Labor Unions Express Concern with Green New Deal

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The much-hyped Green New Deal sponsored by NewYork  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey was released to great fanfare last week. The resolution aims to make the U.S. carbon neutral within a decade while also investing in new green jobs and upgrading existing buildings in the U.S. to make them more energy efficient. It’s backers say that the plan will create jobs in much the same way as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal did in the 1930’s. However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed skepticism that the plan is workable and that the costs to economy may be too great to justify any benefits.

Labor unions in particular have expressed their concerns with language in the proposal that calls for a “just transition” for current fossil fuel workers through guarantees of healthcare, jobs, and job training as the Green New Deal phases out all types of fossil fuel jobs such as coal miners and pipeline workers. That currently amounts to around 1.9 million Americans losing their good-paying middle class jobs. 

Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers (UMWA), says “We’ve heard words like ‘just transition’ before, but what does that really mean? Our members are worried about putting food on the table,” he said. UMWA reports that it was not contacted for input before the plan was released. 

Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, representing construction workers, also expressed his concern. Members “working in the oil and gas sector can make a middle-class living, whereas renewable energy firms have been less generous,” he said at a pipeline safety event last week.

In the past labor unions have been very supportive of taking action to fight climate change, but the Green New Deal’s requirement to put all existing fossil fuel workers out of business is likely to cause hardship for workers and their families. It’s also important to remember that fossil fuels provide power to around 80% of U.S. citizens and bankrupting those industries will ripple throughout the economy. Even Representative Ocasio-Cortez herself has admitted that the Green New Deal would be a “massive government intrusion.”

While ambitious plans like the Green New Deal are often praised by environmentalists, there’s little evidence that they will actually work well enough to justify the costs. And we should all step back and take notice when plans such as these try override the free market and force large amounts of people out of their jobs in order to fit an agenda. We can only hope our lawmakers will consider all the facts before supporting this resolution.