Unionists to be big part of April 29 march on D.C. to campaign for battling climate change

By Zita Allen, Special to Press Associates

NEW YORK—In the wake of the Republican Trump administration’s broad executive order reversing previous hard-won advances in the fight against climate change and shifting the nation’s energy priorities from renewable energy sources back to fossil fuels, climate change, labor, community and religious groups called for a massive March for Climate, Jobs and Justice in Washington, D.C. on April 29.

The April 29 march will reiterate the passionate concern with climate change demonstrated by the 2014 People’s Climate March that saw 400,000 climate change activists march in New York City, even as thousands more gathered for similar demonstrations in cities around the country.

Those marches sent a wake-up call on the need for urgent action to address the climate crisis, organizers said. On April 29, the message will be even more urgent, they add.

Union sponsors and participants in this march include AFSCME District Council 37, Service Employees Local 32BJ, the Postal Workers, Local 1199 SEIU – it’s hospital and health care workers local – and the Labor Network for Sustainability.

Leslie Cagan of the Peoples Climate Movement-NY recently noted that at the end of April, Republican Donald Trump will have been president for 100 days. Organizers of the 2017 march believe there is a pressing need to mark that fact with a massive demonstration that shows resistance to damaging environmental policies is as strong as ever.

The marchers cite Trump’s recent executive order charging the EPA with unwinding the Obama Administration’s rule for reducing hazardous carbon dioxide emissions generated by the nation’s power sector and launching a review of the Department of Justice’s defense of the rule in court. “Review” is often a signal the Trump administration wants to reverse course.

Trump’s order also creates a working group that would “reconsider” the social cost of carbon and ends the moratorium on new and modified coal leasing on public land. Essentially, Cagan says, the order erases efforts to clean up the nation’s aging coal- and gas-fired power plants that accounted for approximately 40 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced in the U.S. Carbon dioxide emissions are the lead cause of global warming.

Local 32BJ President Hector Figueroa called the impact of climate change “a fact we cannot run away from.

“Everybody is being affected by the ongoing climate crisis. But, as in many other battles, it is the poorest workers who are suffering earliest and most,” he added.

“The corporate do-nothing crowd, helped by an administration in bed with big oil, will continue to profit as seas continue to swell and swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities in the U.S., and rising food prices, dirtier air and contaminated water are already putting a bigger burden on millions of low-wage workers at home and abroad.

“We need to stand in solidarity with the rest of the labor movement to demand clean air and water, healthy and safe communities and a just transition for all workers affected by a transition to a clean energy economy,” Figueroa insisted.

Jon Foster, founder of AFSCME District Council 37’s Climate Justice Committee, called it “imperative that unions be involved in the fight against climate change and the drive to promote environmental justice and to create good union jobs. We must also lead the fight for a just transition for displaced workers as we fight for a just clean energy economy. In addition to protecting and creating jobs, what we do today will save the lives of children and grandchildren.”

Postal Workers Vice President Debby Szeredy said her union is on board. “The American Postal Workers Union supports the Peoples Climate Movement March. We hope to see many of our members out in mass on April 29th  in DC and throughout the country representing our labor movement.  We are in this movement together,” she said.

“The imperative to stop the Trump agenda could not be clearer as he destroys the EPA and the Clean Power Plan subverts the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, and puts Exxon in charge of the State Department,” said Cagan.

“Everyone is under attack in this new regime: workers, LGBTQ, indigenous peoples, women, Muslims, the middle-class, public schools, healthcare, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe…everything!” said Jeff Levy-Lyons of GreenFaith referring to the current administration’s actions to halt years of historic effort to develop uniform guidelines for regulating carbon emissions from the nation’s power sector. “It’s time to resist and march!”

Non-union progressive groups mobilizing for the April 29 demonstration in D.C. include its leader, the Sierra Club, 350.org, the NAACP, Public Citizen and a combination of New York City-based environmental justice groups and smaller national green groups.

Zita Allen, the retired Communications Director for AFSCME DC 37 is also a member of the Communications Committee for PCM-New York.