AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that current concentrations and ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases will continue to cause increases in global temperatures, warming of the world’s oceans and increases in the average sea level rise for many centuries; that irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system may already have been reached or passed; that ecosystems as diverse as the Amazon rainforest and other natural wildlife and forest reserves across the world have or are approaching thresholds of dramatic change; and that these events will transcend generations; and

WHEREAS, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas for the purposes of electricity generation and transportation is the primary source of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions; and

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization reports that rising temperatures and rising seas, as well as diminished air and water quality, lead to significant health risks such as heat-related risks, cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, vector-borne infection, illness related to contaminated water, loss of shelter and compromised food supplies; and

WHEREAS, there is growing opposition to the negative health and environmental effects of fossil fuel extraction and consumption; coal-specific fossil fuel-dependent regions across the United States have been economically devastated by the shift from coal consumption; and the remaining coal jobs across the country are expected to steadily decline over the coming years; and

WHEREAS, working families, frontline communities, communities of color, low-income communities and other vulnerable populations suffer disproportionately from environmental degradation and climate change events such as extreme hurricanes, wildfire, drought and flooding, extreme heat and the spread of infectious disease; and

WHEREAS, studies show that 13 million Americans could be forced out of their communities and jobs due to climate change by the next century; and,

WHEREAS, hundreds of institutional investors in the United States and abroad have taken steps to divest their dollars from fossil fuel companies; and energy companies may actually pose a long-term risk to pension fund portfolios because there is a risk that governments could regulate oil and coal companies so extensively that their equities are devalued; and

WHEREAS, the International Labor Organization has reported that large economies moving toward greener and more environmentally sustainable transitions could generate up to 60 million new jobs worldwide over the next two decades; and

WHEREAS, the American Society of Civil Engineers has reported that if the American infrastructure investment gap is not addressed throughout the nation’s infrastructure sectors by 2025, the economy is expected to lose almost $4 trillion in gross domestic product, and that these gaps in infrastructure funding combined with climate change pose a potentially serious impact on worldwide water resources, energy production and use, agriculture, forestry, coastal development and resources, flood control and public infrastructure; and

WHEREAS, working collaboratively with industry partners, career and technical education teachers can prepare students for a green economy by developing CTE programs with sustainability and environmental content, and by providing opportunities for students to gain hands-on, project-based experience directly tied to emerging professions and family-sustaining jobs; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Defense is the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, and the AFT has repeatedly endorsed the principle of reducing military spending (except for veterans’ benefits) and using the money saved to create millions of jobs in a peaceful green economy, including transitioning many weapons production jobs to peacetime production jobs; and

WHEREAS, private investment for transitioning from fossil fuels has been completely insufficient, and multinational corporate interests strongly oppose public efforts for a just transition, especially public financing and labor protections; and

WHEREAS, working collaboratively with parents, communities and public institutions across the United States, teachers and professors can prepare diverse students to be informed leaders for a just green society by developing curricula and programming that create inclusive democratic spaces for learning and collaboration promoting sustainability, resilience and climate justice; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers represents workers from all sectors of the economy and across all demographics who have a significant stake in the development of a green economy that can both slow the crisis of climate change and build an economy and strengthened public sector based on the foundation of a strong labor movement with family-supporting wages, benefits and shared prosperity for all; and

WHEREAS, the labor movement must be at the center of shaping climate policies to include a just transition for workers and communities, including tax-base support for impacted communities, wage replacement and parity for affected workers, retirement protections, partnerships between industry and communities on emerging green industries and jobs, continued access to healthcare, zero-cost education and training, a job guarantee, expanded collective bargaining rights, and prioritizing the needs of historically marginalized communities that have disproportionately suffered from environmental injustice, racism and systemic exclusion from well-paying jobs; and

WHEREAS, emerging studies have begun identifying potential sources of job growth in regions that are experiencing a decline in fossil fuel demand, which can be found through sustainable regional solutions in partnership with economists and industry experts, projected over long periods across generations of workers:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will fully participate in shaping the definition of “A Just Transition to a Peaceful and Sustainable Economy,” as outlined in our 2017 resolution by that name, and in accord with the latest climate science regarding the need for very rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support policies that enable local and regional communities to develop, produce and own renewable energy, as well as federal, state and local policies for improving and transitioning public transportation and for promoting greater fuel efficiency and energy conservation; and


RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with local school districts and other organizations, as appropriate, to educate students about climate change, economic inequality and potential solutions to these problems, such as a Green New Deal; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will explore with other unions, community and environmental organizations the possibilities for a national green schools campaign calling for retrofitting and solar panel installations for our nation’s public schools; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT supports a Green New Deal funded by:

  1. progressive taxes on the rich, such as a wealth tax; top marginal tax rates for the wealthy of 70-80 percent, as was the case during the original New Deal; and a Billionaire Net Worth Tax; and
  2. reductions in Department of Defense spending by at least 10 percent (except for veterans’ benefits); and

RESOLVED, that the AFT supports a Green New Deal, prioritizing projects, union career opportunities and investments in working-class communities, low-income communities, and communities of color, which, historically, have been disproportionately impacted by pollution, high unemployment, poverty and environmental injustice; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will ensure that no worker is left behind; that protections are guaranteed for workers and communities directly impacted by the gross negligence of the fossil fuel industry; and that robust investments are made in union career opportunities for working-class communities, low-income communities, and communities of color, which, historically, have been impacted by environmental injustice; and

RESOLVED, that this labor body will undertake an effort to educate and advocate with our community allies and elected representatives to support a Green New Deal that simultaneously addresses the harms of climate change and economic inequality as urgent and severe, and that addresses them together in a bold, ambitious and urgent national mobilization of the public and private sectors for a peaceful and sustainable energy economy.