Takeaway: Members of our union played a leading role in advocating a resolution passed at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention that gives strong support to the Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal to combat climate change while promoting jobs and workers’ rights. We’re proud of our parent union and especially of our union colleagues who are showing us all the way in the fight against climate change.
At its convention held virtually last week, the AFT took a strong stand for the environment and labor with a resolution supporting the Green New Deal—and it was our members who got the wheels in motion to get there.
The Green New Deal would tackle the urgent threat of climate change with a national commitment to move the United States off fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gas emissions by tapping renewable energy sources. The proposal, sponsored in Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Edward Markey and Bernie Sanders, takes its name from FDR’s New Deal because of its massive public works proposal that would guarantee new, good-paying jobs in clean industries. Thus, the Green New Deal would simultaneously challenge climate change and economic inequality.
The resolution (read it in full here) concludes with the AFT’s promise to:
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.
AFT President Randi Weingarten has thanked Rutgers AAUP-AFT members for their leadership on the resolution. “This is about more than one piece of legislation or one resolution,” she said in a statement. “It’s about what kind of world we leave for our next generation. Our educators and paraprofessionals, nurses and health care workers, and public employees wake up every day to support and educate young people so they are ready and able to serve their communities. This resolution tells that generation: You can have a real impact, and we stand with you in this fight.”
Our union’s support for the Green New Deal proposal started taking shape last summer when climate scholars at Rutgers began talking with David Hughes, our treasurer and past president, about what our local and the AFT could do nationally to support the new environmental justice activism led by such organizations as the Sunrise Movement. “Our union represents more scholars of climate change than any local in the world, so we were the logical first movers on this,” says David.
In the fall, Rutgers AAUP-AFT passed its own resolution endorsing the Green New Deal and the September 20 Climate Strike that drew 800 people to protest in New Brunswick. Meanwhile, David made the case for supporting the Green New Deal to the AFT Executive Council and took a place on a task force that eventually—with the support of other locals, notably the Boston Teachers Union, Chicago Teachers Union, and United Teachers Los Angeles—drafted the resolution for this month’s convention.
David says it’s important for a union like the AFT to “put its head above the parapet” and take a strong position on the Green New Deal. “We as teachers represent truth, and we have to act in accordance with the truth here and repel the know-nothingness that’s coming out of the Trump administration. We have knowledge, we’re teaching knowledge, and we’re generating knowledge about a catastrophe that’s incredibly important for everyone. We’ve got to use whatever mechanism we can as academics to implement the logical change that follows from that knowledge.”
Now that the AFT is committed to a groundbreaking resolution on the Green New Deal, David looks forward to what unions can accomplish next. The AFT’s national task force will focus on supporting the Sunrise Movement, persuading other international unions to endorse the Green New Deal, and putting forward ideas about how public education as a whole can contribute to a move to renewable energy.
“The Green New Deal is about structural changes,” David says. “It has to be, and I believe in structural changes, much more than the failed market solutions to limit carbon that haven’t worked. But there’s also a third way, which supplements the top-down structural change: worker-led decarbonization. We can say that we want our workplaces to generate clean energy and provide resilience for surrounding communities.”
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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Read how Rutgers AAUP-AFT is confronting the crisis here.