Shuler: Labor and Climate Issues Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler’s remarks as prepared for delivery at the Fight for Our Future Earth Day Climate Rally. This speech was cross-posted from the AFL-CIO website here.

Hello, everyone! I’m Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, representing 12.5 million working people across the country in 57 unions who are going to help us build the clean energy future.

Thank you to the Fight for Our Future coalition for bringing us all together today.

It is great to see so many of you—especially so many young people, our next generation of leaders—out here in this fight.

Labor issues and climate issues are two sides of the same coin. And I believe that the solution to the climate crisis runs right through the labor movement.

Unions have boots on the ground in every community, in every corner of the country. And we are already on the front lines of the climate crisis.

When there’s a hurricane or a flood or a wildfire, it’s our members who are on the ground fixing power lines and rebuilding damaged infrastructure. We see the impacts of the climate crisis every day—how it affects not just our jobs, but our families and our communities.

And as our weather gets more and more extreme—with colder winters and hotter summers—working people are paying the price.

I’m from Oregon, and last summer there was a record heat wave out there. Farmworkers were out in the field working in temperatures as high as 104 degrees.

One man, Sebastian Francisco Perez, was working on a farm trying to save money to have a baby and start a family. He was moving irrigation lines in the field in that heat for hours. When his coworkers realized they hadn’t seen him in a long time, they started searching and found him unresponsive.

He died on the job from heat exposure. He was just 38 years old.

If we don’t address our climate crisis, there will be more stories like his. We can’t accept that.

There’s no question that the labor movement feels the urgency of addressing the climate crisis every day.

We know we have to do more than just react and rebuild. We have to get ahead of this crisis by creating the next generation of solutions and clean energy.

The bipartisan infrastructure law is a good start. It’s helping us build a national electric vehicle charging network, make buildings more efficient, replace lead pipes to clean up our water, and so much more.

But we have to keep going. This problem is too big to stop there.

So let’s call on Congress to pass the Building a Better America Agenda and make historic investments in a clean energy future that’s made in America.

Everything from solar panels to offshore wind turbines should be built in American factories. And those jobs—the ones that your generation will be doing—should be good union jobs.

These should be careers, not gig contracts. They should be safe. With good pay.

Let’s build a future where labor and environmental standards go hand-in-hand.

Let’s hold companies’ feet to the fire.

Let’s make jobs in solar and wind, electric vehicles and greener public transit, and the next generation of technology good union jobs from day one.

Together, our movements can make that happen.

And we can work to make those opportunities available to people in every community—especially those most harmed by the climate crisis. The communities of color who have long borne the brunt of pollution and climate change should be at the center of our solutions to this crisis.

Because we can’t move forward if some of us are still left behind.

So let’s raise our voices—work together—and fight for the change we need.

Let’s call on our lawmakers to help us build that future.

And let’s build a better country and a better planet—together.

Thank you.

You can view the livestream recording of the Fight For Our Future Rally here.

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