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Union Busting and the GOP’s War Against the Environment

Protests inside the Wisconsin State House against the GOP efforts to bust the public union

Protests inside the Wisconsin State House against the GOP efforts to bust the public unionRepublican efforts to break unions in states across America have dire implications for the environment. It is no secret that the GOP are opposed to unions and those who advocate on behalf of the environment. Union-busting, like the Republican war on the EPA, is part of a multi-pronged thrust to undermine the Democrats and environmental protection.

Unions are the Democrats’ power base, the same way the Christian right is the Republicans’ power base. Unions are the Democrats’ biggest sources of financial and grass roots organizational support. Republicans are using their victories in November’s mid-term election to declare an all out war against unions. Republicans have already been successful in blocking state employees from forming unions in 12 states and 22 states have undermined unions with so-called “right-to-work” legislation.

On Friday February 25, the Wisconsin Lower House voted 51-17 in favor of a union busting bill, which strips most public workers of their collective bargaining rights. Republican Governor Scott Walker has said that he will not compromise on the collective bargaining issue. Walker’s support for the bill to weaken unions has not been deterred by the tens of thousands of people who have flocked to Madison to stage sit-in protests.

Republicans are anti-union because they advocate on behalf of corporate interests. Unions have contributed to American prosperity and the growth of the middle class; they have helped to increase the buying power of Americans while growing the tax base. Unions have also played a critical role in changing employer attitudes towards ‘greening’ the workplace and creating safer, healthier working and living environments. Unions are often the driving force behind energy savings which are a huge cost benefit for their employers. Unions are also behind efforts like recycling and raising public awareness about environmental issues.

While Republicans have consistently voted against legislation to manage climate change, unions have been champions of environmental laws. This is illustrated by the testimony of Bob Baugh, Executive Director AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council and Chair AFL-CIO Energy Task Force on Climate Change bills before the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

“The AFL-CIO believes it is time for our nation to take bold steps to meet the 21st Century challenges related to climate change. Scientific evidence has confirmed that human use of fossil fuels is undisputedly contributing to global warming, causing rising sea levels, changes in climate patterns and threats to coastal areas. Unrestrained growth in greenhouse gas emissions poses critical economic and environmental issues. This challenge is an opportunity to enact an energy policy that will result in a cleaner planet, greater energy efficiency and the revitalization of our manufacturing base.”

As indicated by a report from AFL-CIO Energy Task Force titled Jobs and Energy for the 21st Century, unions advocate for a forward looking energy policy: “It is time for our nation to take bold steps to meet the 21st century challenges related to energy policy. We believe our nation should embrace a balanced approach that assures abundant, affordable energy supplies, creates good paying jobs for American workers, improves the environment, and reduces our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”

Unions are not without fault and many states need to make adjustments to ease their deficit. Americans are prepared to make concessions, but they do not want to lose their collective bargaining rights altogether.

A February 2011 Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans said they would oppose a bill taking away collective bargaining rights of public workers in order to balance the budget while only 33 percent would support it.

By using the budget to break unions across America, Republicans are declaring war on workers and enlarging their war on the environment.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.

Image credit: Jessie Reeder, courtesy Flickr

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2 thoughts on “Union Busting and the GOP’s War Against the Environment
  1. I have been following your articles on this site and you always raise interesting points, Thank you for you well written interesting articles.

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