Chris Erikson, Business Manager of Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers participated in the ALR’s November trip to China. Immediately prior to the trip Chris spoke at a Murphy Institute Forum “Temperature Rising: Labor & the Climate Justice Movement.” While in Beijing for a series of workshops, ALR Executive Director Diane Frey had a chance to talk with Chris about the Forum and climate change.
Diane: Why is climate change important to your local union?
Chris: Our local was one of the unions that participated in the climate change march in New York in September. Not all of the building trades have quite gotten to the place where my local is on climate change.
I believe we need to transition into a green and clean energy policy in the U.S. We need to do it so we protect good union jobs of those who construct, operate and maintain power plants in this country.
I feel it’s important that labor and especially unions that are impacted like ours, be a strong presence at the table. We may not agree on every detail about what needs to happen but we recognize the risk to our children and their children is real.
Diane: Any thoughts on the U.S. and China’s joint efforts on climate change?
Chris: We recognize that US can’t be the one and only country to make these efforts. Countries have to act together or risk being economically disadvantaged and that would be harmful. The fact that China and the U.S are talking about it is great. Governments need to think about a big picture. I look at both our next generations of children and I worry.
Diane: What’s next for you and Local 3 on climate change agenda?
Chris: To the extent that I can play a role, I want to help in the transition in New York City to help diminish our carbon footprint and to ensure that those workers electrical workers involved in installation of new technology remain in well-paid decent work.
Diane: You were in Beijing for workshops on Collective Bargaining and Health and Safety. How did the workshops go?
Chris: The workshops revealed the obvious, that the U.S. and China are not only worlds apart geographically, but that our systems for dealing with workers collectively and protecting their safety and health are so different. The workshops were candid. China's economy is in transition and it is unclear at this time what kind of new methods will be developed to deal with the changing dynamics of employment relations. What was positive was that the exchange revealed that advocates for working men and women from both countries had the same hopes and aspirations. Understanding the fundamental differences in both models in order to better protect conditions and serve the needs of all workers was a necessary first step and that was accomplished. Congratulations and thank you for allowing Local 3 to be part of this important project.