Environmental organizations Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, and Greenpeace endorse Representative Andy Levin (D-Michigan) for President-Elect Joe Biden’s Labor Secretary.
In a letter to the Biden administration on November 24, the group argued that Rep. Levin is “someone committed to your vision and who is capable of bringing together the labor and environmental movement to implement it,” Politico reports.
Levin is an original cosponsor of the Green New Deal. After the World Food Programme won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, he wrote in a statement that it is essential to return food to the center of the conversation, emphasizing the importance of focusing on food insecurity in COVID-19 relief efforts: “These challenges are massive, but we know how to address them. We need to center living wages everywhere and empower working people and small farmers, so that they can provide for their families and communities.”
Levin is a former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organizer and served as Assistant Director of Organizing at the national AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2006. In Michigan, he helped create the Green Jobs Initiative in 2008, the Green Jobs Report in 2009, and the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility Alliance (MAGMA), which trained unemployed and incumbent engineers to electrify cars.
While labor unions across the U.S. have mixed support for clean energy, those calling for Levin’s nomination cite his experience bridging the gap between organized labor unions and clean energy initiatives while bolstering workers’ rights.
Greenpeace notes Levin’s work as a coalition builder as well as a champion for the environment in a November 2020 endorsement statement: “Big bold policies that are capable of solving the many intersecting crises we currently face can also create millions of good union jobs. But if we don’t get it right, we run the risk of repeating the failed playbook of big corporations, where these jobs reinforce both inequality and exploitation.”
Collin Rees, senior campaigner with Oil Change International, told Politico, “[Levin] has a long record of fighting for working people, and understands the climate imperative but knows the transition won’t happen without proper buy-in and support.”
Many of Levin’s initiatives have focused on the intersection of climate and infrastructure. In 2011, he founded Levin Energy Partners LLC, which aimed to help shape Michigan’s energy future, and Lean & Green Michigan, a statewide market to finance clean energy building improvements. The program helped building owners initiate a reported US$17.9 million in clean energy projects in 2018.
Levin has worked on legislation including the National Labor Relations Act, the proposed TEAM Act, the Federal Transit’s Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. His “No Worker Left Behind” initiative in Michigan helped more than 160,000 unemployed and underemployed workers go back to school during the Great Recession.
In February 2020, Levin and Green New Deal author Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) introduced legislation to create a system of electric vehicle charging stations across the country, named the EV Freedom Act.
Levin’s clean-energy experience meets President-elect Biden’s proposed “clean energy revolution.” The incoming administration has pledged a federal investment of US$1.7 trillion over the next 10 years in clean energy and environmental justice initiatives.
“At this moment of profound crisis, we have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy—one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050,” the Biden-Harris transition team writes, noting that the opportunity can create “millions of good-paying jobs that provide workers with the choice to join a union and bargain collectively with their employers.”
Photo courtesy of Louis Velazquez, Unsplash
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