Climate Crisis Is Every Working Person's Crisis

In recent weeks, working people have taken to the streets to stand up for higher wages, protesting corporations that make big profits but pay poverty wages. This Sunday, thousands of us will be out in the streets again, this time to take our place in history by standing strong at the People's Climate March in New York.

It's projected by some to be the largest global mass protest ever, with an estimated 100,000 people expected in New York alone and 150 related events planned worldwide. Thousands of working people -- union and non-union alike -- will be there because the global climate crisis is a working person's crisis.

Everyone knows that when extreme weather caused by climate change hits our communities, working people are our first line of defense -- as police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, doctors, transit workers and emergency aid workers.

And while all of us feel the impact when climate disasters hit close to home or affect those we love, it's projected that 70 percent of the those hardest hit will be people who are poor and people of color: working people whose low wages can make them exceptionally vulnerable.

When disaster strikes, they are most likely to bear the brunt and may even become "climate refugees." They lose their homes, their jobs or weeks and weeks of work and pay. Our union brothers and sisters who hail from countries like Guyana and the Philippines have seen the carnage and the costs first hand.

Although it doesn't grab headlines the same way as floods and wildfires, millions suffer each year from childhood asthma or breast cancer diagnoses that have been firmly linked to urban air pollution. And hard-working, low-income people are also more likely to live in or near an area subject to current pollution -- and to suffer the health consequences.

Will we leave the children we love a safer, healthier planet than the one that was handed off to us? Will they breathe clean air, swim in the ocean, find jobs in healthy communities and a healthy economy? This is why we march.

Though not a single working person is immune from the climate crisis, all of us will benefit if we band together to solve it.

Together with our allies in the environmental movement, union members have concluded we need a wartime-like effort to shift to a clean energy economy, with working people as empowered partners in this change.

Union members -- including SEIU sisters and brothers -- are already addressing climate change, with truck drivers advocating for cleaner driving standards, construction workers championing green building standards and janitors using green cleaning products. Many of our communities are home to businesses in the solar and wind energy sectors, which are growing much faster than the U.S. economy itself.

We won't let national and global leaders off the hook. We will hold them accountable if they align with big corporations that put their bottom line over human health and well-being. They would have us all believe the big lie that economic growth and job growth are at odds with cleaner communities.

We know the facts, though. It is time for our leaders to heed the call of working people for bold action on climate. When we stand strong and united, we will deliver on our vision of a clean energy future and on its promise of more jobs, better jobs and stronger communities.