More than Green Jobs: Time for a New Climate Policy for Labor

TitleMore than Green Jobs: Time for a New Climate Policy for Labor
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsSweeney, Sean
JournalNew Labor Forum
Pagination53 - 59
Date Published2009///
Keywordsclimate change, environmental degradation, jobs versus environment, social movement unionism

U.S. labor’s role in the fight against global warming is akin to MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz’s “butterfly effect”—the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences. The sometimes surgical interventions of key unions on Capitol Hill this past spring have helped shape and then pass—by a narrow margin—a major piece of clean energy and climate protection legislation. Adopted by the House in late June, the American Clean Energy Security Act (ACES) could decide how quickly and effectively the world responds to the threat of climate change. That unions were onthe progressive side of this critically important vote is remarkable given their troubled history with the issue. But labor still has some serious obstacles to negotiate before it can arrive at a truly forward-looking and movement-building climate and energy policy, one that brings the economic and social needs of workers into full alignment with a science-based climate protection program. Firstly, labor must fully accept the ideathat policy must actually be guided by science—and this is not negotiable. Secondly, unions need to reconsider their commitment to a future based on coal, because nothing is cooking the climate faster than coal use. Thirdly, more unions need to be fully engaged in the fight against global warming in order to develop and then mobilize around a bold approach that champions social justice both at home and internationally.