The San Diego Labor, Environmental and Community Coalition Calls for More Robust Relief and a Just and Transformative Recovery For All Americans and the Environment

The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus was created in part to formulate bold new political and policy initiatives that move beyond lip service to effectively address the two great issues of our age—historic economic inequality and climate change. To that end, the Labor Council adopted resolutions crafted by the Environmental Caucus that called for the construction of more public transportation, opposed the Keystone Pipeline, supported climate literacy in the schools, and advocated for a Green New Deal with Strong Labor Provisions.

Now the central unions who were involved in that caucus have decided that it is time to join together with environmental and community partners and form a broader labor-community alliance to speak to the current crisis.

We have all been hit with the COVID-19 crisis, and as we watched the large corporations and the billionaire class turn this dire moment into an opportunity to profit even as they fight against more funding for states, localities and American workers, we are moved to suggest a better way forward.

It is clear to many of us doing this work that the lack of preparedness by the federal government, the science denial, the inadequate response to the health and economic needs of everyday Americans, and the deep inequities that this crisis exposed foreshadow what will be an even more catastrophic failure if we are unable to marshal the will and resources necessary to address the growing economic disaster and climate crisis. We must do much better.

The good news is that the opportunity that this crisis presents is a chance to emerge from it by building a better city, state, and country. Just as the New Deal helped desperate Americans in the midst of the Great Depression by raising everyone up and helping to create a more economically fair society for working people, a Green New Deal, with American workers and strong labor requirements at its heart, can bring us out of the despair of the current moment by offering a better, fairer, and more sustainable future.

Recently, the national AFL-CIO released a statement on the five essentials that America’s workers will need with regard to the safety of frontline workers; protection of employment and pensions; solvent state, local, and national governmental services; the protection of healthcare; and the necessity to build more infrastructure. We agree that these bread and butter demands are essential, and we think the moment requires that we look not just to survive the current crisis but to build a better society as we re-emerge from it.

In that spirit, we support the basic principles of the People’s Bailout, another labor-community alliance, and their assertion that, “As policymakers take steps to ensure immediate relief and long-term recovery, it is imperative that they consider the interrelated crises of wealth inequality, racism, and ecological decline, which were in place long before COVID-19, and now risk being intensified. This is a time to be decisive in saving lives, and bold in charting a path to a genuinely healthier and more equitable future though a just recovery.”

Thus, we look not just for short term relief but a pivot to a “regenerative economy” over the coming years of recovery. Such an economy should:

  • Establish quality health care for all as a basic human right and ensure all Americans have access to quality healthcare.
  • Make collective bargaining in the work place a basic human right for all workers including those in the gig economy, restore and expand our system of unemployment insurance, and expand worker health and safety protections.
  • Dismantle institutional racism, sexism, and homophobia.
  • Every person has a right to safe and healthy housing. Accomplish this by expanding and preserving affordable housing and homeownership, particularly near transit and job centers; Focus the region’s limited resources on meeting the most-pressing housing needs; Require any new residential developments to include onsite inclusionary housing; Support the creation of jobs paying family-supporting wages and require at minimum that all residential construction projects pay a prevailing wage or include a project labor agreement where the workforce will be local, skilled and trained; Ensure existing residents can remain in their communities and support tenant protections that help ensure safe and affordable housing and protects residents from discriminatory practices; Support infill development and the building of affordable housing near transit.
  • Restore and expand the American safety net that has been decimated after years of assault. In particular, expand anti-poverty programs such as Medicaid; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Earned Income Credit, Supplemental Security Income program; Housing Assistance, Pell Grant, Headstart, etc. and other forms of essential aid.
  • Fully fund and expand quality public sector services in all areas including K-12 education, free college for all, in-home care services, childcare, eldercare, mental health services, public safety, social services, and arts.
  • Ban the privatization of public services.
  • Reinstitute and expand environmental protections and regulations, protect and reinvest in the national and state parks, and declare a climate emergency to address catastrophic climate change.
  • Make a massive investment in rebuilding our infrastructure and transforming our economy for a Zero Carbon future that partners with union apprenticeships and includes strong labor standards and requirements. This means an exponentially larger ¬public works investment in the spirit of the New Deal: to repair our crumbling infrastructure; build a nationwide network of clean and affordable public transportation that actually makes it possible for Americans to live work, and travel the country without destroying their children’s futures; transform existing buildings by making them greener; make our country climate resilient; restore the natural viability of our lands; support regenerative agriculture; and support a historic buildout of renewable energy and transportation electrification.
  • Support all of this by rethinking our social contract and reinventing the American tax code in a way that takes us back to the New Deal era when the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share. We have reached our current, historic level of economic inequality after decades of wealth being redistributed from the bottom to the top. As the tax burden has gone down for the economic elite, it has been shifted to working people. If we want to avoid years of crushing austerity and suffering for the vast majority of Americans, it is time to talk openly about progressive taxation as the key to creating a just and sustainable future. The alternative is a bleak, dystopian future of American oligarchy.

We realize that in the current context, where President of the United States and the Senate majority leader are promoting suicidal policy for the nation, these demands may seem difficult to achieve, but we believe that the surest way to ensure the perpetuation of an unjust economy is to refuse to imagine a just one. We need to demand the seemingly impossible to make space for it to become possible. The first step is to change the discourse and move forward with a bold vision.


2020 (c) - The San Diego Labor, Environmental, and Community Coalition