October 26, 2012
* Progressive alliance between labor and environmentalism
* Partner of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection
Established in 2006, the Blue Green Alliance (BGA) was created by the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers union. It quickly grew to include also the Natural Resources Defense Council; the SEIU; the American Federation of Teachers; the Laborers’ International Union of North America; the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association; and three AFL-CIO unions — the Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the Utility Workers Union of America. The political nature of BGA’s endeavor is reflected in the organization’s name: “Blue” refers to the Democratic Party; “Green” refers to environmentalism.
With its national offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota and additional offices in Washington DC, BGA has expanded its operations into 7 other states — Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. With 1.3 million members, BGA aims to “transform” the American economy through greater reliance on renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass); increased energy efficiency; an expansion of mass transit and rail transportation; a new smart grid; residential weatherization and commercial retrofitting of buildings; and other “green” solutions to what it characterizes as the climate crisis. BGA’s four principal goals reflect its labor/environmental origins:
* “Pass comprehensive clean energy and climate change legislation [most notably, Cap and Trade] that is based on two overriding principles — the best scientific advice on reduction targets and solutions that create and save millions of American jobs.” (BGA seeks to reduce U.S. emissions by at least 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.)
* “Restore the rights of workers in the United States to organize and bargain collectively.” [Note: BGA’s Employee Free Choice Campaign supports the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would strip union workers of the right to vote by secret ballot.
* “Establish a 21st Century trade policy that promotes growth and prosperity across all sectors of global society, and embeds enforceable labor, environmental, and human rights standards in our trade agreements.”
* “Create an informed 21st century policy on toxic chemicals that protects workers and communities from dangerous chemicals, enhances public health and promotes safer alternatives.”
BGA is home to the Blue Green Alliance Foundation (BGAF), which works in partnership with Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection (ACP) on the Labor Climate Project to expand anti-global warming initiatives through the new labor movement. BGAF also works with cities and states throughout America to implement green-jobs strategies.
David Foster is BGA’s Executive Director. From 1989 to 2006, he served as director of United Steelworkers District 11, which spans a 13-state region including Minnesota. Foster also serves on the advisory committee of the ACP, which is chaired by Al Gore.
BGA’s staff contains many other prominent labor activists. Sara Letourneau, a 14-year organizer for the SEIU, directs the ACP-affiliated Labor Climate Project. Under her, Katie Gulley and Lauren Horne are both regional program managers of the project. Gulley previously worked for the Change to Win federation, and Horne was an AFL-CIO lobbyist and organizer for the United Steelworkers. BGA’s national communications director, Kelly Schwinghammer, worked for the SEIU and two other labor-affiliated groups, America Coming Together and Families USA.
A number of BGA staffers bring environmental connections to the alliance. Margrete Strand Rangnes is the Deputy Director of BGA and continues to direct the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. Michael Williams, formerly of the National Wildlife Federation, is BGA’s legislative representative at its Washington office. Before BGA, he worked for Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), considered “an icon of progressive politics.” Williams helped Doggett craft the Climate MATTERS Act, one of the most leftwing climate-change bills in the 110th Congress. Jason Walsh, BGA’s director of policy, is another environmentalist with connections to green progressivism, having previously worked for Green For All, which was founded by Van Jones and Joel Rogers.
BGA champions a “fundamental transformation of the [American] economy.” According to David Foster, combating global warning means rebuilding America’s manufacturing sector: “If we’re talking about this massive rebuilding of American cities around the adoption of energy-efficient technologies, it’s a huge opportunity to rebuild what you might call unskilled and semi-skilled work forces of American cities.” Such a rebuilding process, Foster argues, does not begin with the private sector; rather, it first requires government funding: “I think it’s a question of simply allocating the resources to do it and of convincing policy makers to understand that in a clean-energy economy, we’re going to be building a lot of things that we weren’t building before.”