Published Tuesday, October 5, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News
New alliance promotes jobs, environment
Labor, preservation organizations say they'll battle corporate greed
BY ANDREW QUINN Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO -- Labor unions and environmental activists -- often bitter
foes in the battle over natural resources -- announced a new alliance
Monday to fight rogue corporations and "misguided" international trade
pacts such as the World Trade Organization.
The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment brings together
environmental heavyweights such as the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth
with labor groups including the United Steelworkers of America, Teamsters
and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.
"Jobs vs. the environment is a false conflict," said David Brower, the
pioneering environmentalist and longtime Sierra Club director who serves as
co-chair of the new group. "The real issue is to create jobs for the
With a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Monday, the
alliance began looking for allies in what it says is a fight to prevent
corporate greed from hurting working families and the natural environment.
"These corporations are treating the natural world as their smorgasbord and
treating working people as their waiters at that buffet," said Karen
Pickett, an organizer for the Earth First environmentalist group. "The
bottom line is there are no jobs on a dead planet."
Roots in Maxxam fight
The alliance said it had one particular big corporation to thank for
bringing it together: Houston-based Maxxam Inc., whose Pacific Lumber unit
has fought environmentalists over its plans to fell ancient redwood trees
and whose Kaiser Aluminum subsidiary has locked 3,000 union workers out of
plants in Washington, Ohio and Louisiana.
Dave Foster, Northwest district director for the United Steelworkers, said
the lessons of labor's joint fight with environmentalists against Maxxam
could be applied to different areas where the two groups have similar
interests, noting that business plans must often be environmentally
sustainable to make long-term economic sense.
"The companies that are the most flagrant in their attack on the
environment are often the most flagrant in their treatment of working
people," Foster said.
The alliance, which will be based in Eureka, near the towering redwood
groves that Pacific Lumber planned to cut down, will also take on global
free-trade advocates as well as corporate interests.
Seattle protests planned
It will spearhead a series of large protests next month at the World Trade
Organization summit in Seattle, accusing the global trade body of seeking
to subvert "U.S. laws protecting clean air standards, endangered species
and worker safety as barriers to free trade."
"According to the WTO, our democratically elected officials no longer have
the right to protect the environment, worker safety and jobs," Foster said.
"We will make sure that basic American standards of fair trade,
environmental protection and workers' rights are on the table."
With almost 200 labor and environmental organizations already aboard, the
alliance is hoping to serve as a clearinghouse for information and a focal
point for joint action, both in lobbying Washington and in protesting on
Brower, who at 87 is one of America's most respected environmental
activists, said the alliance was aimed at establishing "new thinking" about
how the working world and the natural world interact and interdepend.
"The Earth is hurting, and we are hurting, too," Brower said. "Denial does
not correct it, and that's what we're into now."
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