Labor unions fear Democrats' Green New Deal poses job threat

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed "Green New Deal" at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed "Green New Deal" at the U.S. Capitol in Washington  

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Labor unions say they are withholding support for a Green New Deal unveiled by Democrats last week to transition the American economy away from fossil fuels, arguing the loosely-defined plan could kill jobs if its architects aren't careful.

The cool response from unions underscores the challenge facing Democratic presidential hopefuls who support aggressive action on climate change but must also win back the blue-collar voters that swept President Donald Trump to victory in 2016.

The Green New Deal is a non-binding Congressional resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey that would legislate government-led investment in clean energy infrastructure with the goal of making America carbon neutral within a decade.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren have already thrown their support behind it.

The resolution's backers say the plan - once fully sketched out in the legislation - would create jobs in much the same way as President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s by putting Americans to work on transformative government-led projects.

It also calls for a "just transition" for current fossil fuel workers - from coal miners to pipeline workers - through guarantees of healthcare, jobs, and job training.

Union officials told Reuters they were skeptical.

"We will never settle for 'just transition' language as a solution to the job losses that will surely come from some of the policies in the resolution," said Yvette Pena O'Sullivan, executive director of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), whose members work in construction and other industries.

Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers (UMWA), which represents workers in the coal industry, echoed the concerns.

"We've heard words like 'just transition' before, but what does that really mean? Our members are worried about putting food on the table," he said.

LIUNA and UMWA said they were not contacted for input on the resolution before it was released.

Sean McGarvey, president of the North America's Building Trades Unions, representing construction workers across all sectors including energy, said his staff had been contacted by Markey's office about the Green New Deal, but said his members are skeptical of "green job" promises.

Members "working in the oil and gas sector can make a middle-class living, whereas renewable energy firms have been less generous," he said at a pipeline safety event last week.


Democrats backing the resolution are seeking to highlight the contrast in their position with the Trump administration's vocal support for drilling and mining and its skepticism about the causes and impacts of global warming.

Trump's approach was warmly received in 2016 in parts of Appalachia and the Rust Belt, which have been suffering from manufacturing and mining jobs losses.

Trump's Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton struggled to sell her clean energy agenda in those regions, and suffered politically after saying her policies would "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

The Sunrise Movement, a youth organization backing the Green New Deal, plans to launch a multi-state campaign in March to drum up support, featuring stops in Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

"A lot of places struggling with joblessness are fossil fuel dependent places that suffer from poor air and water quality. Guaranteeing the right of clean air, water and jobs is something we think a lot of people can get behind," said Stephen O'Hanlon, a spokesman for the group.

Unions have expressed support in the past for more moderate approaches to addressing climate change, including cap-and-trade systems to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey's offices did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Sonya Hepinstall)


More Related News

Green New Deal: Republicans talk up climate change plan - but not because they like it
Green New Deal: Republicans talk up climate change plan - but not because they like it

Republicans trumpet the Green New Deal because they think the climate change plan that touts social justice is a losing proposition for Democrats.

Trump's Emergency Sparks Protests, Potential Congressional Moves
Trump's Emergency Sparks Protests, Potential Congressional Moves

House Democrats may pass a resolution disapproving the emergency declaration, which the White House says allows him to take $3.6 billion from military construction projects to instead build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer could force a vote on the resolution after it passes the House, and there are indications that several Republicans would support it.

Glenn Hubbard on the problems with Ocasio-Cortez
Glenn Hubbard on the problems with Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal

Glenn Hubbard, Columbia Business School dean, discusses the problems with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal.

New Deals (Even Green Ones) Are Bonanzas for Big Business
New Deals (Even Green Ones) Are Bonanzas for Big Business

Amazon is taking its ball and going home, and New York Democrats are actually celebrating.I wasn't a huge fan of the deal New York and Amazon worked out. I don't like corporate welfare, and the race among municipalities to bribe businesses to set up shop in their backyards has a lot of problems. The news that Amazon is spurning the Big Apple and searching for a different location will undoubtedly spark an unseemly frenzy among other cities, reminiscent of the search for the last golden ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.But what's just astounding to me is how Democrats can (almost in one breath, figuratively speaking) champion a Green New Deal that would use the powers of the...

GOP Looks to Turn Ocasio-Cortez
GOP Looks to Turn Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal on Democrats

Republicans are embracing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's sweeping plan known as the Green New Deal to avert climate change, but not because they like it. Fueling the effort is a fact sheet that Ocasio-Cortez's office circulated -- then retracted -- that included references that aren't in the text of the actual resolution.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Latin America

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.