America’s teachers speak up for climate action
By Mary Gable
There’s arguably no group more invested in—and responsible for—our nation’s future than our teachers. And since American schoolchildren are unlikely to have to defend themselves from grizzly bears anytime soon, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) recently recognized a much more persistent and credible threat: climate change.
The AFT, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, represents more than 1.6 million members nationwide, including early childhood through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals.
On February 3, the organization passed a resolution on “A Just Transition to a Peaceful and Sustainable Economy.” The resolution outlines the broad consensus on the need for climate action and affirms AFT’s commitment to climate justice, including support for legislation that places a fee on carbon pollution.
“We will solve the climate crisis only when we in the labor movement put our unions at the center of the climate justice movement,” the resolution states. It mentions bills that have been introduced in Congress to put a price on carbon, including the Climate Protection and Justice Act introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2015. It adds its own gesture of support by saying, “In order to speed the transition toward renewable energy, the AFT will support legislation that places a fee on carbon pollution.”
Endorsements are an important way that CCL raises awareness and builds political will for its proposed legislation. Dave Massen of CCL’s Labor Outreach Action Team says, “Strong climate resolutions from organizations, including from prominent labor unions like the AFT, help the climate movement by influencing elected officials, including members of Congress.” The AFT’s resolution adds to a growing chorus of voices imploring Congress to act.
The climate movement and the education sector have much in common. “[Education is], in fact, the epitome of green jobs—low in carbon emissions and vital to the wellbeing of our communities,” the resolution says. And both, we’d argue, are critical to a just and livable world.