International Messages and Domestic Action
By Bob Baugh
December 15, 2009 - 11:54am ET
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Bob Baugh is the Executive Director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Council. He is currently blogging from Copenhagen.
Copenhagen is a city of trains, bicycles and is one of the most walkable cities in the world. The mass transit system of buses, regional trains and unmanned metro railcars moves people seamlessly across the region. It is a revelation to see it in action. If only the COP 15 were as well organized.
Sunday was a day off for the COP 15 and the Bella Center was closed for registration on the weekend of the peak arrival time for conference participants. The result was a massive disorganized daylong crush of people waiting in freezing weather on Monday to try and register.
The trade union delegation did not take the day off. We held an International Trade Union Confederation [ITUC] briefing session from 10-1 Sunday morning at the headquarters of the Danish trade Union Movement, LO. This was followed by a U.S. union delegation meeting at another union office near city center. We reviewed the current status of negotiations and reported on our meetings earlier meeting EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Saturday’s meeting with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.
The message Secretary Locke delivered in his U.S. Forum presentation was consistent with the other members of the cabinet. He spoke of the need to address climate, the opportunity that the Administration for job creation in a clean energy economy, the need for diverse energy and energy efficiency solutions and the role Commerce could play in this agenda.
In our meeting, we used his comments to show how they resonate with our ideas of a just transition -- to create and retain good jobs through aggressive investment in industry modernization, technology development and deployment and worker training and education. We did challenge the Secretary on the role of the Commerce by telling him that while we “appreciate the agency promoting exports our greater concern was in having industries that actually make things and there is another role for commerce in industry development.”
The Secretary was well aware of the Texas wind farm controversy. Our point to him was that the country needs to think differently about critical industries and technologies. The recent announcement by Ron Bloom, President Obama’s manufacturing advisor, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the formation of a manufacturing consortium for high speed rail was a good example of the role government can play. We encouraged him to think in a similar fashion telling him, “the unions of the AFL-CIO want to partner with you to develop these industries.”
Dave Foster from the Blue Green Alliance/USW spoke about the Clean Energy Manufacturing Assistance project in Minneapolis. The Secretary acknowledged and appreciated our support for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership under his command at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He is very interested in expanding their role.
It was a positive meeting, one we all intend to follow up on upon our return. In the time compressed atmosphere of Copenhagen, meeting opportunities are invaluable for getting an international message across and using it as a bridge to discussing our real issues at home.
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