Trade Unions and Extending Solidarity to the Ecosystem

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Trade Unions and Extending Solidarity to the Ecosystem

What would it mean to extend solidarity to the eco-system? That's the question at the heart of this conversation with union activist and environmentalist, Sean Sweeney. The conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that fifty years will be more than sufficient to witness the worst impacts of climate change and if past is prologue, poor and working class communities will be hit doubly hard. Climate change is a class issue, and yet the trade union movement continues to drag its feet. In the US today, while trade unions that aggressively back dirty-energy projects are in a minority, big labor is not exactly in the leadership of the movement for a sustainable, fair, energy future. The US is lagging, says Sweeney, “In Germany now, there are seven hundred renewable energy cooperatives. Up to 25% of its power generation is renewable. It has installed as much solar energy last year as the entire installed capacity of solar in the United States.”

What would it take to make change? First things first: "For unions to get away from playing defense onto offense, they first of all have to tell the truth; they have to be aware of the urgency and seize the opportunities," says Sweeney. In a word,“They need to extend solidarity to the ecosystem itself.”

“Instead of having ten thousand people surround the White House, the unions had the capacity to put a hundred thousand people around the White House. And you bet some of those infrastructure investments that the unions want: repairing gas pipelines that are ruptured, building new robust, civilian infrastructure...would generate a lot more jobs and be good for the environment,” Sweeney tells GRITtv.

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