Connecticut activists demand 100% renewable energy, jobs and justice

jan-2017-connecticutBy SUSAN ROGERS

“To Change Everything, It Takes Everyone!” Under this mantra of the new climate justice movement, 400 Connecticut activists joined a “March for Jobs, Justice, and a Livable Earth” on Dec. 3. Picket signs carried the slogans voted up by the planning committee and included: Emergency Transition to 100% Renewable Energy Grid! Mass Electrified Transit for All! No to the Fracked Gas Buildout! No to Environmental Racism! No to the State Budget Cuts! and Yes to Jobs & Justice!

The event broke new ground for the climate movement in the state, garnering significant union endorsement and the participation of some of the newest strikers from the Hartford Fight for Fifteen.

The speaker’s platform and march route demonstrated the organizers’ goal of making concrete the relationship of the fight to halt runaway climate change and the struggles for jobs and racial justice. For example, at the kickoff rally of the event, activists heard from John Harrity, the president of the state machinists’ council, who spoke of the contribution workers can make to building a fossil-fuel-free world. Bishop John Selders, of Moral Majority CT, a group well-known for actions against police brutality, educated the crowd about the power of the Black radical tradition and the need for social movements to learn this history.

The first stop on the march was Union Station, a train and bus depot, where Mustafa Salahuddin, the president of the Bridgeport, Conn., Transit Workers Local 1336, spoke of his union’s commitment to fight for green mass transit for all. At TD Bank, activists expressed solidarity with the water protectors and veterans at Standing Rock.

At the Main St. Burger King franchise, Vanessa Rodriquez, a Dunkin’ Donuts worker who was arrested in the recent Fight for 15 day of action, explained why she had chosen to sit down in the street. “I did it because we are all strong together. Whether it is the Fight for 15, climate change, or immigration, if we stand together we will win!”

Although the protest was launched by the usual trinity of the most active state climate organizations—that is, 350 CT, the Connecticut Sierra Club, and the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network—organizers hammered away in the call on the need for a climate movement that was linked to the everyday struggles of working people. The call began, “The fight to preserve our planet and halt climate warming is inextricably tied to the struggle for all the other elements of a decent human life: jobs, health, equality, and justice.”

The drive for endorsements was accompanied by more language about this commitment and said: “The climate movement stands ready to cam-paign with the labor movement, the Movement for Black Lives, Native Americans, climate refugees, immigrant communities, environmental jus—tice activists, conservationists, and other community movements for a massive program of good green jobs and a turn to focusing on the needs of people over fossil fuel profits.”

Immigrant rights activists who were approached about participating in the march asked for more explicit attention to the threat hanging over them of more deportations, and the 350 chapter voted to add that the march was not only against environmental racism but would “Stand with Immigrants and Climate Refugees.”

In the end, the protest was endorsed by not only a large number of local climate action and peace groups, but also by the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and by four major state labor organizations. The latter included the State Council of Machinists, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Greater Connecticut Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union, and the Connecticut UAW Cap Council.

The increased willingness of labor unions to endorse local climate actions is likely based, in part, on the opening created when many national AFL-CIO affiliates openly bucked the reactionary position on Standing Rock that was expressed by the federation president, Richard Trumka. But the now daily media coverage of the growing evidence that catastrophic change is inevitable without drastic encroachments on the prerogatives of big business is also having its impact on the ranks of the labor movement.

All this speaks to the potential of the April 29 People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., to put hundreds of thousands of working people in the streets and to kick off a new wave of organizing the unorganized millions who are ready to fight for a decent life in an unpolluted world.

Photo: Courtesy of Connecticut Sierra Club.