December 17, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Organized labor and their allies in the community hosted a climate conference at 32BJ SEIU’s offices on Tuesday where an AFL-CIO executive director said the only way for the country to overcome the job crisis is to create jobs that, at the same time they pay living wages, they also protect the climate.
The conference was jointly organized and presented by the Alliance for a Greater New York, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, the BlueGreen Alliance, as well as the New York City Central Labor Council and the national American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Coinciding with the conference was the release of a new report produced by ALIGN—“Climate Works for All.” In the report the authors describe a set of steps that New York City can take to drastically reduce its carbon emissions. In September, just before the United Nations Climate Summit, the City Council introduced new legislation that aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from a 2005 baseline.
The authors note that the City can create “tens of thousands of good, career-track jobs each year and reduce our annual greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 12 million metric tons by annually investing $2 billion in public and private funds” through major projects such as investing in energy efficiency, rebuilding infrastructure and expanding transportation options.
(The proposals and the report can be downloaded via https://www.dropbox.com/s/a20s4zzcyajs3ve/ClimateWorks_Report_R5_highRes.pdf?dl=0+ )
In the accompanying video, we interviewed Brad Markell, executive director of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council, about why it was important for the national AFL-CIO to be attending a climate conference in New York.
“The most important thing is that we have a jobs and infrastructure crisis in this country. We know that we can create jobs, rebuild infrastructure and help solve climate change with the kind of programs that are in this report. We’re here to support that,” said Markell.
One of the key projects where the city can create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the report notes, is by expanding Bus Rapid Transit and restoring closed passenger rail lines such as the Long Island Railroad Rockaway Line that would connect South Queens to Manhattan. The report focuses on projects in New York City, nonetheless we asked Mr. Markell does the AFL-CIO support the build-out of high-speed rail as another way to protect the climate.
“We’re extremely supportive of high speed rail. We wish Congress would fund it because it would really help with the transportation infrastructure. But this report is really focused on New York City, and the suggestion of Bus Rapid Transit really would help serve communities more cost effectively,” Markell said.
He believes that should the city implement the report’s proposals it would serve as a model for other cities around the country.
“I think New York can take the lead in showing how this is done and putting together the political will for it. While the recommendations wouldn’t be the same for every city, there is a common core that can be used to rebuild infrastructure and creating good jobs.”