Wisconsin Strengthens Ties Between Labor and Environment

By Bryan Farrell 03-16-2011

Corporations have long used the false rhetoric of "jobs versus the environment" to pit what would be natural allies -- environmentalists and labor activists -- against one another. But the dire threat facing unions in Wisconsin at the hand of corporate interests has actually provided an opportunity to reverse that trend and rally against a common enemy. As Rainforest Action Network recently explained on its blog The Understory:

If you're concerned about the environment you should care about what's happening in Wisconsin because the same people, the same corporate interests that have orchestrated this attack on workers are also lobbying to slash funding for the EPA, working to destroy any notion of climate legislation and securing massive handouts for big polluters.

Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag have bought and paid for our democracy, and it is their agenda that our elected representatives are serving. Billionaire polluters like the Koch brothers who funded the crippling of last year's climate bill and are now going after the EPA, are also funding this attack on our state's teachers and other public workers. The same big corporations that have a vested interest in minimizing environmental regulations are pushing to cut the power of workers.

If the only good thing that comes out of the uprising in Wisconsin is this reawakening of common interests and needs between labor and the environment, the effects could be far reaching. As RAN points out:

What's happening to workers across the country should matter to environmentalists because our movements need the strength of workers and unions, and their movements need us. For far too long we have been divided into niche issues. It is past time we show up for each other. Not only because it's right, but also because that demonstration of collective power is the only way to win. Can you imagine the day that all environmentalists, union members and educators, pro-choice activists, immigration and racial justice activists all worked together? That is the day when we win our country back.

[This article appears courtesy of a partnership with Waging Nonviolence.]

Bryan Farrell is a New York-based writer, covering topics that range from the environment and climate change to foreign policy and militarism. His work has appeared in The Nation, In These Times, Plenty, Earth Island Journal, Huffington Post, and Foreign Policy In Focus. Visit his website at BryanFarrell.com.

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