Boston climate march built solidarity

By CHRISTINE MARIE

A Dec. 12 rally and march for Jobs, Justice, Climate in Boston constituted the first coordinated effort by New England 350.org chapters to build concrete relationships with economic justice and social justice organizations.

New England 350 developed a partnership with several key Boston-based unions and immigrant rights organizations, gathered the endorsements of more than 140 organizations, and put more than 2000 people in the street to say “no” to the COPS 21 agreement.

In this effort, the activists were inspired by the Sept. 26 televised “launch” of the 350.org strategic framework called the “Road Through Paris,” in which Naomi Klein and others motivated seeing the climate crisis as the opportunity to join with everyone to build a new sustainable economy that was also equitable and just.

The union endorsements included those of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Service Employees Union Locals 508 and 1199, and the Vermont AFL-CIO, along with other important multi-union economic justice coalitions.

While the mobilization size was relatively modest in light of the significant endorsements, it was the largest climate demonstration that the network has organized so far. Perhaps more importantly, the speeches were dramatic in what they suggested about the kind of movement and alliances that can and must be built.

The first of two rallies opened with a talk by Derek Pelotte, a young 350 activist and teacher from the working-class and highly immigrant town of Lowell, Mass. Pelotte moved the crowd by explaining that to win on the climate, we must “build the future across movement lines. We will do this together, or not at all.”

Alluding to Cornell West, who said that movement building is really “loving publicly,” Pelotte listed the political tasks facing those who want to create inclusive and powerful coalitions to save the planet.

“Loving publicly,” he said, “means acting as witnesses in testimony against police brutality, of which poor and minority communities are disproportionately subject…

“Loving publicly means standing with our disgracefully underpaid service workers, adjunct professors, construction workers, home-care workers, machinists, truck drivers, delivery personnel, and airport and dock workers, and walking arm in arm to fight for their right to $15 an hour and the right to unionize. Loving publicly looks like standing with our DREAMer allies and declaring that there are no illegal people; there is only racist exploitation of the most vulnerable among us.

Solidarity, Pelotte concluded, is a revolution in its own right.

The material basis of this solidarity was brought dramatically home by Black Lives Matter activist Jean Charle, who spoke when the march reached the State Street bank: “It’s not a secret that State Street financially supports pipeline projects. It’s not a secret that State Street supports private prisons.”

This theme of solidarity as the key to victory was brought home over and over again as the crowd responded throughout the day to the presentations of Karen Higgins, the national co-president of National Nurses United; John Robbins, executive director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations; Sherri Mitchell of the Penobscot Nation; Adrian Ventura, director of a New Bedford, Mass., workers’ center: John Harrity of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists; and many others.

Harrity concluded the day by explaining why climate change is a labor issue. “Workers are on the front lines of the consequences of climate change—not just here but around the world,” he said. “We are also on the front of the solutions—ready to manufacture new technologies, build energy efficient infrastructure, and maintain a decentralized power grid.”

We must take the road, Harrity said, to a new world that is “cleaner, more democratic, and economically equitable.”