• print
  • decrease text sizeincrease text size
    text

What a Just Transition Would Actually Mean for Workers

Share this post

just tran‚ÄĘsi‚ÄĘtion

noun

1. A frame­work to address the liveli­hoods and needs of the work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties most impact­ed by the switch to renew­able ener­gy

‚ÄúWe want [a plan to] mobi¬≠lize the econ¬≠o¬≠my in a¬†way that tran¬≠si¬≠tions us off of fos¬≠sil fuels in¬†11¬†years, but also pro¬≠tects every sin¬≠gle work¬≠er [and] their abil¬≠i¬≠ty to have a¬†job and health¬≠care.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒNicole Karsch, Sun¬≠rise Move¬≠ment¬†Organizer

Where does this idea come from? 

The super¬≠fi¬≠cial con¬≠flict between sav¬≠ing the plan¬≠et and sav¬≠ing the econ¬≠o¬≠my has long dogged envi¬≠ron¬≠men¬≠tal¬≠ists, but the¬†‚Äúway out,‚ÄĚ accord¬≠ing to U.S.¬†labor leader Tony Maz¬≠zoc¬≠chi¬†back in¬†1993, is to¬†‚Äúmake pro¬≠vi¬≠sion for the work¬≠ers who lose their jobs in the wake of the country‚Äôs dras¬≠ti¬≠cal¬≠ly need¬≠ed envi¬≠ron¬≠men¬≠tal cleanup.‚ÄĚ Maz¬≠zoc¬≠chi, once vice pres¬≠i¬≠dent of the Oil, Chem¬≠i¬≠cal and Atom¬≠ic Work¬≠ers Inter¬≠na¬≠tion¬≠al Union (lat¬≠er absorbed into the¬†Unit¬≠ed Steel¬≠work¬≠ers), was respond¬≠ing to chem¬≠i¬≠cal plant clo¬≠sures and then-new Super¬≠fund envi¬≠ron¬≠men¬≠tal cleanup pro¬≠grams. If there can be Super¬≠fund for tox¬≠ic dirt, the think¬≠ing went, there should be one for work¬≠ers. That vision of labor and envi¬≠ron¬≠men¬≠tal¬≠ists work¬≠ing togeth¬≠er is at the cen¬≠ter of a¬†‚Äújust¬†transition.‚Ä̬†

Is a just tran¬≠si¬≠tion part of the Green New Deal? 

It should be! While Alexan¬≠dria Ocasio-Cortez‚Äôs land¬≠mark 2019 res¬≠o¬≠lu¬≠tion includ¬≠ed such mea¬≠sures as a fed¬≠er¬≠al jobs guar¬≠an¬≠tee, it did not specif¬≠i¬≠cal¬≠ly address fos¬≠sil-fuel work¬≠ers, leav¬≠ing it open to crit¬≠i¬≠cism by union lead¬≠ers. Bernie Sanders‚Äô ver¬≠sion, released lat¬≠er that year, includ¬≠ed up to five years of income replace¬≠ment and free edu¬≠ca¬≠tion for dis¬≠placed work¬≠ers. Cli¬≠mate groups, includ¬≠ing the Sun¬≠rise Move¬≠ment, also advo¬≠cate income guar¬≠an¬≠tees. These pro¬≠vi¬≠sions, mod¬≠eled after the GI Bill, are an impor¬≠tant step toward win¬≠ning sup¬≠port from labor. 

Giv¬≠en how 2020 has gone so far, what are the odds we‚Äôll get any¬≠where near this? 

It may not sur¬≠prise you that, for all his talk about coal coun¬≠try, Pres¬≠i¬≠dent Don¬≠ald Trump has not weighed in on what a¬†just tran¬≠si¬≠tion would look like. The new¬†Joe Biden cli¬≠mate plan, more aggres¬≠sive than his pri¬≠ma¬≠ry plat¬≠form, at least leaves the con¬≠ver¬≠sa¬≠tion open with the poten¬≠tial to cre¬≠ate mil¬≠lions of new cli¬≠mate jobs. States, too, can take action. Col¬≠orado passed a¬†ground¬≠break¬≠ing just tran¬≠si¬≠tion law¬†in¬†2019¬†that guar¬≠an¬≠tees ben¬≠e¬≠fits and grants for for¬≠mer coal work¬≠ers and coal-depen¬≠dent com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ties. It‚Äôs hard to imag¬≠ine repli¬≠cat¬≠ing this vic¬≠to¬≠ry giv¬≠en state bud¬≠gets dur¬≠ing the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic, but the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic also empha¬≠sizes the impor¬≠tance of a¬†just tran¬≠si¬≠tion?‚ÄĒ?as oil demand plum¬≠mets and thou¬≠sands of refin¬≠ery work¬≠ers may face immi¬≠nent lay¬≠offs nation¬≠wide. The tran¬≠si¬≠tion is hap¬≠pen¬≠ing regard¬≠less. The ques¬≠tion is whether work¬≠ers and com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ties will be left behind.

This is part of¬†‚ÄúThe Big Idea,‚ÄĚ a¬†month¬≠ly series offer¬≠ing brief intro¬≠duc¬≠tions to pro¬≠gres¬≠sive the¬≠o¬≠ries, poli¬≠cies, tools and strate¬≠gies that can help us envi¬≠sion a¬†world beyond cap¬≠i¬≠tal¬≠ism. For recent¬†In These Times¬†cov¬≠er¬≠age of a¬†Just Tran¬≠si¬≠tion in action, see,¬†‚ÄúThe Just Tran¬≠si¬≠tion for Coal Work¬≠ers Can Start Now. Col¬≠orado Is Show¬≠ing How,‚Ä̬†‚ÄúCli¬≠mate Activists Can‚Äôt Afford to Ignore Labor. A¬†Shut¬≠tered Refin¬≠ery in Philly Shows Why‚Ä̬†and¬†‚ÄúThis Cri¬≠sis Can Be a¬†Gate¬≠way to Cli¬≠mate Action. These Activists Are Show¬≠ing¬†How.‚ÄĚ

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on September 25, 2020. Reprinted with permission.


Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe For Updates

Sign Up:

* indicates required

Recent Posts

Forbes Best of the Web, Summer 2004
A Forbes "Best of the Web" Blog

Archives

  • Tracking image for JustAnswer widget
  • Find an Employment Lawyer

  • Support Workplace Fairness

 
 

Find an Employment Attorney

The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases. Please note that Workplace Fairness does not operate a lawyer referral service and does not provide legal advice, and that Workplace Fairness is not responsible for any advice that you receive from anyone, attorney or non-attorney, you may contact from this site.