WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Labor unions say they are withholding support for a Green New Deal unveiled by Democrats last week to transition the American economy away from fossil fuels, arguing the loosely-defined plan could kill jobs if its architects aren’t careful.
The cool response from unions underscores the challenge facing Democratic presidential hopefuls who support aggressive action on climate change but must also win back the blue-collar voters that swept President Donald Trump to victory in 2016.
The Green New Deal is a non-binding Congressional resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey that would legislate government-led investment in clean energy infrastructure with the goal of making America carbon neutral within a decade.
Democratic presidential hopeful Senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren have already thrown their support behind it.
The resolution’s backers say the plan – once fully sketched out in the legislation – would create jobs in much the same way as President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s by putting Americans to work on transformative government-led projects.
Union officials told Reuters they were skeptical.
“We will never settle for ‘just transition’ language as a solution to the job losses that will surely come from some of the policies in the resolution,” said Yvette Pena O’Sullivan, executive director of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), whose members work in construction and other industries.
Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers (UMWA), which represents workers in the coal industry, echoed the concerns.
“We’ve heard words like ‘just transition’ before, but what does that really mean? Our members are worried about putting food on the table,” he said.