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NY Labor Marches with the People for the Climate

September 22, 2014
By Marc Bussanich

New York, NY—In what was billed as the biggest march ever for the climate, thousands of New York labor union members marched with thousands of others here on Sunday to demand that world leaders take meaningful action this week at the United Nations to reduce greenhouse gases.

In the accompanying video, we interviewed several labor leaders to get their reaction to the march’s significance.

We asked Jon Forster, executive vice president with AFSCME DC 37, the city’s largest public sector union, what would he say to people who point to cold winters in New York as evidence that global warming isn’t happening.

“The earth is getting warming, which means we have more and more water in the atmosphere. We have way too much water on the East Coast, way too little water on the West Coast. It doesn’t affect everybody the same way. I expect we’ll have very heavy snow this winter, and that’s because of climate change,” said Forster.

Sean Campbell, president of IBT Local 813, whose members are on the front lines of recycling the city’s waste, said he hopes that world leaders this week take strong action.

“If we don’t recycle in a big way, we’re going to lose this planet. We saw what happened with SuperStorm Sandy, and these things are going to get worse and worse if we don’t clean up our act,” said Campbell.

NYC Council marches in the People's Climate March
NYC Council marches in the People’s Climate March

Kim Glas is the executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations working to create more green jobs, said she believes the earth has reached a tipping point.

“We’re absolutely there. This is a critical issue that will need all of our collective voices. We hope our voices are amplified to the UN leaders meeting later this week to solve this issue on a global level,” said Glas.

Fred Kowal, president of the United University Professions, whose members work for SUNY, said he hopes world leaders commit to reduce rising greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

“I think it’s imperative that there’s a global commitment by all world leaders to making massive changes in the way we use energy. We cannot delay any longer. They have to make the big decisions this week,” said Kowal.

Raymond Greaves, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, New Jersey’s State Council, can’t believe that there are still politicians denying climate change.

“I don’t know what world they’re living in. The people today have seen dramatic changes in the climate. We went through Hurricane Sandy with my brothers and sisters here in New York. We saw the threat from global warming, and we don’t want to see it again. So we need to do something, and do something now,” said Greaves.

We asked Chris Erikson, business manager for IBEW Local 3, why was it important for New York’s labor movement to march for the climate.

“It’s important because the transition [to green jobs] that’s going to happen in this country and it has to be about good, sustainable jobs. That’s why we’re here supporting this event, and of course the bigger issue [of global warming],” said Erikson.

And we asked Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the New York State Nurses Association, what she hopes world leaders at the UN do this week.

“I hope they realize that we are serious and we are not going to stop doing this until they do something about getting rid of greenhouse emissions and changing to renewables for energy and creating good green jobs for our people,” she said.


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