Unions Provide Big Contingent for NYC Climate Change March

 NEW YORK (PAI)–More than 100,000 people, including contingents from six national unions, several state federations and central labor councils and at least 48 locals and other labor groups, marched through Manhattan’s East Side to the United Nations on Sept. 21 to urge world leaders to act now on combating climate change.


The People’s Climate March, which New York City-based AFSCME District Council 37 had a large hand in organizing, drew community groups, church groups, progressive


organizations, unions and union allies, women’s rights groups and more to demand international action to curb the carbon emissions that cause global warming.


Marchers also demanded environmental justice, saying poor and minority communities should not continue to be dumping grounds for pollution, toxic waste and other hazards.


The AFL-CIO did not endorse the march.  The Amalgamated Transit Union, the Communications Workers, the Office and Professional Employees, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees and National Nurses United did.  So did the Canadian Labour Congress, our northern neighbor’s national labor federation, and UNI, an international federation that includes U.S. unions.


Other union backers included locals and state councils of SEIU and the Teachers, United Food and Commercial Workers locals, the National Writers Union-UAW, Teamsters Joint Council 16 and Locals 805 and 814, a Heat and Frost Insulators local, a big New York City Transport Workers local, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 from Queens, N.Y., the Blue-Green Alliance, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.  LCLAA is the AFL-CIO constituency group for Hispanic-named workers.


The march target was a Climate Summit, scheduled two days later, of dozens of heads of state – including Democratic President Barack Obama – the United Nations convened to discuss climate change and set an agenda for upcoming bargaining on what to do about it.


The marchers made it clear that the time for inaction is over.  Their secondary targets included multi-national corporations who force governments into inaction, create huge pollution, or both.  Some marchers planned peaceful civil disobedience on Sept. 22 in front of the headquarters of various polluting multi-nationals.


March organizers admitted the UN meeting only sets the stage for future international negotiations and action on climate change.  The point of the march, they said, was to show national leaders that workers and their allies demand action, not sloth.


“We will show the UN that people are ready for action on climate change, are taking action within their communities, and will support any progress in the Climate Summit,” march organizers said in their mission statement.


Low-income workers and minorities led the march, not just as victims of environmental discrimination, but because “They’re the first and most-impacted by storms, floods, droughts, as well as land grabs, water shutoffs and forced migration,” organizers added.


The marchers campaigned for a “just transition off fossil fuels” and creation of strategies to promote zero waste, recycling and use of public transit – a top cause of ATU.  Those strategies “support an economy good for both people and the planet,” march organizers said.  And climate change solutions “should prioritize (helping) those who have borne the brunt of the problems.”