As global warming has worsened in recent years, environmentalists and union members have often protested against each other, whether over fracking, oil pipelines, coal production or the Green New Deal. But an innovative new labor-environmentalist effort in New York – to build offshore wind turbines to power up to 6m homes – is a sharp departure from all that feuding and shows that these two groups can work together to advance renewable energy and reduce dependence on carbon-based energy. Giving this plan a vital boost, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced plans to have the state’s energy authority invest billions of dollars to build hundreds of offshore wind turbines.
For Cuomo, this plan is key to New York state’s ambitious mandate to obtain 70% of its energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2030. But what really makes this plan special, however, is not how it will benefit the environment, but rather, how it will benefit the people who need it most as more than 10,000 middle-class, union jobs will be created as a result. The offshore wind turbines are at the heart of the climate plan the unions developed, but it also calls for installing more solar panels, improving and expanding mass transit and renovating buildings to make them more energy efficient.
The unions’ plan talks repeatedly of a “just transition” so that workers who lose good-paying jobs when, for instance, coal-fired power plants close could be trained for good-paying new renewable energy jobs. As we look for better ways to switch to renewables, this new plan shows the powerful role that unions can play in speeding up the transition.