Following its viral video promoting Sen. Ed Markey's Democratic primary campaign, the Sunrise Movement on Tuesday released an ad in support of another vocal Green New Deal champion—civil rights lawyer and union organizer Mike Siegel, who is running to oust Republican Rep. Michael McCaul in Texas' 10th congressional district.
The video is narrated by a union electrician who tells the story of his own fight to convince his fellow members to endorse a Green New Deal and Siegel's campaign.
"Mike Siegel is going to be a straight-up climate champ, and one of the folks who makes a 'just transition' real."
—Bill McKibben, 350.org
Echoing Markey's tone in the Sunrise Movement ad released in August, in which the senator spoke directly to working Americans and called on them to "ask what your country can do for you," the narrator expresses frustration with a system in which workers have "carried the American dream of billionaires on our backs."
"We've worked hard to build their shining city," the worker says. "To build incredible infrastructure to power this country... We've built their America. But I've talked to my co-workers. We can see what's coming. Floods and wildfires getting worse. Plants closing. I look around at my union brothers and sisters and every day I see jobs being obliterated with no backup plan for us to transition to something better. But I'm not gonna let their America leave us behind."
What use is a country if you can't work to better the lives of yourself and your neighbors?
Unions have a saying; if you’re not at the table you’re on the menu. That’s why unions are backing #GreenNewDeal champion @SiegelForTexas because any deal he’ll make, starts with workers. pic.twitter.com/TuGXX3FYeq
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) October 13, 2020
Politico energy and environmental reporter Anthony Andragna called the ad the "most explicit pitch to fossil fuel workers I've seen."
In an email to supporters, the Sunrise Movement noted that Siegel is currently trailing McCaul by one point, according to an internal poll by the Siegel campaign.
"A win for Siegel would be [the] clearest win yet for Green New Deal in pretty red turf," tweeted Andragna.
The 10th district lies between Houston and Austin. McCaul has represented the district since 2005 and is the biggest fossil fuel investor in Congress, owning between $8.2 million and $19.1 million in stocks at companies including Berkshire Hathaway, Anadarko Petroleum, and a mutual fund with investments at ExxonMobil and Chevron.
Siegel, who came within five points of winning the seat in 2018, has made a concerted effort to win the backing of labor unions, including those that represent workers in fossil fuel industries.
The Texas AFL-CIO president told the New Republic in January that Siegel won the influential union's endorsement after he spent time "addressing working people’s issues, and giving them a sense that he cared about those concerns and would actively work to incorporate them."
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"We're not gonna snap our fingers and implement a national Green New Deal policy," Siegel told the New Republic. "It's going to be iterative, a series of pieces of legislation over time... We can put labor guarantees into this legislation that reinforce the right to collectively organize and even demand sectoral bargaining."
In the video released Tuesday, the narrator says that as a member of the U.S. Congress, Siegel will ensure that workers whose jobs may be lost as a result of a transition to a renewable energy economy will have a voice in Washington.
"Unions have a saying: if you're not at the table, you're on the menu," the electrician says. "Mike Siegel is our chance to have a seat at the table next year—a real accomplice in Congress... Any deal he'll make will start with us. This election is about sending one of our own to bring our vision of a Green New Deal to Congress and to bring back good union jobs so we can build a more stable future for ourselves and our loved ones."
While opponents of the Green New Deal have claimed that they aim to protect fossil fuel workers from job loss, sustainable energy industries including wind and solar power have reported some of the fastest-growing job rates in recent years—while the coal mining industry lost hundreds of thousands of jobs between 1980 and 2010 even as production was growing, and oil and natural gas job growth has stagnated in recent years.
Climate action advocates on social media applauded the Sunrise Movement and Siegel for their appeal directly to the workers who will count on the just transition that the Green New Deal calls for as the U.S. shifts to a clean energy economy.
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) October 14, 2020
Unions for a Green New Deal? Now we're talking.
Hard to describe how hopeful this @SiegelForTexas ad makes me.
WE ARE GOING TO WIN.pic.twitter.com/37brHUYeai
— Leah Stokes (@leahstokes) October 13, 2020
Another candidate that gives me hope — @SiegelForTexas
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) October 13, 2020
"There is so much at stake: climate, jobs, health, justice, democracy," tweeted Siegel on Tuesday. "We need an unstoppable coalition—workers, environmentalists, everyone—to build solutions to meet the scale of these crises."
"Not just to win an election," he added. "For a better future."