Environmentalists & unions – not-so-strange bedfellows
Last week in Lansing, Michigan, leaders from labor and environmental groups around the country gathered to show a united front in their opposition to efforts by Republicans in Congress to weaken environmental protections.
As John Walke at the National Resources Defense Council wrote about last fall, the drumbeats are incessant:
The week of October 2nd, two bills aimed at blocking critical health protections against mercury and other toxic air pollution from incinerators and boilers (H.R. 2250) [pdf] and cement plants (H.R. 2681) [pdf] are expected to be brought up for a House floor vote. These bills continue the deadly trend of the Cantor Pollution Plan – rolling back clean air safeguards and putting millions of American lives at risk.
Last week saw adoption of the most extreme attack on the Clean Air Act ever to pass the House, legislation called the TRAIN Act (H.R. 2401). This Act repeals and blocks smog, soot, mercury and air toxics standards for power plants that would save over 130,000 lives and avoid over 1 million asthma attacks.
The groups that assembled in Lansing last week are part of a growing coalition working to show that sensible environmental regulations and job growth are not only not mutually exclusive but can actually be part of the answer to our lagging economy.
From their press release:
LANSING, MI – On Wednesday, January 25 at 1:30 p.m. at the Michigan State Capitol in Room Number 428 CB, representatives from Michigan labor and environmental organizations will demonstrate their opposition to attempts to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. More than 60 state and local labor organizations, representing an estimated 450,000 Michiganders, have passed resolutions to proclaim their support for critical environmental protections that improve public health and promote a cleaner, more efficient and more competitive American economy.
WHAT: Labor and Environmental Leaders Oppose Curtailing EPA Authority, Call for Support of Cleaner Air
WHEN: Wednesday, January 25 at 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Michigan State Capitol, Room Number 428 CB
WHO: Karla Swift, President, MI AFL-CIO
Michael Bolton, Director, United Steelworkers District 2
David Hecker, President, Michigan American Federation of Teachers
Anne Woiwode, Michigan Chapter Director, Sierra Club
Michigan labor and environmental organizations representing an estimated 450,000 Michiganders Wednesday stood together to reject attempts to weaken the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Citing the importance of these protections to job creation and public health, representatives from the Michigan AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers (USW), Michigan American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Sierra Club highlighted several resolutions passed by labor organizations and local unions throughout the state in support of EPA’s authority to protect public health and the environment under the Clean Air Act.
From left to right: Karla Swift, David Hecker, Anne Woiwode, Michael Bolton, Mark Schauer
Some quotes from the attendees:
Michael Bolton: “The U.S. must be positioned to lead in the global economy of the 21st century. These regulations are not job killers, rather they drive economic growth by creating jobs.”
David Hecker: “Our children deserve to be left a strong economic and environmental foundation to build their futures on. Reducing carbon pollution in our air will ensure they will have that foundation.”
Karla Swift: “Regulation opponents cite costs to industry with no of the effect pollution has on public health costs, our environment or the well-being of our children and families. Weakening safeguards means surrendering our economic future and losing out on millions of good jobs.”
Anne Woiwode: “Regulating greenhouse gasses means a cleaner environment, healthier communities and growing good jobs. These policies will help move our country forward to a clean energy future.”
Here are some facts to support their positions:
- Analysis of estimates of major federal regulations from 2000 to 2010 show benefits exceeding the costs by at least $70 billion.
- EPA regulations have a proven impact on air pollution, curbing air pollutants by 63 percent from 1970 to 2009. During that same period, private sector jobs grew by 86 percent.
- A focus on manufacturing jobs and environmental regulations together will create even more jobs. Michigan’s 76,941 clean economy jobs make up 1.9 percent of all jobs in the state.
For more information about the labor/environmental coalition that is becoming more and more relevant as we move forward, check out the BlueGreen Alliance webpage. You can also check out excerpts from an interview I did with BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! co-chair Mark Schauer HERE.
(On a personal note, I am thrilled that I have worked with several of these people over the years. Anne Wiowode and I both worked in Township government in Meridian Township and Mark Schauer was my Congressman from 2009-2011. Nice to see such great people teaming up to work together!)