Environmental movement, unions come together for healthy planet, workers rights

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In a great piece of the latest issue of Grist, Kate Sheppard looks at the ways the union and environmental movements are working together to make sure the emerging energy economy is sustainable and fair to everyone.

Sheppard focuses on the work of the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental and union groups, which is educating union members and their families about the need for green jobs to aid in the transition to a cleaner, greener economy. She also examines the rising role of environmental groups in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthAction and Green America have joined the broad coalition for the Employee Free Choice Act, as has the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of union, environmental, business and community groups focused on building a new energy economy.

Margrete Strand Ragnes, who works with the Sierra Club and the Blue Green Alliance, says we can’t afford to think about the health of the economy and the health of the environment as separate or conflicting issues.

We’re looking at sustainability more broadly, not just reducing emissions but also a sustainable economy and sustainable conditions for workers.

As we’re looking towards this new green energy economy that we believe has the potential to create millions of new jobs. We want to make sure those new green jobs are also good jobs. It’s not that all green jobs will be union jobs, but that workers should have the right to organize if they want to, so they can fight for better wages and benefits.

Indeed, this cooperation is already under way at the state level. Last Thursday, members of the Sierra Club met with union members and other allies in Maine to call on Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to support Employee Free Choice.