CWA President Larry Cohen talks about movement building at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference.
The fight for workers' rights is strongly linked to the fight for environmental rights.
That was the message at the opening panel of the BlueGreen Alliance's annual Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington, DC. On Monday, CWA President Larry Cohen joined Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, USW President Leo Gerard and SEIU Property Services Division Deputy Director Jon Barton in discussing the need for a broad progressive movement to both address climate change and create good jobs. David Foster, executive director of BlueGreen Alliance and president of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, moderated the panel and took questions from the audience, who asked about everything from pipelines to the new Democracy Initiative.
"Let's put together climate change, democracy and workers' rights and stand up and fight back!" said Cohen to loud applause.
The panel agreed that their members were looking for innovative, creative solutions. A strong program toward retrofitting public buildings, starting with our nation's crumbling schools, would create good union jobs and improve energy efficiency. Repairing and replacing old, leak pipelines would be a boon to union workers and also cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The same goes for updating our outdated electrical grid and water infrastructure, as well as fixing our mass transit systems.
But first, the panel stressed, the labor movement and environmental movement need to put away their institutional egos and start training together so union workers and environmentalists can bring muscle to their collective fights. One good place to start: Organizing more joint grassroots training sessions that CWA and Sierra Club are already hosting across the country.
"It will take 50 million people really ready to fight, not just vote," said Cohen.
After the panel, the audience broke out into small groups by state. This is where the real work began, as each group identified the issue areas that our organizations can best work on together and the next steps that are needed to build a stronger economy and cleaner environment.
On Tuesday, participants heard from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. CWAers from Virginia, Texas, Florida, California, DC, Maryland and Minnesota also participated on workshop panels.
To learn more visit www.greenjobsconference.org/.