Around the country the basic right of workers to organize and collectively bargain is under attack. Ground zero for this battle has been Wisconsin, but the threats are arising all over the country. In Minnesota, Governor Dayton has promised to veto any legislative attack on workers’ rights, but this has not stopped the drumbeat of anti-labor and public worker demonization.
Recognizing the close link between the rights of workers to defend their workplaces and the rights of environmentalists to defend the environment, the Sierra Club has taken a number of steps to support worker rights. National Executive Director Michael Brune has used his blog on two occasions (February 16 and March 1) to lay out the case for Club support of workers’ rights. The John Muir Chapter in Wisconsin has released a statement supporting the protesters and the State Senators who have left the state to prevent action without sufficient public review. Further, On February 23, the Club circulated a petition which reads, “I stand with working families. We deserve the right to form unions as we see fit to protect our jobs and our communities.”
The North Star Chapter has been active locally. At two recent rallies at the State Capitol, the Chapter was well represented with people, signs, and our banners. On February 22, the Sierra Club banner and Blue Green Alliance signs were prominent as Minnesota citizens rallied in the Capitol Rotunda in support of the Wisconsin protests. On February 26, at a support rally held in the cold outside the Capitol, Sierrans holding their “Protect Workers and the Environment” signs were in evidence.
As an active and founding member of the BlueGreen Alliance, the Sierra Club shares a particular kinship with workers and their right to clean and safe workplaces and communities. We are fighting together for a clean energy economy which will create thousands of new green jobs and for workplace and community regulations that will assure clean and toxin-free work and living spaces. In this battle, we face a common enemy: corporate power whose principal goal is to increase profit, often at the expense of workers and the environment.
The Minnesota Sierra Club is gearing up for continued battles. Recently we hosted a briefing about possible legislation to create a constitutional amendment establishing Minnesota as a so-called “right to work” state. (House File 65) “Right to Work” is often called Right to Work for Less, because it weakens unions financially and at the bargaining table. A so called “Right to Work” amendment would allow a worker in a shop under a collective bargaining agreement to enjoy the benefits of the agreement without being required to pay any dues. Yet, the union is still legally required to represent all the workers at the workplace. Why should environmentalists care? Strong collective bargaining agreements give workers the security to be able to speak up if a workplace hazard is endangering themselves or the community.
To be a part of this struggle, sign the Club petition, or for additional action or information, contact Brett Smith, Chapter Blue Green representative and Co-Chair, or call the Chapter office and indicate your interest.