SEIU 1021 members host a statewide conference to build unity in the fight for climate justice
Last Saturday, November 4, more than 150 SEIU members from across California met in person at the SEIU 1021 San Francisco office and via Zoom for a Climate Justice Conference, hosted by SEIU Local 1021.
President Theresa Rutherford welcomed members from SEIU 1021, 221, 721, 1000, 2015, and USWW, saying, “Climate change is not a phenomenon: It’s now a crisis, and it has been for a long time. It disproportionately affects Black and brown people, and that’s why SEIU 1021 has made this a priority.”
The conference’s keynote speaker was Tefere Gebre, chief program officer for Greenpeace USA and longtime California unionist.
He highlighted the crucial importance of the climate on working people’s jobs and communities and the crucial need for working people to take the lead in fighting for climate justice. As he said, “The days of separating our paychecks from the air we breathe are over. We first have to protect our environment and where we live to protect our jobs.”
Panelists from locals across the state then spoke about the actions their members have been taking, including:
- Oscar Antonio, a USWW member who has worked at Los Angeles International Airport for 23 years. He highlighted the harsh health effects he and his coworkers have suffered, including pneumonia, heart disease, asthma, and cancer from the airline emissions, which also affect the Black and brown communities that lie in the path of the airlines. He called for union members to get involved, saying, “We are the only ones who can fight the system.”
- Maribel Castillon, a public health nurse in Los Angeles County from SEIU Local 721, spoke about holding polluters accountable (check out this video to learn more)
- Other speakers included: Kathy Hughes, executive director of SEIU Nurse Alliance; Tyler Brown, a transportation planner for CalTrans and Local 1000 member; Sarah Spaulding and Ana Grasia from Local 2015; and Avery Wear from Local 221.
Small group breakouts of participants shared what had excited them from the conference and what next steps they were ready to take. Participants reported that they were impressed by how many locals were taking action, and there was broad support for the statewide campaign to stop neighborhood drilling. If you’d like to get involved, visit CAvsBigOil.com.
The conference concluded with thanks from SEIU 1021’s Social and Economic Justice Committee chair Nicole Christian, who reminded all in attendance that climate justice must be integrated with the union work of racial, social, and economic justice.
The Climate Justice Committee meets every third Wednesday of the
month, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For Zoom details, contact Chema
Hernandez Gil at
email@example.com or Martha Hawthorne