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Week 4 - Jobs or the Environment - A False Dicohtomy?
Transcript of Week 4 - Jobs or the Environment - A False Dicohtomy?
by climate change
Most affected by climate change mitigation policies
Unions involved in
with new constituencies
National Domestic Workers' Alliance
National Nurses United
American Federation of Teachers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Laborers’ International Union of North America
Communications Workers of America
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Transport Workers Union
Public sector - Government
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers
American Federation of Government Employees
National Education Association
Service Employees International Union
Jobs or the environment -
A false dichotomy?
United Mine Workers of America
Utility Workers Union of America
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
NCES 5. (2012) United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. (1:05)
RT TV. (2014) The labor movement goes green. (6:25)
“The labor movement is about that problem we face
tomorrow morning. Damn right! But to make that the
sole purpose of the labor movement is to miss the main
target. I mean, what good is a dollar an hour more in
wages if your neighborhood is burning down? What
good is another week's vacation if the lake you used to
go to is polluted and you can't swim in it and the kids
can't play in it? What good is another $100 in pension
if the world goes up in atomic smoke?”
- Walter Reuther
1) The main link between the workplace and the general environment is that the source of the hazard is usually the same, whether it is an agricultural activity or an industrial activity;
2) The identification of environmental health hazards often comes from observations of adverse health outcomes among workers; and
3) In order to control health hazards, a common approach may work effectively in both settings (workplace and community).
How are environmental and workplace health and safety issues linked?
Source: Yassi and Kiellstr; Slatin, C. et al
Jobs and the environment - either-or?
New Jersey Work Environment Council
One example of an organization comprised of labor, environmentalists, and community groups is the New Jersey Work Environment Council (NJ WEC). NJ WEC’s stated mission is “… working together for safe, secure jobs, and a healthy, sustainable environment. WEC links workers, communities, and environmentalists through training, technical assistance, grassroots organizing, and public policy campaigns to promote dialogue, collaboration, and joint action.”
NJ WEC is a “COSH” or Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
How did these groups come together to form an organization?
Environmental and labor activists in the New Jersey Right to Know Coalition, which won the nation's strongest state right to know law in 1983, formed the New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) in 1986. Between 1986 and 1996, WEC programs were coordinated with the New Jersey Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO, a statewide labor federation, and the New Jersey Right to Know and Act Coalition, a network of environmental, community, public health, and labor groups. In 1999 WEC transitioned into a statewide membership coalition, building on it’s base in the labor movement and work with environmental and community organizations.
Right to Know and Act to Prevent Toxic Exposures in the Workplace and Community
Chemical Safety and Security
Healthy School Environments
Workplace Safety and Health
Educational Foundation of America
Environmental Endowment for New Jersey
Environmental Support Center
French-American Charitable Trust
Fund for New Jersey
Nathan Cummings Foundation
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health
New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
New World Foundation
New York Community Trust
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
Public Welfare Foundation
Schumann Fund for New Jersey
Tides Foundation–Alki Fund
Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
NJ WEC's focus:
NJ WEC's funders:
- NJ WEC website at http://www.njwec.org/
The claim that stricter environmental regulation interferes with free-market commerce is often made by business. Unions often oppose environmental regulation because it is seen as hampering job creation. The New York Times article, "A Debate Arises on Job Creation and the Environment", will give you a closer look at both sides of this argument.
A link to the article is on the Week 4 page in Ecollege. The article isn't in the Webliography because it is a Word document.
Jobs or the environment - either-or?
Bloomberg News. (2014) Naomi Klein: Economic Model Is at War With Life on Earth. (7:23)
Does this change everything?
For me, Naomi Klein's new book,
This Changes Everything
, helped to "connect the dots" to make sense of why we are in a climate crisis and why it is so difficult to take action needed to change the dangerous trajectory we are on.
In the book, Klein, takes aim at unfettered capitalism's role in climate change. The importance of labor issues (privatization, deregulation, cuts to public spending, degrading jobs) is integral to Kline's argument and makes the book stand out among of other books I've read on the environment. Klein asks us to face some difficult truths but is hopeful that building a new movement that demands "system change not climate change" is not only possible but may be our best choice. While I read
This Changes Everything
, I was reminded of how the labor movement has always done battle with Goliaths and envisioned the seemingly impossible.
You may have already read the book, if not you can find its introduction on the Week 4 page of Ecollege (it is scanned, so isn't in the Webliography.) It includes Klein's "personal climate change narrative" and a sets the stage for the rest of the book. If you are interested in learning more about Klein's ideas, there are lots of videos on YouTube or you can add the book to your personal labor library.
Klein can be polemic and off-putting to some but, at the very least, the book is getting people talking about climate change! I'm looking forward in hearing your thoughts about
This Changes Everything
in the Week 4 discussion forum.
What happens inside the factory - becomes outside the factory*
In examining of the strongly held belief that a choice must be made between jobs and the environment, we will be using material from the website of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) this week.
"Founded on the belief that the corporate "jobs vs. environment" frame succeeds because it fits into the silo approach to politics: (that) labor can focus on jobs and leave the environment to the environmental movement ..."
LNS was founded in 2009 on the principle that long-term sustainability is dependent on:
1) environmental protection - addressing climate change
2) economic fairness - addressing income inequality and jobs
3) social justice - eliminating prejudice and defending human and civil rights and democracy
LNS holds it is at the core of labor's self-interest to find solutions to the climate crisis and have their own climate programs. Policy and solutions should not be left to the environmental movement.
This framework fits well into our course and you will be directed to parts of the LNS website in the presentation.
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations (EPA).
Sustainability in the business context is often thought of as the ability of an economy to support a defined level of economic production (often measured by GDP and profit) indefinitely and is dependent on steady growth and ever-increasing expansion (Financial Times).
However, the World Council for Economic Development (WCED) holds that for industrial development to be sustainable it must "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" by engaging in best practices of economic efficiency, social equity, and environmental accountability.
Is sustainability a term used in your industry? Which definition of sustainability best fits that of your members' employers?
Issues of health and safety and the effect of exposure to toxic substances have long been of concern to unions. The recognition that workers' hazards were not confined to the workplace but extended into communities and the larger environment resulted in nascent alliances of labor with those concerned about the environment.
* Eula Bingham - Director of OSHA 1977 - 1981, pioneer researcher of chemical carcinogens, and champion of right-to-know legislation.
Rep. Heck. (2014) Rep. Joe Heck's top priority: jobs and the economy. (2:01)
Fox News. (2013) Congressman Steve King on FOX News - Keystone XL Pipeline. (5:19)
The completion of the XL Keystone pipeline continues to be a hot topic and debated in Washington and in the media. The "jobs v. environment" dichotomy is central to this debate.
RT America. (2013) Keystone XL pipeline to kill environment and jobs? (4:06)
* What is a false dichotomy? The fallacy of false dichotomy is committed when the arguer claims that his or her conclusion is one of only two options, when in fact there are other possibilities (mind.ucsd.edu).
LNS provides an overview of the labor and environmental movements; ways that the two have cooperated and ways that they have been in conflict. There is also an interactive timeline of seminal events in the development of the movements, a section on the future of labor/environmental cooperation, and a resource section.
The overview is short and concise. There is a link on the Week 4 page in Ecollege to this section.
To learn more about the engagement of the labor and environmental movements, check out the LNS timeline
Worker health and safety and the safety of the environment aren't the only shared interests of the labor movement and the environmental movement. In the '80s the idea of sustainable development emerged that included economic, environmental and social issues. This more encompassing framework now included concerns that had been a part of labors' agenda since the early emergence of unions.
Unions are not monolithic. A saying that captures this is "if you've seen one union - you've seen
" And just like public opinion on social issues, the positions of unions on issues such as civil rights, trade, immigration, and marriage equality have evolved over time. If you are interested in learning more about how U.S. labor has shifted positions on important issues and the strategies used to make the shift, check out the LNS topic "Historical Analysis on How Labor Changes on Key Issues" - you can find the link on the Week 4 page of Ecollege.
On such shift was evident at the "battle of Seattle." In late November 1999, over 40,000 protestors began gathering in Seattle at the site of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) conference of world trade negotiations. Protestors representing local, national, and international groups had been planning the WTO demonstrations against globalization for months and included organizations concerned with the environment, consumer protections, and worker’s issues. The AFL-CIO organized a rally and a march using official permits. Although Seattle was the site of some civil disobedience and illegal actions (such as blocking streets and breaking windows) by self-identifed “anarchisits”, the official activities (including educational sessions) were peaceful, organized, and closely marshalled by union volunteers.
By the medias’ (such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the New York Times) own admission, coverage of the events in Seattle were biased and presented greatly exaggerated coverage of the illegal activities of a small minority of demonstrators and failed to cover the peaceful, law-abiding actions of the vast majority of Seattle protestors. The Battle of Seattle was considered significant because a new coalition of environmentalists and union members and workers were highly visible for the first time.
“In the past, environmentalists and union members have often been at odds, with some unions seeing environmental laws as a threat to jobs, and some [environmental] conservationists blaming workers for their bosses' policies. But that was then. Consider now the scene on the streets of Seattle on the first day of the 2000 World Trade Organization World meeting: On the one hand, environmentalists dressed as sea turtles protested the WTO-mandated weakening of laws protecting the creatures; on the other, Teamsters protested the WTO's tolerance of member countries that refuse to allow workers to organize. A spontaneous chant arose from the turtles: "Turtles love Teamsters!" The truck drivers responded: "Teamsters love turtles!" Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
- Paul Rauber, Sierra Magazine
Since the “Battle in Seattle,” when union members and environmentalists proclaimed their appreciation for each other, there’s been speculation over whether the coalition between “blues” (as in blue collar) and “greens” (as in turtles and trees) would last.
Over the past 35 years, the blue-green alliance has had an on-again, off-again relationship. One reason is the core need of unions to protect the jobs of their members. Generally, unions seek to expand jobs, while generally environmentalists hold that economic expansion threatens the sustainability of life on the planet and that development needs to be limited.
Despite these and other differences, blue-green coalitions may be shifting toward more enduring relationships for three reasons: 1) increasing political and environmental crises, including as climate change; 2) the growing depth of relationships between the groups, as well as the development of new relationships through pro-active communication forums; and 3) new organizations and institutions being created whose goals are explicitly tied to labor and environmental concerns ((Lewis, Gould, and Roberts.)
In 2013, blue-green alliances continue to be the object of speculation. A literature search shows that there are many examples of labor and environmental partnerships and initiatives (for instance, the AFL-CIO’s Blue-Green Alliance - http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/) and NJ WEC.
Crises such as the 9/11 attacks and the so-called "Great Recession", have brought new perspectives that have strengthened shared concern over worker and environmental issues. But, in some cases, these crises have also increased old tensions. The XL Keystone Pipeline is one such crisis.
A look back to the "Battle of Seattle"
Where you at the "Battle of Seattle" in '99 or do you remember hearing about it? Tell us about your experience in this week's forum discussion.
Are you a NJ WEC member? Share your WEC experiences in this week's forum discussion.
The 57 unions that belong to the AFL-CIO and the several that don’t, including the giant National Education Association (NEA) and those in the Change to Win federation, can be put on a rough continuum based on their immediate exposure to climate change mitigation policies. Those most impacted tend to be most active on climate change issues. - LNS
Do you think this continuum is accurate?
Where would you place your union on this continuum?
The LNS section titled "
The labor-climate landscape: A guided tour for worker- and climate-protection advocates
" provides a wealth of information on how various sectors and industries are likely to be impacted by climate regulation and by climate change adverse events. It is intended as "a tool that climate protection advocates inside and outside of organized labor can use to navigate the complex and sometimes obscure world of organized labor and its approach to climate change." A link to this section is on the Week 4 page of Ecollege.
How did the extreme weather event affect your members' jobs and your union? Were they prepared? Are they now?
TIME Explains. (2012) Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change. (2:29)
The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
- Albert Einstein
Bingham, Eula. 1983. Right to Know Movement. American Journal of Public Health.
ILO Encyclopedia of Occupational Safety and Health. From Chapter 23: The COSH
Movement and Right to Know.
Kohler, L. 1998. Environment and the World of Work: An Integrated Approach to
Sustainable Development, Environment, and the Working Environment. ILO Encyclopedia
of Occupational Safety and Health.
Labor Network for Sustainability - Making a Living on a Living Planet.
Lewis, T., Gould, K., and Timmons, R. From Blue-Green Coalitions to Blue-Green Partnerships? Creating Enduring Institutions through Just Transition, Climate Justice and the World Social Forum. American Sociological Association Meeting, August 2003.
Ryan, Lizza. (9/2013) How the Keystone XL Pipeline Tests the Administration’s Resolve on Climate Change. The New Yorker Magazine.
Schor, E. 2010. Twin BP Disasters Complicate Push for Safety. New York Times.
Slatin, C. et al. 2009. New Solutions and the Blue Green Alliance: Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference. New Solutions Journal.
Yassi, A. and Kiellstrom, T. 1998. Linkages Between Environmental and Occupational Health. International Labor Organization Encyclopedia of Occupation Safety and Health.
Zoller, H. (2009). The Social Construction of Occupational Health and Safety: Barriers to Environmental-Labor Health Coalitions. New Solutions.
Changing Climates - Changing Perspectives: Labor and the Environment
LEARN - Union Leadership Academy
School of Management and Relations
Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations
Rutgers - The State University
New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance and Rutgers. (2015) New Jersey and Climate Change: Impacts and Responses. (25:25)