Green Jobs, Safe Jobs
by Meena Hussein
February 10, 2011
The Blue-Green Alliance held their annual Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Washington, DC this week. Among those in attendance were EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) Leo W. Gerard, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MI), and radio show host Kojo Nnamdi.
It was refreshing to hear the blue perspective on environmental issues.
From a labor perspective, chemical security is all about safety and survival. The workers at chemical facilities, wastewater, and water treatment facilities are affected first and worst if there is a dangerous chemical leak or explosion. When we spoke to union workers from states like Texas, New Mexico, and Illinois, they emphasized the necessity for safety from the hazardous chemicals that they work with everyday.
We also learned more about a serious breach of safety and security happening in Metropolis, Illinois. For the past eight months, workers of the Honeywell plant have been locked out of their livelihood because of a dispute over health insurance. The plant, which produces uranium hexafluoride for nuclear reactors, stores up to 1,124,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid (HF) on site. Uranium hexafluoride is very toxic—42 workers have already died from cancer and ten are cancer survivors. The employees have been replaced by untrained workers, and there have already been at least two breaches of safety at the plant. When speaking to a former worker at this plant, he did not even mention his qualms of unemployment. Rather, he emphasized the concern he had for his community, as these untrained workers increase the risk of an accidental release of toxic chemicals.
A union between the labor and environmental movements can only make us stronger. Policymakers should understand that bringing people together from different arenas to advocate for the same issue shows strength and unity. It also emphasizes the importance of the issue, because it affects the entire community.
So call up your Senator or Congressman. Tell them that you’re worried about chemicals affecting your health, your neighbor’s health, and the health of people that work to keep you safe everyday.
Update 2/23/2011- Watch this video about the Honeywell Workers, Corporate America Killing the Men of Steel