(L-R SEIU 503 President Mike Powers, Ivonne Rivero, Carol Kelly, Carolynn Kohout, Emily Wang, Patty Falkenstein at the Oregon Labor Climate Summit)
By: Carol Kelly
Last week, the Oregon Blue Green Alliance hosted Oregon’s first labor climate summit. Representatives from more than a dozen unions across our state were there together in one room to discuss the impact of climate change on workers and what we can do as union members to address this crisis. The Blue Green Alliance is a national coalition of labor unions and environmental organizations and SEIU is a leader in Oregon’s chapter. We heard from firefighters and nurses who treat people who are weather casualties, electricians and steelworkers who work on green infrastructure, and SEIU 503 members like me who struggle with extreme weather when we provide care for people in their homes.
The summit showed the breadth of union presence in Oregon’s economy as well as how climate change impacts all of us. At the end of the day, we all need clean air to breathe and safe water to drink. No matter how we may feel politically or concerns we may have about a green economy, we’re all affected by climate change and agree that our transition to a renewable economy must center impacted workers.
Climate change is a global crisis and we are running out of time to make the changes necessary to save our planet. We can’t change the world if we cannot have unity among workers on this issue, beginning here in Oregon. The summit gave me hope that our state can continue to emerge as a leader in a just transition to a renewable economy where workers are heard, valued, and respected.
It will truly take all of us, and I believe we’re on our way. Our union is lucky to have a president who makes climate justice a priority, a dedicated committee to move the work, and broad support from our members to continue to engage. If you’re interested in joining SEIU 503 members to work on this critical issue, reach out to the Climate Justice Committee and support our workgroup resolutions at General Council later this month.
Carol is SEIU 503 AFRAM President, Homecare Council Director, and serves on our 2022 General Council Fair Economy, Housing & Climate Justice Workgroup.