The Labor Movement Confronts Climate Change

Super-storm Sandy was an unfortunate reminder that, whatever the cause, climate change is real and the repercussions affect each of us.  We all need to act now to do whatever we can to decelerate climate change.  We’ll speak with several labor activists to discuss the increasing role organized labor is taking in the environmental movement.  The Peoples’ Climate March takes place September 21st in NYC.  People from all walks of life will march in New York City to press our elected leaders to more seriously address the climate crisis. In the first half of this week’s program we’ll hear rank and file workers tell us about their experiences dealing with climate change related events. In the second half we will speak with three labor policy advocates to learn how labor can play an increasingly positive role in forming comprehensive climate policy.

Rank and File involvement in the People’s Climate March

Rank and File Climate Change PanelSuper-storm Sandy had a severe impact on all of New York. The experiences of our four panelists have convinced each of them that more still needs to be done if we are to deal with another natural disaster. James O’Connell is a Police 911 operator and a member of Local 1549 of DC 37. O’Connell tells us what it was like to live on the waterfront as the storm surge knocked at his front door and destroyed his home.

NeVic and JJ Johnsonxt, two TWU Local 100 bus operators, John Patafio, Chair, and Louis Marrero, Vice-chair  of the Brooklyn bus division, describe how they developed the “bus bridge” that helped the city run by shuttling people to and from Brooklyn to Manhattan while the subways were flooded. Then we sound out JJ Johnson, former communications director of Local 144 of SEIU 1199, now retired, but still an active advocate in the climate change debate. Together, our guests explain why it is so important for labor to step forward to lead the advocacy for better climate policy. They will proudly march in the Peoples’ Climate March to do some small part in helping our planet have a future, in which humans can survive. As Mr. Patafio states: “It’s for my kids. They’re the future.”

Labor Policy Advocates for better Climate Policy

Labor Policy to address Climate ChangeFor quite some it seemed time some labor leaders were at odds with environmentalists or “tree-huggers” as they were derisively called. Recent environmental catastrophes coupled with what Labor sees as the role of the 1% in attacking both the labor and environmental movements has changed this. Now, labor and environmental activists find themselves in the same boat, with the water rising.

To understand more about how labor rights lines up with the environmental battles, we hear from three labor policy activists. Sean Sweeney is co-director of the Global Labor Institute at the Cornell Institute of Labor Relations. He helped  the Steelworkers organize the first union environmental conference back in 2007.  Sweeney explains how, and why, labor activists around the globe are mobilizing for better national and global environmental standards. Jon Forster, a Vice President at DC 37 and research scientist with the NYC Bureau of Environmental Preparedness,  describes what DC 37 and other unions are doing to mobilize their members in pressing for better climate policy in the workplace.  Josh Kellermann, attorney, environmentalist, and Policy Analyst with The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) suggests ways in which labor and community based organizations can collaborate to establish environmental policies that favorably benefit the community as a whole, particularly those most negatively impacted by climate change.

In climate change fight, Labor and environmental activists are in the same boat, with water rising Tweet this

More information about the People’s Climate March can be found here

Similar Programs

1) Promoting Labor Day Solidarity: We focus on how the labor movement is growing and evolving to address varied labor concerns

2) Healthcare Update – Labor Rights are Civil Rights – Union Womens’ Summer School: Hear about how the future of labor organizing and civil rights organizing tie together

3) Privatized Public Utilities to Workers and the Public – Drop Dead!: Hear how public utilities responded to Sandy and how bus drivers work with riders to protect adequate service

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