NY Renews: Building a Labor-Environmental Justice Coalition

By Mark Schaeffer

New York City and Albany DSA chapters are members of New York Renews (NYRenews.org) a coalition formed in 2015 to bring unions, environmentalists, and communities of color to work together based on their common interests. NYR is dedicated to a just transition to 100% renewable energy in NY State, living-wage jobs, and justice for communities on the front lines of climate disruption and toxic pollution and for workers displaced from jobs dependent on fossil fuels. Crucial to the coalition are commitments to fair labor standards and access to jobs and funding for communities of color as well as the understanding that massive investments in clean energy would create a jobs bonanza.

NY Renews extends beyond the usual green suspects, such as 350.org, Catskill MountainKeeper, Environmental Advocates, and the Sierra Club to New York branches of the Communications Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Transport Workers Union, the United Auto Workers, the New York State Nurses Association, the New York State Union of Teachers, and community organizations such as NY Working Families, ALIGN, Citizen Action, Communities for Change, DSA, El Puente, the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition, Make the Road NY, the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, PUSH Buffalo, and UPROSE.


As one of its first activities, NY Renews drafted the Climate and Communities Protection Act, which passed the NY State Assembly on its first try in 2016 and again in 2017, but was kept off the floor by the GOP leadership of the NY State Senate.


The unions, environmental, and community groups joining to found NY Renews agreed on nine “Points of Unity. “ Here are some highlights:


All people have a right to make a living on a living planet. We can address both the climate and inequality crises with the same policies. Climate change is a serious threat to all, especially workers, people of color, seniors, youth, and the poor. Unchecked corporate power jeopardizes a sustainable future—we support democratic and public control of the energy and finance sectors.


We support rapid movement toward 100% clean renewable energy. The jobs created must be good jobs that respect workers’ right to organize; jobs must be accessible to those who have been excluded and discriminated against and climate-vulnerable frontline communities. Workers in carbon-intensive industries should be guaranteed work in new industries. We must ensure community participation and oversight in decisionmaking.

Mark Schaeffer, a founding member of DSA, serves on the DL Editorial Advisory Committee and the NY Renews Policy Development Committee.

This article originally appeared in the Labor Day 2017 issue of Democratic Left magazine.


Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.


EDITOR’S NOTE: DSA has a new working group on climate and environmental justice. Any DSA member is eligible and welcome to join, at https://www.dsausa.org/climate_and_environmental_justice_working_group