Labor and Enviro Leaders Move Beyond Their Differences to a Common Vision for the Future
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This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
During our many decades of work in the labor and environmental movements, there have been many battles that led to tensions between our communities. The Keystone Pipeline is only the most recent example. To help overcome these challenges, we recently convened two dozen leaders of labor, environmental, and other organizations for a frank conversation about the difficult times faced by ordinary workers and the dire environmental prospects we all face. We were motivated by a deep conviction that our communities could unite behind a common vision of a new economy that is good for working families and for the planet. We know that a top priority of most people is decent, dignified jobs that advance a truly sustainable economy.
And, at the end of our conversation, we were heartened by the unity we found in this diverse group of leaders behind a common vision. And we hoped that by developing the following joint statement, we could help build broader consensus around this vision and steps towards achieving it.
for a More Just and Sustainable Economy
This statement grows out of a discussion at Georgetown University on February 15, 2013 among leaders and organizers from the labor, environmental, and democracy movements sponsored by the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) and Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor (KI).
For decades, there have been initiatives by labor and environmental leaders at local, state, and national levels to forge closer ties between these two communities, from Environmentalists for Full Employment in the 1970s to the Blue-Green Alliance and the Labor Network for Sustainability today.
Despite these efforts, there have been times of tension and conflict. The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline today is only the most recent of such moments. Many in the environmental movement have made stopping the pipeline a top priority for 2013, and many but not all in organized labor are backing the pipeline as a source of good jobs. There have been a number of instances in recent years where leaders in each of these communities have failed to acknowledge the concerns of the other.
Nonetheless, many leaders and organizers within these movements recognize that they share many values and are prepared to help define a common vision and lead a struggle for a more just and sustainable economy. In the short-term, we feel that there are many things that each community can do to advance mutual interests and concerns. Longer term, we feel that articulating a common vision for a new economy is necessary to allow these movements to serve their individual interests, but also to contribute to building a better society.
In a recent dialogue among the signers of this statement, we were struck by a common commitment to build on shared values to strengthen our solidarity by developing a shared vision, identifying obstacles and building a common agenda to move forward together.
We agree on the urgent need to build a more just and sustainable economy. We recognize the need to strengthen the solidarity between our movements to be successful. And, we are confident that an honest dialogue among leaders and activists in our movements is key to developing the shared vision necessary to strengthen our solidarity.
We recognize that the American economy is neither sustainable, nor just. We are on a climate change path that unless radically altered will lead to global warming of seven degrees Fahrenheit or greater. We are also in the most serious employment crisis since the Great Depression, wages have stagnated for over three decades and economic inequality is worse than any time since the 1920s.