Friday, August 19, 2011



When Bill McKibben asked me to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, I was concerned what might happen if I did. I might look like an enemy of every worker who might gain a much needed pipeline job – denying them the very opportunity that let me support myself and pay for my own education. I also feared it would strain my ties with some of the unions supporting the pipeline. But if I was silent, wouldn’t my silence equal consent to something I knew would be devastating to the planet, its people, and to the labor movement itself? I was talking the talk, but would I walk the walk?

I’ve decided to walk the walk. And here is what I will tell my friends about why I am doing it:

To my friends in the labor movement I say: We can’t build our future by destroying our future. If labor is to have a sustainable future, it must be as a central player in the sustainability movement. We must fight for jobs for our members that will truly “pave the way for better days” rather than destroying their and their children’s futures. Support deep reductions in the burning of fossil fuels, support the measures climate science says are necessary to protect people and the planet, and rebuild the labor movement around the jobs of the future.

To those who might get a job on the pipeline I say: We’re blocking the pipeline to save your future too. But I know I won’t be able to look you in the eyes if I and those I am marching with don’t fight to make sure there are decent jobs for you and your kids — building the kind of world we need.

To my friends in the climate protection, environmental, and sustainability movements I say: We can’t let climate protection make victims of workers who happen through no fault of their own to be in the way of changes that are necessary to protect the climate. Work with us in the labor movement to better understand that sustainability starts at the kitchen table. Support full employment policies, support Blue-Green Alliance’s Jobs 21 campaign, support the AFL-CIO’s program for full employment, and fight for a just transition that protects the wellbeing of workers and communities who may be hurt by side effects of climate protection policies through no fault of their own.

And to myself I say: I am marching not against the labor movement but for the labor movement, for the labor movement to be what I have always in my heart believed it to be. To be the “community in operation” my parents fought for; the labor movement I have spent my life building; the labor movement that makes it possible for working people to fight for what they really need.

The time to begin drastic reductions in carbon emissions is past – we haven’t a moment to waste. So, If not now, when? If not this issue, what issue?

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