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Demanding 'Fair Wages and Basic Dignity' for All Workers in Changing Economy, Climate Action Campaigners Back UAW Strike

Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash's call to climate campaigners to support striking auto workers came after a number of labor groups backed the Global Climate Strike

"Green Jobs for All" is a key componenmt of the Sunrise Movement's demands for climate action. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Days before the Global Climate Strike, a top climate action advocate called on all campaigners and backers of the Green New Deal to offer full-throated support to the 50,000 auto workers who went on strike Monday, encouraging solidarity between the two movements.

Tweeting that all workers deserve dignity and fair treatment by their employers, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash wrote of the striking members of the United Auto Workers (UAW), "I encourage members of ⁦the Sunrise Movement to support their efforts wherever possible."

Prakash's tweet came hours after UAW workers began their first walkout in over a decade after negotiations with General Motors fell apart. The multi-billion-dollar company is pushing for workers to pay a greater share of their healthcare costs after slashing 15,000 jobs last year and receiving $514 million in the Republican Party's tax plan.

"From the five-day work week to workplace safety standards and the New Deal, strikes have a long history of transforming American politics," Prakash added in a statement. "We stand in solidarity with the workers who are writing the next chapter in our country's history, and will be there shoulder-to-shoulder as we go on strike for a livable future and good jobs for all at the global climate strikes this Friday. We support the UAW and youth climate strikers, and urge all Sunrise members to strike in solidarity with them both."

Workers' rights are a major component of the climate action movement. Groups including the Sunrise Movement and 350.org have demanded policymakers ensure a "just transition" to a renewable energy economy—making sure fossil fuel industry workers are well supported as their jobs give way to growing solar and wind power sectors.

Clean energy industries are outpacing the coal sector in job creation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with solar panel installation alone expected to grow 105 percent between 2016 and 2026. Employment in the coal industry is projected to decrease by more than six percent over the same period.

Prakash's call to Sunrise Movement members mirrors the steadfast support for the climate action movement among labor unions and advocacy groups.

As Common Dreams reported last week, Public Services International called on its 30 million members around the world to support this week's Global Climate Strike and the week of action that will follow.

"The climate strike provides an opportunity to break out of our constraints, to reinvigorate our movement, to learn from young people on the front lines, and to redefine what is possible," wrote Rosa Pavanelli at Common Dreams, noting that workers and climate advocates are often pitted against one another.

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"We cannot let the vital idealism of this new generation be poisoned by cynicism and doubt," added Pavanelli. "This is our last chance. They are our last chance. We must stand with them."

The grassroots group Fight for $15 also tweeted its support for the Green New Deal last week, quoting a Guardian article that challenged the popular notion that workers are inherently at odds with climate campaigners because of the sustainable reforms that groups like the Sunrise Movement aim to bring to the workforce.

"America's second largest union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), recently endorsed the Green New Deal," wrote J. Mijin Cha and Jeremy Brecher at The Guardian. "In doing so, the SEIU and other unions are simply following the lead of their members towards a more positive and hopeful view of the future rather than looking back, longingly, at a fading dirty energy past."

Prakash's call for solidarity with UAW members comes less than a week after Josh Nassar, the union's legislative director, testified before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis about manufacturing jobs in an era when the pollutive effects of fossil fuel emissions are more evident by the day.

In addition to strong labor laws and fair tax policy, Nassar told the committee, lawmakers must not allow the regulatory rollbacks of fuel standards pushed by the Trump administration to move forward—citing both environmental and economic factors.

"Standards have played an important role in incentivizing the development of more energy efficient vehicles," Nassar said. "Rolling back emissions standards risks allowing the U.S. auto industry to fall behind on advanced vehicle technology and sustainable innovation, just as other nations are promoting increased efficiency and lower emissions. It could also lead to years of litigation and uncertainty. This would not be a good outcome for workers, the economy, or the environment."

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