Photo: Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants speaks at the AFGE Convention.
Sara Nelson, who will open the first panel at the LNS Labor Convergence on Climate in June, is international president of the Association of Flight Attendants representing 50,000 workers across 20 airlines. In a recent article for Vox, Nelson writes that flight attendants and airline workers have been told by some pundits that the Green New Deal, will ground all air travel. But Nelson says, “That’s absurd. It’s not the solutions to climate change that kills jobs. Climate change itself is the job killer.”
“Extreme turbulence” she writes “is on the rise around the world. It isn’t just nauseating or scary — it’s dangerous.” Severe turbulence is becoming more frequent and intense “due in part to climate change.” For flight attendants, “these incidents pose a serious occupational risk.” And as extreme weather events become more common, more and more flights never take off at all. When the polar vortex plunged most of the US into a deep freeze in January, airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights. Heatwaves, thunderstorms, and other effects of climate change similarly make it impossible for airplanes to fly. “Grounded flights mean lost pay for flight attendants, who earn an hourly wage while we’re in the air.”
Our federal government must spearhead a national mobilization that brings these efforts together, harnesses American ingenuity, creates millions of well-paying union jobs, and saves the planet for our children. That is the vision of the Green New Deal resolution. It’s the moonshot of our time.
Architects and proponents of the Green New Deal also need to address the history of the “fair and just transition” the resolution promises. Too many communities have heard those words, only to see jobs disappear while the promise of retraining and new jobs never materializes. Workers are skeptical, and the opponents of meaningful action are taking advantage of that distrust.
If we can’t overcome suspicion that tackling climate change just means job loss, we’ll never enlist workers — or millions of others in jobs that rely on carbon-based fuels — in the solution.
Climate change is happening now. We need to get serious about it. Aspiring to achieve a green economy with good union jobs that leave no one behind is exactly the solution we need to fight climate change and provide opportunity for all Americans.
A version of this post was previously published on Labor4sustainability.org and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: Labor Network for Sustainability