National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine July-August-September 2016

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Donald Trump—we simply have no choice but to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. And this research is an effort to really pin it down. And maybe it has faults I haven't noticed yet, but at least it tries to be very specific." The Missing Link: Political Will or Necessary Pressure? what all of those now standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline appear to be clamoring for above all else is this: a shift. What one hears them say repeatedly is that they want another way of doing things, because the current path—whether of the pipeline itself, the political situation, or the energy system as a whole—is just no longer sustainable or tolerable. The tribal resistance to the Dako- ta Access Pipeline is evidence of that, but so are the deeper issues— including the sacredness of water and land or assaults on sovereignty and dignity. These larger arguments are repeatedly raised by opponents of the pipeline, proving that while this is cer- tainly about the Dakota Access Pipeline project, it's also about much deeper existential concerns and desires. And the same could be also be said of the very workers McGarvey is defending in his letter to the AFL-CIO. Everyone interviewed for this story spoke about recognizing and sympathizing with what it's like to be threatened with losing your job and what that means in terms of providing for oneself or one's family. "For those building trade workers," said NNU's DeMoro, "this is a threshold issue—their jobs. And it should be. That's why this is so horrible—because they're right. They should be mad. They're just mad at the wrong people." Peter Knowlton, general president of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), explained that even though he doesn't agree with position taken on behalf of the building trades union on the pipeline, he says he totally understands it. Though the UE is not an AFL-CIO affiliate, many of its members work in the fossil fuel and energy sectors. "But here's the thing," Knowlton told Common Dreams: "If we don't move to renewable energy, humanity is toast. And it will be the poor and the working class—not the rich—who pay the biggest price. We need all the workers to unite, but we'll need a common understanding in order to do that." Both Knowlton and DeMoro pointed to the presidential cam- paign of Bernie Sanders which, for them, provided a glimpse of what it would mean to actually foster such common understanding. The creation of the "Labor for Bernie" effort within the Sanders cam- paign, in Knowlton's words, "was truly amazing." What was so impressive, he explained, was how Sanders' presidential campaign was able to be a vocal advocate for workers—the "strongest we've seen in our lifetimes"—while simultaneously demanding urgency to act on climate. Though many people remain unable, or unwilling, to grapple with these issues, Knowlton thinks it is the responsibility of workers and their unions do so. "We have to deal with this, but we don't have a lot of time," he said. "The problem is that there's too little urgency among too many people." What he understands about those working in the fossil fuel industry is that those workers—and "not for nothing"—do have pen- sions, decent healthcare, solid wages, and safety laws designed to protect them on the job. In contrast, he says, many of the new jobs in the renewable sector have comparably "lousy pay, lousy benefits, and shitty health insurance." Pollin also noted this dynamic and deals with it specifically in his transition plan. That reality of job quality has to be dealt with, Knowlton argued. "It's not a winning strategy to tell workers to just 'Suck it up.'" Drawing from his experience working with both environmental and labor groups, Brecher thinks there are plenty of reasons— despite the resurfacing of old tensions—for optimism. "Just as in the rest of society," he said, "there is a growing recogni- tion within the labor movement—both among the rank-and-file and the lower-down leadership—of the realities of climate change which includes fear, worry, and concern. And out of that is a growing will- ingness to take action. And that's what really has to develop and be mobilized in order to change the behavior of those at the upper reaches of labor leadership." Indeed, said DeMoro, what's really troubling about the position of the AFL-CIO—and especially how it was articulated in McGar- vey's letter—is that it "basically creates a class war within the work- ing class in order to protect the company's profits. So that's a narrative we see out there, but it's a false dilemma. And it's a false dilemma, especially in the unions, because everyone wants these workers to have jobs." Meanwhile, in a fresh article published Thursday, 350's McKibben renewed his long-held argument that the physics, chemistry, and math of global warming are simply not concerned with politics or labor disputes. "This is literally a math test, and it's not being graded on a curve," McKibben writes. This test, he warns, has "only has one correct answer" and "if we don't get it right, then all of us—along with our 10,000-year-old experiment in human civilization—will fail." Putting that idea together with her concern for workers, DeMoro said the nurses at NNU and her fellow union leaders standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline understand the totality of what's at stake. "What we understand is that people's health must be pro- tected, that the planet must be protected, and that people's jobs and livelihoods must be protected." "That's not radical," she said. "That's just right." Jon Queally is managing editor of Common Dreams ( J U LY | A U G U S T | S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6 W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N A T I O N A L N U R S E 23

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