fresh voices from the front lines of change







We're giving up Styrofoam cups here at our building in Washington, D.C. Also doing an energy audit and taking a few other steps as a start toward making our building a green one--just some of the actions the AFL-CIO announced this week, in time for Earth Day.

Back in 1999, there was surprise over the "Teamsters and Turtles" alliance during protests against the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle. For many people, that was the first sign that we are not your father's labor movement.

Since then, we've gone far further, allying with environmentalists not only against destructive trade agreements but joining forces over the need to ensure that newly created green jobs are not low-paying jobs but jobs that pay well and create and strengthen the U.S. middle class.

The Apollo Alliance was the first coalition to emerge from our early alliances with the environmental movement. The Apollo Alliance was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy to catalyze a clean energy revolution in America and it includes union, environmental, business and community groups focused on building a new energy economy. Apollo just released Make It In America: the Apollo Green Manufacturing Action Plan (GreenMAP), a series of policy recommendations aimed at revitalizing America's manufacturing sector by investing significant federal funding in the domestic manufacture of clean energy components.

The Blue Green Alliance, a partnership of four unions and two environmental organizations, was formed in 2006, and in its most recent effort, published principles for comprehensive climate change legislation. You can read the policy statement here.

In February, our affiliated Working for America Institute (WAI) announced $1 million in funding for a new Center for Green Jobs to ensure the green jobs created under the Obama economic recovery bill are family-supporting jobs. The Center for Green Jobs has created standards to help community-level unionists assess the quality of jobs created under the recovery act. Click here for more about the standards.

Unions with members in a variety of industries are helping create a greener future (h/t to James Parks at the AFL-CIO Now blog for compiling this list):

  • The Mine Workers (UMWA), Boilermakers (IBB), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council (IUC) are aggressively promoting the use of coal-generated electricity to provide jobs and help clean up the environment. Along with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the unions earlier this month released a study showing that using advanced clean coal technologies that capture and safely store carbon dioxide will create millions of high-skilled, high-wage jobs for U.S. workers. You can read the study here.
  • UAW members last year produced environmentally friendly vehicles or components in plants in 30 cities in 14 states.
  • Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) manufacture wind turbines at several plants in Pennsylvania. The proliferation of wind turbines is beginning to revive shuttered steel mills across the country. In Gary, Ind., two closed steel mills have been reopened to help meet the demand for steel plate to be used in wind turbines. The ore for these mills is mined by USW members and shipped on boats crewed by Steelworkers.
  • The Machinists (IAM) work in numerous industries critical to reducing energy consumption and pollution, from energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems and appliances to components for modernizing energy distribution systems in buildings.
  • Members of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department are building more green buildings that use renewable energy to run more efficiently. One example is the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, site of the AFL-CIO's upcoming 2009 convention and the August Netroots Nation convention. Built with union labor, it is the only entirely green convention center in the country.
  • Last year, the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters unveiled its Green Training Trailer that's now touring the country to introduce UA apprentices, journeyman-level workers and green building expo participants to renewable energy technologies and sustainable building concepts. Take a virtual tour of the trailer at the UA website,, and click on "The UA has Gone Green" icon.

As Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told a Senate committee this week, "We don't want [green] jobs that don't go anywhere. We want jobs with a career path."

These are jobs that will provide economic security for our middle-class families while reducing our nation's dependence on imported energy. These are also jobs that traditionally cannot be outsourced.

This is a crosspost from Firedoglake.

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