SEIU 1021 Pledges to Work for Environmental Justice and Climate Action
Convention Delegates Adopted the Environmental Justice and Climate Action Plank by 94%
The third plank of the 2021 Virtual Convention was one that hasn’t always been a priority for labor unions—but is becoming undeniably more urgent every day.
Working Families Party National Director Maurice Mitchell started off by sharing a personal story about how Superstorm Sandy robbed him and his family of everything they had in just moments. It drove home the point that climate change is not an abstraction or a hypothetical—it is happening now, and it’s hitting working people and communities of color the hardest. We have to move fast to avoid the worst of what could come—and, critically, we need a broad coalition of interests to make it happen and make sure no one gets left behind along the way.
“1021 was boldly in solidarity with victims of police and vigilante violence last year and boldly called for justice in those cases. You know a thing or two about what it means to be in solidarity across movements. This is an opportunity to do that right now,” Mitchell said. “Coalition-building means bringing our full selves to the process by acknowledging that we’re all in this together.
“We need good paying jobs, but what’s the value of a good paying union job if the environment you live in is hazardous to your health? We need good paying jobs that repair our infrastructure, but what good are these jobs in an environment where you can’t afford to buy a home or rent an apartment in the neighborhood you work in or take a trip to work without being assaulted by the police?
“It’s about good jobs AND the environment AND police accountability AND investments in workers. This is the future we deserve.”
Delegates voted by 94% to adopt the environmental justice and climate action plank, including a commitment to create and resource a program within six months to take action on climate with measurable objectives, as well as forging alliances with intersectional movements for environmental and climate justice and building climate-friendly criteria into political endorsements, collective bargaining demands, and more.
Read the full environmental justice and climate action plank below.
Environmental Justice and Climate Action
Across the globe, working people, our families, and our communities are increasingly and most acutely affected by the serious environmental, economic, and health impacts of the climate emergency. Dating back to 1912 and earlier, we’ve known that coal consumption affects our climate. As recently as 2021, the United Nations has warned us that unless we make rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, we will not avoid the worst impacts of climate change, triggering tipping points of no return with irreversible consequences.
It is no accident that working families, communities of color, and Indigenous and rural communities are disproportionately impacted by both climate change and increasing economic inequality; these issues share the same roots. Wealthy corporations and co-opted politicians have rigged the rules of our economy and deregulated environmental protections to pad corporate polluters’ and big businesses’ bottom lines at the expense of our families and communities.
SEIU members are on the front lines of the climate crisis, whether by fighting for all working people to be able to work hard and thrive or by living in communities impacted by the legacy of environmental racism. We are the first responders, healthcare workers, public service workers, nonprofit workers, and property service workers who see the impacts of climate change firsthand. We know that fighting for environmental justice and confronting climate change are necessary to winning our vision for a just society with an economy that works for everyone and not just a privileged few.
Communities in Northern California are facing the impacts of our changing climate in myriad ways, from choking smoke and devastating fires to days-long power outages, record-breaking heat waves, historically severe droughts, and record-breaking flooding. Our members live and work in these communities. Recreation centers and care workers provide respite from heat and smoke; our public works employees work to keep services going; and our outdoor workers face ever more brutal conditions. Social workers, nurses, public health workers, and others provide services and care to those in need on a day to day basis and especially in times of need.
It is beyond time that our union deeply integrates the fights for racial, economic, and environmental justice into the fabric of our union.
Therefore, for our leadership and staff to make good on
our April 2016 Resolution in support of climate action, be it
- We, SEIU Local 1021, will educate members, officers, and staff about climate change and the need for climate and environmental justice. By increasing support for member outreach and education, we can mobilize rank and file members to join intersectional fights for racial, economic, and environmental justice in all SEIU 1021 jurisdictions. This should include developing an understanding of how our members’ lives at work and at home are impacted by these issues.
We will commit to and resource a program to take action
on climate change within six months that includes measurable
objectives. This plan will use our skills and expertise as
union members and public employees to promote solutions that
mitigate the effects of the climate crisis and that will
protect and advance the rights and interests of all workers and
our communities. Such a plan will:
- Prioritize climate and environmental justice in our bargaining demands and common good campaigns;
- Develop workplace demands to increase the capacity to address the increasing repercussions of climate change;
- Amplify our political, policy, research, and budget work, as well as take action in all jurisdictions. We will advocate for SEIU California to make this a legislative priority. This plan will advocate for the creation of state, county, and local “tables.” We will work with allies and stakeholders to advocate for mitigation and adaptation policies to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels, with a goal of equitably and justly reaching near zero emissions no later than 2030;
- Develop candidate endorsement criteria which include assessing contributions from coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, and chemical corporations, as well as corporations that pollute water;
- Engage in movement coalition-building with allies and mobilize rank and file members to join climate action campaigns through base-building in all our regions;
- Support a strong labor front for climate jobs and a Just Transition to a renewable, sustainable energy system at the local, state, and national levels, including officially joining the California Labor for Climate Jobs Coalition to prioritize support for the California Climate Jobs Plan;
- Expand our Just Transition beyond the energy sector by moving our economic system away from continuous resource extraction and toward one based on providing for human needs, equity, and care for the ecosystem and other life in a sustainable manner;
- Support Indigenous and grassroots environmental justice campaigns to protect land, air, and water.
- We will work with energy providers to use renewable energy to power union halls and offices. We will seek incentives and find ways to promote the adoption of clean energy transportation for staff and members, such as but not limited to telework. The union will work to decrease the use of disposable plastics in union offices or at union events and research how to retrofit buildings and make certain that all newly constructed buildings meet or exceed the latest energy efficiency and sustainable building standards.