By JEFF JOHNSON
(Sept. 29, 2014) — A week ago Sunday more than 400,000 people, including 10,000-plus union members, marched through the streets of New York City with a simple but profound message — our fossil fuel-based economy is on a collision course with climate disaster.
U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon said, “Climate change is a defining issue of our time, there is no time to lose. There is no plan B, because we do not have a planet B. We have to work and galvanize our action.”
Author and social activist Naomi Klein spoke Sunday at the Washington State Labor Council’s new Seattle offices at 321 16th Ave S. to a group of 60 labor and community members about the climate crisis and how we can and must radically transform our economy if we are to have a sustainable economy and a sustainable planet.
Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything, is the clearest and most profound exposition of the scale of the crisis in front of us, but also holds out hope that it’s not too late to turn things around. According to Klein, it will take a radical transformation from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewable energy economy — an economy that works in the best interest of the community and not the best interest of Exxon Mobil.
“It’s not like the economy is working really well and we have rising sea levels, we are protecting the fossil fuel giants that are causing sea levels to rise while the economy does not work well for most of us,” Klein said.
After speaking at the WSLC, Klein addressed a sold-out crowd at Seattle’s Town Hall.
A week ago Sunday, there was a shadow People’s Climate March and Rally in Seattle that I was able to address on behalf of organized labor. Click here for my comments.
Leaders Walk – Set an Example
Labor-community walks were held in the 35th, 44th, and 45th Legislative Districts this past Saturday. Labor leaders Larry Brown (IAM 751), Randy Scott (State Council of Plumbers and Pipefitters), Richard Burton (WSNA), Greg Devereux (Executive Director of WFSE Council 28), Mike Sells (Snohomish CLC), Richard Spenser (IUOE 286), Lynne Dodson (WSLC Secretary-Treasurer), and I walked in these districts.
Greg Devereux and I knocked on 84 doors in Thurston County in support of Irene Bowling’s run for the State Senate in the 35th. I was so very impressed with the example that Greg set for his members. After months of bargaining, and particularly grueling sessions over the past two weeks, Greg put in three hours walking to help change the Senate. Greg literally talked the talk, and walked the walk. He knows that as a labor movement we lose if a pro-working family majority doesn’t reclaim control of the State Senate.
Every other labor leader, rank-and-file member, and community member that walked on Saturday knows that if we want to advance the cause of working families and pass a Shared Prosperity Agenda we have do more than just contribute dollars to candidates. Click here for the list of upcoming Labor’s Voice walks and phone banks.
Huge Turnout for Hyatt Workers
“Hyatt, Hyatt — you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side.”
Last Thursday, more than 100 union and community allies picketed in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Pine in Seattle demanding that the owner, Richard Hedreen, agree to the “Fair Election” proposal signed by Hyatt nationally with UNITE HERE in 2013. Hyatt’s in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore and others have already signed and hospitality workers in those Hyatt’s now have a voice in the workplace.
There was a huge cross union-community participation on the picket line, including many newly organized Local 8 workers at Seattle University, and some incredibly brave Hyatt workers.
Yuan Ping Tang, a recent immigrant from China and, a houseman for the Hyatt at Olive 8, spoke eloquently about the need to stand up against the exploitation of immigrant workers at the Grand Hyatt and Olive 8. Yuan explained that for the first two years on the job he, his wife and son could barely afford to survive, “For two years we never ate out, never celebrated holidays or birthdays, never went on vacations, or watched movies. We just went to work and we went home.”
Yuan knows the risk he is taking by speaking out but he knows it is the right thing to do, “the boycott may cost workers like me money, but the cost of doing nothing is much too great. I don’t want to be afraid anymore, and I am asking the community to support us.”
And the labor movement and the wider community is asking Mr. Hedreen to look to his better angels and sign the national “Fair Election” agreement so that workers who wish to have a voice at the workplace, can.
SW Central Labor Council and the SW Labor Roundtable
On Friday night, the 30th Anniversary Labor Awards Banquet was held at the Vancouver Hilton. Roy Jennings, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Legislative Council and Secretary-Treasurer of the SW Washington CLC, emceed the program attended by more than 100 labor, community and political leaders.
Both WSLC Secretary-Treasurer Lynne Dodson and I were able to attend this year and we saw the “Union Leader of the Year” award go to Ed Barnes — long-time IBEW Local 48 leader, Labor Roundtable leader, and interim Clark County Commissioner.
To me this was the highlight of the evening. Ed bleeds union and community. At 82, Ed Barnes is a force of nature who stands up to protect working families and his community every chance he gets — which means every day.
Ed told a story I hadn’t heard before. He was born into a union family in Scotch Run, West Virginia, where his father was an organizer for the mine workers union. In 1919, his father was shot twice by soldiers who were brought in to protect the mine owner’s property. Courage and union runs deep in Ed’s family.
The evening was a great way to celebrate the accomplishments of both unions and community allies in Southwest Washington.
Jeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 500 local unions and 400,000 rank-and-file union members.