"We won't back down from the promise of the American dream. We won't back down from the promise of family-sustaining jobs. We won't back down from the promise of a clean and healthy environment. And we won't back down from the promise of a clean energy future."
The emerging green economy promises to provide large-scale job creation while healing the Earth and building the middle class. Roxanne Brown, Assistant Legislative Director for the United Steelworkers and Steering Committee member of the BlueGreen Alliance, describes how this national partnership of major labor unions and environmental organizations is expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. BlueGreen Alliance Director of Chemicals, Public Health and Green Chemistry Charlotte Brody portrays the real-time societal transformation underway when workers and environmentalists find common ground and also honestly acknowledge their differences.
Bioneers Series XII - Program 06-12
Good Jobs, Clean Environment: Both or Neither
00:00 Opening underwriting narration (00:25)
The following program is made possible in part by Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Learn more at organicvalley.coop. Also by Park Foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. As well as by the generous support of listeners like you.
00:25 Welcome (00:05)
00:30 Brown Teaser (00:15)
We won't back down from the promise of the American dream. We won't back down from the promise of family-sustaining jobs. We won't back down from the promise of a clean and healthy environment. And we won't back down from the promise of a clean energy future.
00:45 Macy (00:09)
It’s all alive, it’s all connected, it’s all intelligent, it’s all relatives…
00:54 Bioneers Teaser (00:28)
We stand at the threshold of a historic opportunity in the human experiment: to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
It's a revolution from the heart of nature - and the human heart.
In this series - The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature - we celebrate social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet - creating a future environment of hope.
01:22 Theme music fade out (00:08)
01:30 NARRATION 1 (01:42)
A big old fish is swimming along when two teenage fish swim by. “How’s the water?” he greets the youngsters. They look at him and swim right on by. One teenage fish says to the other, “What’s water?”
What’s water, indeed? As human beings, we have a remarkable capacity not to see the water we swim in – and to forget that the way things are is not the way they’ve always been.
Take unions, for example. By the 19th century in the thick of the Industrial Revolution, labor unions formed and fought bitter struggles against truly monstrous regimes. They sought to raise pitiful wages and improve atrocious working conditions. They also struggled for social reforms, such as the institution of free public education, the abolition of imprisonment for debt, and the adoption of universal manhood suffrage.
More recently, safety regulations, the forty-hour workweek – and yes, the weekend, brought to you by organized labor. The water we swim in today.
Meanwhile, the industrial revolution wrought havoc with the environment. In most cases, unions long failed to look beyond worker rights and wellbeing to address the destruction of the natural world.
In fact, the false arguments of jobs versus the environment deeply polarized the “blues” and the “greens” into a hostile standoff. But all that is changing.
This is Good Jobs, Clean Environment: Both or Neither with labor leader Roxanne Brown and environmental health and labor advocate Charlotte Brody, both members of the Blue Green Alliance.
My name is Neil Harvey. I'll be your host. Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.
03:12 Music fade (00:14)
03:26 BROWN PLEN 1 (00:30)
Almost every morning I have to pinch myself because I can't believe how lucky I am to be a part of two critically important movements. Two movements that were not only necessary and important parts of our nation's past, but remain absolutely necessary for our future. First the Labor Movement and second the movement to make our world a safer place for us and our future.
03:56 NARRATION 2 (00:26)
Roxanne Brown is one of the new leaders of American labor - intent on helping labor unions make a comeback in the U.S., both to protect and grow the middle class, and to restore the environment and economy.
Roxanne Brown is the assistant legislative director for the United Steelworkers union. She’s one of five lobbyists in the USW's legislative office in Washington D.C. She spoke at a recent Bioneers conference.
04:23 BROWN PLEN 2 (02:44)
I hail from the capital city of Kingston on the small island of Jamaica. And in 1978, my family made the difficult yet necessary decision to immigrate to the United States, specifically to New York, and they spent years assimilating into a new way of living and a new way of being. I don't know how many fellow immigrants we have in the audience today, but watching my family make this transition with the many challenges, the sacrifices and the struggles that came with it was my very first lesson in sustainability, and by that I mean economic sustainability, which is one of the major things we fight for on behalf of our members and America's working men and women in the Labor Movement, a big part of leaving a legacy for future generations; ensuring that there is some means for Americans each day to earn a living, whether you are a steelworker, a paper worker, a teacher, a scientist, a business owner or a farmer, some way to allow you to put food on your family's table, send your kids to school, and maybe, just maybe, retire one day. [APPLAUSE]
This is still the American dream. And I should actually probably tell you all that I come from a family of women, very strong-willed and dare I say stubborn Jamaican women who my husband lovingly refers to as the generals. [LAUGHTER] These women started out as house cleaners and babysitters. But as the years went on, they eventually became nurses and dietary aides, all with the sole purpose of ensuring stability for their family and securing a sustainable economic future for the next generation—me, my cousins and my siblings.
These were the people who taught me the importance of kinship, working cooperatively, and about cycles of continuous creation. So, each day, I have the distinct privilege, because it is a privilege, to represent people like the women in my family—everyday Americans who are fighting like hell for economic security, retirement security, safer workplaces and safer communities to raise their families.
07:06 NARRATION 3 (00:54)
Everyday Americans have certainly had to fight like hell for the American Dream. But the unions that have supported them have been losing ground. In the US today less than 12 percent of workers belong to unions. The corporate strategy against organized labor of ‘divide and conquer’ has been very successful, including the pitting of blues and green against each other.
Until, that is, a handful of major unions and environmental organizations realized just how many of their interests are aligned, which is why Roxanne Brown, representing the United Steelworkers, serves on the Steering Committee of the Blue-Green Alliance.
Brown says Alliance members all recognize that safer communities and safer workplaces have been under relentless attack by highly organized and well-funded corporate interests. And they’ve found common ground at the intersection of economic security and environmental health.
08:00 BROWN PLEN 3 (03:17)
I'd like to say that when our union and the Sierra Club formed the Blue-Green Alliance in 2006, that it was a preemptive measure because we saw all of these attacks coming. Some we did see, but others are so egregious, we couldn't even have imagined. What Leo Gerard, our union’s international president, Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club, and David Foster, the executive director of the Blue-Green Alliance did see was the need to change the debate about the relationship between good jobs and a clean environment. As Leo often says, we will have both or we will have neither. [APPLAUSE]
Our union has a proud more than 40-year history of working with environmental groups like the Sierra Club to advance those policies that make our workplaces, communities, water and air safer.
The platform we established for the Blue-Green Alliance in 2006 was good jobs, clean environment, green economy. This remains our platform today, and we recognize its critical importance now more than ever. We view the joint challenges of high unemployment and environmental degradation as a chance to turn these crises into opportunity. Today, the Alliance has grown to 14 partners and includes the Communication Workers of America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Service Employees International Union, National Wildlife Federation, Laborers International Union of North America, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utility Workers of America, American Federation of Teachers, Amalgamated Transit Union, Sheet Metal Workers, Auto Workers, and the United Food and Commercial Workers. And all of us together unite more than 14 million people across the country. [APPLAUSE]
We are united in our quest for good jobs and a clean environment, and the promise of a clean energy future holds immeasurable opportunities for us. For our union, the nation's largest manufacturing union, we want to ensure the development and deployment of clean energy technologies like wind and solar. And we also want to ensure that the technologies used here are built here and made using the thousands of component parts like steel, aluminum, cement and glass made by our members every single day. [APPLAUSE]
For the laborers, a clean energy economy means installing weatherization projects across the country. For members of SEIU, it means ensuring the use of green chemicals to protect their health but also ensuring the safety of their working environment. For the utility workers it means workers employed at a utility that generates some or all of its electricity from biomass energy. And the list goes on and on. Getting there, though, is a challenge.
11:17 NARRATION 4 (00:03)
11:20 Brody 7 (00:08)
It's not a coincidence that we started losing the middle class when the power of labor unions started going down.
11:28 NARRATION 5 (00:32)
Charlotte Brody is Director of Chemicals, Public Health and Green Chemistry for the BlueGreen Alliance.
She observes that the fate of unions directly parallels the fate of the American middle class.
After World War II, the American Dream moved into full-tilt boogie. The middle class grew steadily while the extremes of wealth diminished. But by the mid-70s, wealth started becoming much more concentrated again. The middle class was shrinking, and the power of unions slipped into steep decline.
12:00 Brody 7a (01:54)
So the Blue-Green Alliance is first about recognizing that we're losing manufacturing in the United States. We don't make stuff the way we used to, and that that's quite tied to losing the middle class, and that's quite tied to the growing gap between the 99 percent and the 1 percent, and that we need everybody we can convince to be part of the effort to really restore the United States to a path of fairness and a path where, sure, there are divides and some people have more and some people have less, but that we all have reason to believe that our lives can be better next year, and a little bit better the year after that.
The Blue-Green Alliance is a unique partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations focused on how we create jobs in a new, cleaner, greener, safer, healthier, robust economy.
That's its positive vision: that we can and must build a new economy where it's not jobs or environment, it's jobs and environment, and that we have the vision and we have the demand to build an economy in which we're more energy efficient, more dependent on renewable sources of energy and less dependent on fossil fuels, and making stuff in a healthier, safer way that works for everyone. That's one part of the Blue-Green Alliance vision.
The other part is a deep recognition of how much we've lost and how we're not going to be able to take back our economy and our country and a positive vision of the future unless we get out of our silos and find ways of working together.
13:54 NARRATION 6 (00:25)
Charlotte Brody has long worked with and for unions and union members. She was co-founder and co-executive director of Healthcare Without Harm to help green the healthcare industry. She is a registered nurse and mother of two.
For decades, she has sought to bridge serious differences to create powerful alliances. Inevitably, the issues get very gnarly, very fast.
14:19 Brody 4 (1:35)
One of the initiatives we're involved in right now is a series of roundtables where we bring together environmentalists and oil refinery workers represented by the United Steelworkers to talk about the future of oil. It's been an extraordinary set of dialogues that I've been really lucky to be a part of, where oil refinery workers in California and in Louisiana and in Washington state, so far, talk about their concerns about losing their jobs, their concerns about creating new laws that push the oil industry offshore, their concerns about their safety and health. And environmentalists talk about their concerns about oil as a fuel, keeping the same consumption that we've been increasing every year, and the need to cut our oil use in half.
And where we're going with this dialogue so far is to really think about reducing our oil consumption by half and figuring out how the half that's left could be produced in the safest way from existing U.S. sources and refined by people who have all the safety and health protections and rights they need to keep it in the pipe, because if you keep it in the pipe, workers are safer, the environment is safer, and it's a lot more efficient. So that's just one of the kinds of initiatives that we're undertaking.
15:52 NARRATION 7 Lead to Mid Break (00:50)
According to the financier George Soros, “There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy.”
Financial investment in solar and wind creates 50 percent more jobs than the same amount in coal. It generates four times as many jobs as the equivalent investment in the oil industry.
The current market for the restoration of ecosystems and the built environment is already at $2 trillion, with a potential market of $100 trillion.
When we return, Blues and Greens search for ways forward on fuel efficiency, sustainable food and clean energy.
This is Good Jobs, Clean Environment: Both or Neither.
I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.
16:42 MID BREAK (00:37)
17:19 Underwriter #3 mention #1 (00:17)
Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is made possible in part by John Masters Organics. Feel good about looking good. Learn more at johnmasters.com
Free distribution of this program is made possible in part by support from listeners like you.
17:36 NARRATION 8 (00:45)
To explore more Bioneers radio shows and conference videos, for free, visit bioneers.org.
In 2011, worldwide investment in clean technologies reached $260 billion dollars. It’s estimated that, over the next decade, that figure will grow to $2.3 trillion dollars.
Some of the world’s biggest global investors have called for “long, loud and legal signals from governments” - to incentivize the green economy through astute policies.
Blue-Green Alliance initiatives support policies that will create jobs, focus investment and keep the U.S. competitive in the global market. Charlotte Brody of the Blue-Green Alliance.
18:21 Brody 5 (02:41)
One initiative we're working on with our partner the United Auto Workers and NRDC, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, is to really focus on figuring out how we can make cars as fuel efficient as humanly possible, and to capture that technological vision in jobs all up and down the supply chain that can be held by well-paid workers with great rights and benefits.
And so to really think about not just the vision of an auto industry as well as a light-rail industry, as well as a new, more efficient freight rail industry, and everything we know about how to move people and things in the most efficient ways. How to think about that vision and match it with a vision of the jobs, creating those light-rail cars and those street cars and those fuel efficient automobiles and the batteries that go into them, how can they all be made by American workers who have rights and good working conditions, and are making those component pieces in the safest, most innovative, healthiest way.
Another initiative that we're just beginning to figure out is how to get the concept of sustainable food to not only include the living conditions of chickens and cows, but also the working conditions of people, so that when you go into a restaurant that offers local, sustainable, organic food, you're also thinking about whether or not the restaurant workers actually have paid days off or do they have to come into work sick? And do they have health insurance? And in the same way, when we think about the processing of apples or the processing of chickens, do the people who are handling our food have the working conditions that give them the power to make sure they're doing their job safely for themselves, and safely for the food that they're processing. So, really trying to, again, de-silo our idea of what does healthy food, or what does sustainable food, or what does organic mean to not be just about what's on the apple, but also what happened to the workers who picked that apple and processed that apple.
21:01 NARRATION 9 (00:34)
That’s “Blue Green.” A study by the Sustainable Economic Development Network concluded that the green economy is already worth $300 billion dollars, 2 percent of U.S. total $15 trillion, and supports 2.7 million jobs. It’s been steadily growing in states like California.
But in the area of clean energy, China, Italy, and Germany have consistently outpaced the U.S. in growth and investment. In fact, the U.S. faces a grave crisis of global business competitiveness and it will take a first-rate workforce to meet it.
Meanwhile the Blue-Green Alliance is plunging into some of the thorniest briar patches of energy issues.
21:44 Brody 8 (02:02)
Coal has become a controversial topic in a lot of parts of the United States. We're really dependent on coal, and it's clearly a very dirty fuel. Just one example is what coal does to the mercury burden of babies being born in the United States. And even if there were no other problems with coal, we'd have to be doing something about how coal puts mercury into the atmosphere that then comes down, gets into our food supply, and gets into us.
And the efforts of the EPA to do something about the dirtiest users of coal, including some of our oldest utility plants, has been a big controversy for the Blue-Green Alliance, because some of our members, especially the people who work for the Utility Workers Union, one of our proud eight union partners, work in those plants. And it's been a very important challenge for us to recognize that the closure of those plants because they're old and outdated and need to be replaced with safer, healthier ways of producing energy also means the loss of good jobs being held by people who have worked hard for a long time. And we're in the middle of trying to figure out what we can do to not tell those guys, thanks for your service, here's a gold watch, now replace that $40 an hour job with a $7 an hour job; that that's not good enough, and that we really need to figure out policies and procedures that recognize the important contribution that those men and women have made and find new ways for them to work that don't punish them for the pollution of coal that wasn't their decision and yet they're being held responsible for it.
23:46 NARRATION 10 (00:38)
Charlotte Brody. The Blue-Green Alliance convenes these painfully honest dialogues as a necessary step in the process of developing new and equitable policies.
The Blue-Green Alliance promotes investment in a suite of areas including transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure, industrial energy efficiency, grid modernization, and advanced automotive design. And it’s working on a nationwide grassroots campaign to build public support and political traction for the creation of millions more jobs for the 21st century clean energy economy. Again, Roxanne Brown.
24:24 BROWN PLEN 4 (02:06)
So I can't tell you how proud I am to serve on the steering committee of the Blue-Green Alliance, but even more how proud I am to see how much it's grown over the years. And this amazing growth has not been without some pain. After all the tensions that have historically existed between the blues and the greens around issues like coal and nuclear, they still exist, but what makes our alliance so powerful is that it creates a forum to put all things on the table, allowing us to educate each other about where we are coming from on a particular issue in a constructive and non-combative way. There are times when we realize that there can't be a meeting of minds on a certain issue, but at least we all know where we stand. And that is a beautiful thing, because we all leave the table eager to work together on the many things that we do agree on.
Brothers and sisters, because you are my brothers and sisters, the fight wages on. And not only is our union ready to fight, but the Blue-Green Alliance and all 14 million of the people we collectively represent are ready to fight as well.
We won't back down from the promise of the American dream. We won't back down from the promise of family-sustaining jobs. We won't back down from the promise of a clean and healthy environment. And we won't back down from the promise of a clean energy future. After all, we are the innovators guided by key principles to ensure a legacy for future generations. Right?
So, now I know this is not an audience of steelworkers, but I wonder if you guys can give me a little steelworker energy, so when I say stand up, you're gonna say [audience shouts fight back]. Stand up! [audience fight back] Stand up! [audience fight back] Thank you so much. [APPLAUSE]
26:21 NARRATION 11 (00:04)
“Good Jobs, Clean Environment: Both or Neither”…
26:25 Music fade (00:11)
26:36 Bioneers BXII - Program Close/Credits (1:28)
You can listen to a variety of Bioneers radio shows and view conference videos online — at www.bioneers.org — where you can also learn about attending the Bioneers conference or a local Bioneers conference near you.
The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is a production of Collective Heritage Institute.
Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Catherine Stifter and Kenny Ausubel
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Management: Aaron Leventman and Nicole Spangenburg
Station Relations: Creative PR
Distribution: WFMT Radio Network
Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label. Additional music was made available by New Earth Records – at newearthrecords.com For more music information, please visit bioneers.org.
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening. I invite you to join the Bioneers in inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
This is program number 06-12
28:04 Closing underwriting narration (00:26)
This series is made possible by Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Learn more at organicvalley.coop
…And by Park Foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues –
For more information, visit www.bioneers.org — or call 1-877-BIONEER.