Labor Finds New Allies To Push for Clean Energy Jobs

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Labor unions and environmental groups making up the Blue Green Alliance got a boost this week by joining forces with new partners—including retired generals and other veterans, farmers, business leaders and the faith community—to learn more about clean energy legislation in Congress and to visit their senators on Capitol Hill.

AFT activists from Florida, Ohio and West Virginia took part in the markedly bipartisan Clean Energy, Jobs and Security Forum on Jan. 27-28, which featured panels on how creating good, green jobs will advance our nation's security.

"I'm taking this directly back to my classroom tomorrow," said Bob Frostick, an AP environmental science teacher in Charleston, W.Va., and a member of the Kanawha Federation of Teachers. "While we've been talking about ecology, I had not taken into account the effects of the legislative process on our jobs and our whole way of life."

At the forum, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu described how China has become the world's top producer of solar panels, electric cars and other green devices invented in the United States, and how our country needs to reverse that trend. They were preceded by former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who expressed faith in the coalition to get a green energy bill passed. "If we don't achieve clean jobs," he said, "guess what? These other guys, China and the rest of them, they will eat our lunch."

In a new twist for the alliance, two retired generals and other military leaders said they are organizing veterans in support of the energy bill, explaining how climate change and energy insecurity are increasing instability around the world. They also warned of our own overreliance on oil: U.S. operations in Afghanistan require 22 gallons of fuel per soldier per day—at $200 a gallon—to protect and transport that fuel across rough terrain. For the first time, they said, the Defense Department's upcoming quadrennial report will address climate change and energy management.

"It was the most diverse group of people I've ever had the pleasure of being with," Frostick said, "and they each brought up a different aspect of the environment that we need to address."

The AFT is a member of the Blue Green Alliance, which is now accepting registrations for its Good Jobs, Green Jobs national conference May 4-6 in Washington, D.C. The conference will be particularly useful for members working in career and technical education, at community colleges, or in workforce development. To register through the AFT, contact Health&Safety@aft.org. [Annette Licitra, Darryl Alexander]

January 29, 2010