There Are No Jobs On A Dead PlanetJune 5, 2019
In the labor movement, as across the rest of society, acceptance of climate change and its effects has been a mixed bag. But increasingly frequent catastrophic weather events along with a drumbeat of urgency from the scientific community are generating new awareness. A growing and diverse movement is calling for clean energy production, environmental and health justice, and a renewed dedication to the health of people, plants and animals.
And 1199 has amplified its calls for a just transition to a more sustainable economy with an endorsement of the Green New Deal (GND), a set of initiatives which aims to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate chaos, create millions of good jobs and address economic inequality and racial injustice by prioritizing historically disenfranchised communities. November’s Democratic victory in the House of Representatives is driving fresh national momentum around environmental justice, with 93 of the 235 House Democrats having signed on in support of the GND. The GND seeks to change the course set in 2017, when the Trump Administration began enacting environmentally threatening policies.
That year, more than 2,000 members of 1199 traveled to Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March. Almitra Yancey, a Customer Service Liaison at the Montefiore Contact Center in Tarrytown, NY, was one of the keynote speakers at the labor rally that day.
“I live in Staten Island. We were badly hit by Hurricane Sandy, which caused many of my friends to be forced out of their homes for months on end,” she said.
“It is people of color and indigenous communities who are overwhelmingly on the front line when it comes to the effects of climate chaos.”
With scientists warning that superstorms like Sandy will happen with even greater frequency and ferocity, Yancey emphasized the importance of getting new, protective laws on the books in New York City. (Also part of that conversation are practical solutions that protect vital institutions like hospitals, so they can meet green standards and still continue to provide patient care safely.)
“We really need to start taking climate change seriously,” said Yancey.
In many states, laws are already being formulated to remodel economies around the principles of environmental justice. In Maryland, 1199 was part of the coalition behind the Clean Energy and Jobs Act.
Phyllis Alexis, an RN at Prince George's Hospital in Cheverly, MD, for 20 years and an 1199 delegate, testified at the Maryland State Senate about the importance of passing the bill.
“I see a definite increase in the incidence of asthma,” she said, “In the ICU where I work, we see people who have asthma and need to be ventilated 2-3 times a week, some even need to be intubated to keep their airways open.”
Scientists have long recognized that pollution caused by producing, transporting and burning fossil fuels is directly related to an increased risk of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
“Twenty years ago, we would only see severe asthma attacks about once every two weeks,” recalled Alexis. “So, I definitely see an increase in the number of cases.”
Susan Clarke, a Geriatric Nursing Assistant at Future Care Coldspring in Baltimore, MD, added that both her daughter and grand-daughter suffer from asthma. Clarke recently attended an event organized by the Labor Network for Sustainability and would like to see more solar panels in her area.
“I am learning the value of political action to make things happen for our community,” she added.
To that end, 1199 has partnered in Baltimore with Civic Works Energy Advisors, who will send contractors to make recommendations for energy improvement services in members’ homes and help them to access grant to cover costs. See your organizer or delegate for more information.