assure that historically marginalized communities of color have equal access to the badly needed investments to rebuild our economy and infrastructure. We also want to express our support for the recommendations of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.”

The Justice40 Initiative is part of the American Jobs Plan and the Build Back Better Agenda, which Leon Guerrero said LNS feels–along with the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), and Justice 40–“set us on the path we need to address the multiple crises we face in health disparities, economic injustice and climate disruption.”

“These are troubling and turbulent times that require bold and creative action […] we are concerned that currently available details on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation package so far fall severely short of what is needed to address these crises,” said Leon Guerrero.

He went on to cite “Workers and Communities in Transition: A Report of the Just Transition Listening Project,” released by LNS earlier this year and which analyzes in-depth interviews of more than 100 workers and community leaders in 26 states “who work in a variety of industries including oil refining, auto and textile manufacturing, healthcare, education and agriculture.”

Transit Equity Network Calls on Congress to Pass Legislation that Truly Supports Accessible, Safe and Equitable Transit in Support of H.R.3744

By Judy Asman - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 20, 2021

The network of transit riders, community organizations, environmental groups, and labor unions responsible for organizing Transit Equity Day annually on Rosa Parks’ birthday to declare transit equity as a civil right have issued an Open Letter to Congress in support H.R. 3744, the “Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act,” drafted by Rep. Henry C. (Hank) Johnson (D: GA-04) and introduced to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in early June. Twenty-five organizations have signed on to the letter including the Amalgamated Transit Union, Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program, the Sierra Club, the NAACP Niagara Falls Branch, Central Florida Climate Action, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, and the Labor Network for Sustainability.

“We see transit equity as a civil right, workers’ right and climate-justice issue; and are committed to ensuring equitable access to public transit throughout the United States. Expanding public transit can help combat the causes of climate change and also fight economic injustice by providing greater accessibility in marginalized communities and ample training and job growth for transit workers,” the letter says. It adds:

“H.R. 3744, would authorize $20 billion annually from fiscal years 2023 through 2026 in operating assistance to transit agencies to improve frequencies, extend service hours, or add new high-frequency transit service. It also aims to prioritize that service to disadvantaged communities, areas of persistent poverty, and places with inadequate transit services.

“Workers and communities need better access to affordable, reliable public transit to meet essential needs and to help address climate disruption. Our economy will not grow without it. Communities of color will continue to be disproportionately left behind—today, people of color comprise 60 percent of transit ridership. Transit workers will continue to shoulder the pressures that come with infrequent bus service, lack of safety in transition beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and possible job loss when new technologies are implemented without proper worker training. The Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act will not single-handedly ensure transit equity; however, it is a critical step in securing a more reliable, safe, and frequent transit future for communities across the country.”

How to Protect Workers While Protecting the Climate

A framework of six essential policies for the U.S. to THRIVE

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, June 3, 2021

A new report by Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) was released in May. Making “Build Back Better” Better: Aligning Climate, Jobs, and Justice is a cast as a “living document” to provide a framework for discussion by the labour and environmental movements. Common Dreams summarizes it here. Brecher begins by identifying the range of climate-related policy proposals in the U.S.: “There are many valuable plans that have been proposed in addition to Build Back Better. The original Green New Deal resolution sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; the THRIVE (Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy) Agenda ; the Evergreen Action Plan; the Sierra Club’s “How to Build Back Better” economic renewal plan; the AFL-CIO’s “Energy Transitions”proposals; the BlueGreen Alliance’s “Solidarity for Climate Action,” and a variety of others. All offer contributions for overall vision and for policy details.” 

The contribution of this report from LNS is to frame these policy proposals around “six essential elements” : • Managed decline of fossil fuel burning • Full-spectrum job creation • Fair access to good jobs • Labor rights and standards • Urgent and effective climate protection • No worker or community left behind. The new report links to many of the previous LNS reports which have discussed these elements in more detail.

Labor Network for Sustainability has endorsed the THRIVE Agenda, with its strong emphasis on climate justice. At the end of April, The THRIVE Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress, spearheaded by Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and supported by progressive Democrats, environmentalists, and unions. The Rolling Stone summarized the provisions here , stating: “Bold” may be an understatement. While President Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan calls for spending $2 trillion over the next 10 years, the THRIVE Act green-lights the investment of $1 trillion annually. The money would go toward creating an estimated 15 million “family-sustaining” union jobs, rebuilding the nation’s physical and social infrastructure, and cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030.”

The Green New Deal Network has compiled extensive documentation of the economic studies behind the THRIVE Agenda here , based heavily on the work of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), led by Robert Pollin.

Biden Says He Backs a Just Transition for the Climate Crisis. Advocates Say, “Prove It.”

By Rachel M. Cohen - In These Times, June 2, 2021

While the administration has taken some early steps to provide support for energy workers and frontline communities in the transition away from fossil fuels, experts and activists say the crisis demands a more transformative approach.

One of the most difficult problems that political leaders have faced in addressing climate change has not involved the science or technology, but the politics, including bringing key constituencies like energy workers and their labor unions on board. This skepticism and resistance to change is why a so-called ​“just transition” — referring to an ethical and economically secure shift away from a fossil-fuel powered economy — has become so integral to crafting a successful climate plan. 

Figuring out how to provide economic security for both energy workers that have depended on the nation’s fossil fuels and frontline communities has become a leading priority for activists and elected officials alike. The Biden administration, for its part, has thrown its weight behind developing a just transition, though some advocates tell In These Times that federal leaders haven’t gone far enough, or worry the executive branch’s rhetoric won’t deliver real results. Other researchers have called for more careful study of past economic transitions, as well as more firm commitments around social programs such as universal healthcare. 

On January 27, one week after taking office, Biden signed an executive order establishing an interagency working group focused on addressing the economic needs of ​“coal, oil, gas, and power plant communities.” The group, co-chaired by National Economic Council director Brian Deese and National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, is a collaboration between 12 federal agencies including the labor, interior, treasury and energy departments. 

In late April the working group published an initial report identifying 25 of the most impacted regions for coal-related declines, and highlighted existing federal programs that could provide nearly $38 billion in funding for relief. The report noted that ​“creating good-paying union jobs in Energy Communities is necessary but not sufficient” and stressed that ​“foundational infrastructure investments” including broadband, water systems, roads, hospitals and other institutions would be necessary to economically revitalize these areas. The group also noted that a just transition would require prioritizing pollution mitigation and environmental remediation, like plugging leaking oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned mine land. These objectives hold the potential not only for job creation but also achieving environmental justice priorities.

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