WASHINGTON—Labour and climate activists send a direct message to Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-led Congress: Stop dithering and attack climate change, now.
A typical, succinct handcrafted sign when walking past the White House: the warning “There is no planet B”, with the “o” replaced by a globe.
And, while you’re at it, also address a few other key national priorities, including childcare, raising wages and improving and strengthening the right to organize, they said.
Activists and trade unionists, part of the #FightForOurFuture coalition, came together in two-day mass marches in DC on April 22 and 23, and protests across the country from DC to Chicago to New York , California, North Carolina and New Hampshire.
Their goal: to get lawmakers, who returned to the nation’s capital on April 24 after a two-week break, to enact Biden’s $550 billion plan to fight climate change.
Whether the solons or Biden listen or not is up for grabs, even though the events unfolded from Earth Day (April 22) to May 5 and even if they drew bipartisan support, at least in New Hampshire, where Republican Governor Chris Sununu spoke.
But Congress and Biden seem more interested in funding weapons to fight the Russians in Ukraine, and Biden’s own Interior Department – arguing he had to follow a ruling by a federal judge in the oil state. of Louisiana – reopened fossil fuel leasing on federal lands the week before. It’s the wrong move, many chants, speeches and signs implied.
“Those who have sat down for many years are campaigning to build a powerful coalition to fight the climate crisis now!” Service Employee Secretary-Treasurer Gerry Hudson told the DC crowd of nearly 1,000 in Lafayette Square. “Climate action is not just an environmental issue. It’s a matter of work. »
He also linked the fight against climate change to the nation’s ugly racial history, noting that environmental damage – including fossil fuel factories, landfills, refineries and rampant pollution – is disproportionately installed and harm communities of color.
Unionists “will help build a clean energy future,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, an electrical worker (IBEW) and one of the DC rally’s headliners. She specifically said Biden’s plan calls on labor activists to build climate-fighting devices such as solar panels and wind turbines. Public transit, not cars, is also part of the solution, Shuler said.
“Labour issues and climate issues are two sides of the same coin, and the solution to the climate crisis lies with the labor movement.”
It also cuts through the lives of workers, she noted. Workers such as his IBEW colleagues, agricultural workers, warehouse workers and other workers who work outdoors, such as ‘essential’ workers like truck drivers, are at greater risk of pollution hazards and climate change.
Shuler recalled the plight of Sebastian Francisco Perez, a farmhand in his home state of Oregon. He was working in record 104 degree heat last June when his colleagues noticed he hadn’t returned from a break. They went to look for him and found him unconscious. He had laid irrigation lines in the Willamette Valley and died.
“He died on the job due to heat exposure,” Shuler said. “That can’t happen. This must not happen,” Shuler said. She cited his death days before Workers Memorial Day, April 28, set aside to honor and remember victims like Perez.
“We stood up today because we deserve a better tomorrow. A future with clean air for communities, with clean energy jobs for workers, and with a habitable planet for ALL living things,” the League of Conservation Voters tweeted. “Congress and @POTUS: Time to pass $550 billion climate bill and #FightForOurFuture.”
“My state has individually seen the effects of climate change,” said Deborah McCallister, a home health worker with the North Carolina State Union of Service Employees. She was one of at least two dozen SEIU members who traveled by bus to DC “Hurricane Flora devastated everything.”
But she had another part of the campaign agenda to push: more federal funding and a $15 hourly minimum wage for home health aides. Both proposals are part of Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
This legislation was dropped in the equally divided Senate due to a filibuster threat from the GOP and opposition from two renegade Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Corporate interests that refuse to pay living wages are driving opposition to home care funds.
Home care workers, who were deliberately omitted, due to racism in the 1930s, minimum wage and overtime pay, are also “not offered basic benefits like care coverage near health care and paid time off,” said McCallister, of Burgaw, NC “I’m already struggling to provide for my 80-year-old mother who has dementia and Alzheimer’s because home care companies don’t give us no support.”
“We come from Puerto Rico hit by hurricanes. We come from the west coast affected by the forest fires. How not to know #ClimateCrisis? How not to know racial injustice? We are now championing the bold #ClimateAction. We stand for good jobs,” Hudson said, tying it all together.