As we look forward to the upcoming three-day weekend and plan how to spend the time with loved ones and with the land, you wouldn’t be alone if you’re wondering why we have a “Labor Day” at all.
Labor Day is a holiday to commend workers and the labor movement–it came about as a national holiday in the wake of massive labor disputes (the New York Times tells the history much better than we could ever hope to). It’s an excellent chance to thank the labor movement for the benefits we all enjoy today (including wage and work condition standards, an 8-hour work day, the end of child labor, and the list goes on).
Looking forward, there are plans to make beyond the Monday holiday. For starters, in the environmental movement, we need to work on building partnerships with our labor allies.
We’re often told (by some losing far-right candidates in particular) a false narrative about labor and the environment: it’s a pick one question between addressing climate change and supporting the economy. This narrative couldn’t be further from the truth–not only is the clean energy sector growing while traditional oil/gas is declining but creating climate solutions means creating jobs. A Just Transition includes and necessitates unions. The BlueGreen Alliance (an L48 nonprofit uniting the labor and environmental movements) puts it well: “Americans face the dual crises of climate change and increasing economic inequality, and for far too long, we’ve allowed the forces driving both crises to create a wedge between the need for economic security and a living environment. We know this is a false choice—we know that we can and must have both, and we need a bold plan to address both simultaneously.”
There is a massive opportunity for good jobs for Alaskans in creating a clean energy future (this study from the Alaska Climate Alliance does an excellent job, among others). And, at long last, we’re seeing momentum toward harnessing that opportunity from the federal level in the form of the historic Inflation Reduction Act. As we mentioned last week, the IRA’s wage and apprenticeship program requirements mean that the millions of clean energy jobs will meet union-created working standards. It is an essential step in the right direction for the clean energy industry, which often lags behind the standards of living that union workers in the fossil fuel industry have fought for and won over decades.
This Labor Day, we encourage you to support our labor partners. If you’re in Juneau or Fairbanks, please consider joining the festivities! (No events yet in Anchorage–but stay tuned to our labor friends on social - Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
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