Truthout: The Green Justice Coalition, Helping Labor and the Environment

March 24, 2011- According to Republican governors in places such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, our states are in crisis and the only solution is to squeeze middle-class employees. Unions, in their view, are part of the problem. And if you point out that their attempts to seize power in the name of balancing budgets do little, if anything, to solve the real economic problems we face, they will insist that there is no alternative.

They are dead wrong. There is a better answer.

These governors could travel to Boston and the North Shore in Massachusetts to talk to Ana Perdomo about how we can create jobs, raise working standards and increase services for hard-hit communities – all while reinvesting public dollars in local taxpayers' communities. The politicians might even learn a thing or two about protecting the environment.

A remarkable process has taken place around green jobs in the Boston area. It did not come easy, but rather took hard work and cooperation from local labor unions and community organizations. These are the groups that Perdomo encountered when she first became active in green justice organizing. Having been involved with a community organization known as Neighbor to Neighbor, Ana learned about training that was providing information about home weatherization. She was interested because she knew first-hand the financial hardship that inadequate insulation and drafty windows could cause in low-income communities. "My bills were so high that I often felt I would pay so much on my heating that it was almost like paying a second rent," she explains.

Impressed by the workshop, Perdomo committed to help educate others. Together with another neighbor, she formed the Lynn Green Justice Committee. For the past two years, she has led community outreach efforts and joined in the actions of a broader network known as the Green Justice Coalition.

Founded in 2009, the Green Justice Coalition brought together labor activists, environmentalists and community groups to make sure the concerns of each of these constituencies would be heard. While Perdomo focused on making sure that green energy drives reached into low-income communities that often did not benefit from weatherization programs, other members of the region-wide coalition worked to make sure that public money used to support these programs resulted in the creation of decent jobs – and that these jobs would go to members of local communities. The result, Perdomo believes, is "a new way for us to push forward our economy, our communities and our country."


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