Cornell University

May 21 2007

Conference Highlights from The North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis

The Cornell ILR School's Global Labor Institute convened perhaps the largest ever meeting of trade union leaders and environmentalists at "The North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis" in New York City on May 7th and 8th, 2007.

The conference addressed energy alternatives, job creation, policy options, and building stronger ties between the labor and environmental movements here and abroad.

It was sponsored by 10 major unions and attended by more than 200 trade unionists from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as 50 trade unionists situated in other regions of the world. Total attendance was more than 350, which includes representatives from the energy policy community and environmental organizations. ILR's Dean, Harry C. Katz, opened the two-day conference with a welcome to the large international delegation.

The gathering was hosted and addressed by ILR alumnus Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers. Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) made an impassioned plea for decisive action, and Sierra Club leader Carl Pope urged Congress to do more to fight greenhouse gas emissions.

Steelworkers president Leo Gerard, representing 1.2 million workers in the U.S. and Canada, explained why his union was taking climate change very seriously. "We are an environmental union," Gerard said. We understand that it's not a case of jobs versus the environment. The science is clear: it's either both, or neither."

"It was important for Cornell ILR to organize this event. Climate change will have a profound effect on the world of work in the years ahead, and unions have a special role to play in making sure that the transition to clean energy happens quickly and in a way that creates good jobs, " said Jill Kubit, the GLI's Assistant Director. "This was a special gathering. It's a tribute to Cornell that so many high-level people attended the conference."