Dharna Noor, writing for earther.gizmodo.com, makes a compelling case why a piece of labor legislation that never mentions the weather or the climate is nevertheless a key component of the Green New Deal. I agree with her. Below I amplify and extend her arguments. Noor sees the Green New Deal as a desirable end in itself; I see it as a means to fulfilling America’s promise and preserving its democracy.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO) is a climate issue, which is partly why passing the Democrats’ PRO bill is so important. Not only will it facilitate America’s transition to a clean energy economy by protecting existing workers displaced from fossil fuel jobs in coal mining, oil production, natural gas fracking and paying them as they retrain for clean energy jobs, but as several studies have concluded, it will also create millions of new jobs in a green economy. In one area directly related to climate change, many workers will be needed to cap the thousands of abandoned oil wells that dot the country, many of which are leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Another climate-related area of job growth is the construction of thousands of new energy efficient homes. Another vital new job sector is electrifying the millions of homes, offices, and factories that use gas for heating, cooling, and cooking. Just in New York City, the task is monumental, but if the country is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the effort must be nation-wide. The Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) sector will boom.
Other climate-related sectors the PRO Act will help include autoworkers as that industry transitions to electric vehicles. Detroit is not the only labor sector that will be affected as the climate crisis deepens and as America goes green. Farmworkers beset by
rising temperatures will be enabled by the PRO Act to organize for better pay, working conditions, and benefits. Meatpackers will face job cuts as Americans eat less animal meat, more plant- or cell-based alt-meat. The Covid-19 pandemic was a direct result of climate change insofar as it raised the likelihood of the transmission of zoonotic diseases from animals to humans. The pandemic revealed how essential care workers are to our economy. A full recovery is dependent on organizing, training, and valuing the contributions to the economy of child-care, elder-care, hospitalized- or disabled-care workers. Other displacements will ripple through the American economy as it accommodates to the already-upon-us climate crisis, the new realities of post-pandemic life, and the displacements caused by the increasing ubiquity of AI (Artificial Intelligence), 5G (Fifth Generation Internet), IoT (the Internet of Things), TaaS (Transportation as a Service), and increasingly sophisticated robots. American society, the American economy, and the American polity will all be under great stress from the changes induced by the climate, by greater digitization, and by the too-long-delayed reckoning for racial justice. Our democracy is already being tested. One vital way to make and cope with the changes required of us is through legislation that enables and ensures that the life of every American is valued and his or her labor is equitably recompensed. The PRO Act is a first giant step on that path to equality and justice. Failure to take that step, and the many others needed to reach a more perfect union, will imperil not only Labor’s right to organize, but our democracy, our climate, and the habitability of the only planet most of us will ever know.