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Union leaders, labour activists, environmentalists, social justice and community advocates met together in New York this month to educate, organize, and mobilize union members on global warming and environmental issues.

The North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis: Building a Global Movement for Clean Energy attracted participants from around the world to learn and build alliances for a progressive plan of action on climate change. 

Speaker after speaker emphasized that the United States and Canada need to take bold action to reverse global warming and in the process create millions of well-paying jobs - and reduce the damages from global warming and pollution.

International delegates from Germany and other countries informed participants about the hundreds of thousands of union jobs that have been created in their countries through energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and the large savings that have been gained.  

Labour and social justice advocates emphasized strengthening environmental justice and ensuring that poor and marginalized communities benefit and are involved in the solutions, particularly since they will be worst hit by the impacts of climate change.     Labour and environmental activists shared strategies for organizing new members, educating members and the public and workplace measures.

Participants also focused on specific policy measures, challenges of job loss, potential for new jobs in different sectors, and how labour can help to shape climate change climate change policy and agreements at the local, regional, national and global levels - and how the public sector needs to play a leading role.

The assembly was attended by a number of Canadian labour delegates, including representatives of the Steelworkers, CAW, the CLC  and Public Services InternationalCUPE staff economist Toby Sanger participated in support of continued work CUPE is doing on the economics of climate change and to help strengthen CUPE’s alliances with other unions and environmental organizations.

As Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers said in his keynote speech: “The science is there, the economics is there; the only thing that is missing is the political will.  We can do it in a generation, not 50 years.  If it’s going to get done, it’s going to get done by us: an alliance of labor people, environmental people and young people.”