We need bipartisan action on climate change

Posted10/30/2018 1:00 AM

By Susan Hurley

Guest columnist

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For working families in Illinois, there's a lot a stake in this election. The fate of our families, our future and our values are on the line. The people we elect a week from now will be making critical decisions on fair taxes, workers' rights, public education, and access to affordable health care. Our activists are working this election to educate voters on all of those issues.

And we're talking to voters about taking action on climate change.

Our coalition of labor and community organizations stands firmly on the side of choosing to shape the future we want and need for working families, including on climate change. For too long, elected officials have been able to play the labor and climate movements against each other, claiming that our agendas are so directly opposed that they can't say yes to one without saying no to the other.

This is a false choice. Our movements have come to understand this as a tool of division that keeps us weak. We know we're stronger together. And we know this is a fight we have to win.

That's why Chicago Jobs with Justice is partnering this election with the People's Climate Movement to educate voters about the need for action on climate, jobs and justice. Our members are talking to voters about the need for living wage union jobs as we create a just transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy.


A clean energy economy must be a fair and just economy. And the best way to make sure that happens is to have unions at the table as we build it. That's exactly how environmental justice organizations have worked with labor and community organizations at the Illinois Climate Table and the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition to create and pass the Future Energy Jobs Act, which is already transforming the energy economy in Illinois. Sierra Club Illinois, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, and IBEW Local 134 have been leading this incredible effort to create the new living wage, union jobs we need in a new clean energy economy. IBEW Local 134 in particular has been visionary on this issue by investing in union training programs and facilities for wind and solar power industry jobs and putting considerable political muscle into the effort to pass the Future Energy Jobs Act.

Illinois has shown the way forward. And on Tuesday, Nov. 6, we have an opportunity to choose leaders who will fight for a better future for our families and communities.

Conventional wisdom says that voters don't care about climate. I don't believe that's true, because if you care about the economy, if you care about jobs, then you care about climate change. The recent U.N. climate report made it terrifyingly clear that we are out of time on this issue. But we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear or fatalism. We can choose right now to vote for candidates who believe in science, believe in taking action, believe in rebuilding our communities with living wage, union jobs in a clean energy economy.

That's why this election we're knocking on doors not in the city, but in the suburbs, the home of swing voters. We are talking to voters in places like Naperville, Wheaton, St. Charles and Downers Grove because ultimately, this can't be a partisan issue. We have to inject these issues into the political conversation everywhere in Illinois in order to create the political environment necessary for the change we need.

Together we will create a future that we can all thrive in. It's our best and really, only option.

Susan Hurley is the executive director of Chicago Jobs with Justice.

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