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SEIU Commits to Leadership on Environmental Justice; ECC Board Chair Gerry Hudson Elected Union's Secretary-Treasurer

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Declaring that “[t]he fight for environmental justice is inextricably linked to the fights for economic, immigrant and racial justice because the effects of climate change and environmental dangers disproportionately affect the neighborhoods and jobs of working people – particularly people of color,” the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has put environmental justice squarely on its 2016 agenda. The union will also work to put climate change on state and federal political agendas this year.

At its recent convention in Detroit, the union adopted a resolution, Environmental Justice for Working People, stating that SEIU members “know well” that “climate change is real” and that “working people, including SEIU members, their families and communities are directly and all too often disproportionately affected by threats of air and water pollution, climate change and extreme weather events,” as well as “are more likely to be confronted with environmental and health hazards at work.”

It adds, “Countries the world over need to transition toward 100 percent clean energy use by or before 2050 to prevent us passing the point of no return” for stopping “the advance of health, economic and natural disasters that are currently being exacerbated by climate change.”

The resolution also notes that SEIU members “have been on the front lines of responding when environmental injustice and climate change catastrophe strike,” citing “Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan [in the Philippines} and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.”

Linked Struggles for Justice
The resolution takes an all-encompassing view of various struggles for justice, pledging that “SEIU will lead in broadening the environmental justice and climate movement by linking” it with the struggles for “economic, racial, immigrant, gender and LGBTIQ equality.”

It adds that SEIU – “one of the largest organizations of working people, the majority of whom are people of color, and as residents of communities hardest hit by environmental abuse and climate change” – is “uniquely positioned to contribute to building a wider movement that creates fundamental change in our economic and political systems to win” justice in all these arenas.

According to SEIU’s newly-elected Secretary-Treasurer and ECC Board Chair Gerry Hudson, “The EJ resolution signals the desire on the part of SEIU as a whole to help build a collective response to the crisis of climate change. Importantly,” he continued, “the resolution brings together the need to act on climate and its impacts on health with the need to confront environmental racism.  Both have massive, detrimental impacts on our members, more than half of whom are people of color. As such, they and their neighborhoods suffer the most from the effects of climate change and pollution. The resolution brings those two pieces of our movement together.”

The resolution also recognizes the need “to create fair and positive transitions” for families and communities that depend on jobs in the fossil fuel sector or in the transport of fossil fuels. It promises that SEIU will work across the labor movement “to insist that any transition from a fossil fuel-dependent economy to a clean-energy economy must provide for a just transition for all workers and communities.” This would include:

  • Federal and state governmental action to require giant energy corporations to fund social services plus retraining and investment in hard-hit communities to create good-paying middle class jobs;
  • Government investment and support for retraining and job creation which includes assuring workers the right to organize unions at their workplace; and
  • Government policies that provide supplemental unemployment benefits for our members – and all workers – who are displaced by the conversion and cannot find jobs with comparable pay and benefits.

ECC Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs, Felipe Floresca, said: “With two million-plus rank and file members, SEIU has the power to add a large community voice to the environmental justice movement. Union members in New Orleans fight for community resilience, in Flint fight for clean water, and in Richmond, Calif., fight for clean air. SEIU offers a cadre of frontline community leaders across the country to fight for environmental and climate equity.”

ECC Board Chair Gerry Hudson Elected SEIU Secretary-Treasurer

Another highlight of SEIU’s recent convention – especially from ECC’s perspective – was the election of our Board of Directors Chair, Gerry Hudson, as the union’s secretary-treasurer. During his previous tenure as an SEIU executive vice president, starting in 2004, Hudson led the union’s political program and long-term care work.

SEIU Secretary-Treasurer and ECC Board Chair Gerry Hudson

The union cited Hudson's outstanding, decades-long commitment to environmental justice and dedication to addressing the disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation on low-income and minority communities.

SEIU said Hudson was honored by Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations for extraordinary leadership and continues to have a wide-ranging impact on the fight to improve the lives of working families and their communities. It added that as a result of Hudson's leadership of the union’s long-term care work, its members in that field “are building a powerful voice in the workplace and the political arena for both themselves and for the seniors and people with disabilities they support.”

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