Leaders of the Sierra Club and the United Steel Workers (USW) established the Blue Green Alliance (BGA) in 2006, to “unit[e] America’s largest labor unions and its most influential environmental organizations” in a movement intended “to identify ways today’s environmental challenges can create and maintain quality jobs and build a stronger, fairer economy.” In July 2011 BGA merged with the Apollo Alliance, turning the latter into a BGA-supported project.
On the premise that the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are a primary cause of potentially “catastrophic climate change,” BGA calls for the passage of “comprehensive clean-energy and climate-change legislation”—most notably, cap-and-trade regulations—that could help the U.S. significantly reduce its carbon emissions. The Alliance champions nothing less than a “fundamental transformation of the [American] economy from the fossil-fuel generation into the clean-energy generation”—a changeover whose hallmarks would include a greater reliance on wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy sources, and ever-decreasing use of petroleum.
To supplement such measures, BGA maintains that an anti-pollution, pro-economic-growth agenda can also be advanced by: increasing the energy efficiency of automobiles and household appliances; expanding mass transit and rail transportation options; “making highways more efficient”; developing a new “smart grid” to control the distribution of electrical power nationwide; investing in residential weatherization and commercial-building retrofits; expanding the country’s “recycling infrastructure”; “rebuilding our energy and water infrastructure”; adopting “environmentally and socially responsible trade and development policies”; implementing “strong measures to protect workers and … communities from toxic chemicals”; “ensuring reliable access to high-speed, affordable broadband service”; and promoting worker unionization as an avenue toward the creation of “good jobs with family-supporting wages, a secure retirement, and a safe workplace.”
Most of the foregoing initiatives, as BGA envisions them, would require massive public expenditures to fund them. As former BGA executive director David Foster puts it, combating global warning necessitates the rebuilding of America’s manufacturing sector with energy-efficient technologies whose costs should be borne in large measure by the government, and whose use should be subject to strict regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. (After eight years as BGA’s founding executive director, Foster joined the Obama Administration’s Energy Department as a senior advisor on industrial and economic policy in June 2014.) The political nature of BGA’s various endeavors is reflected in the organization’s name: “Blue” refers to the Democratic Party; “Green” connotes environmentalism.
To help ensure that future generations will embrace the environmentalist core belief that climate change is largely a man-made phenomenon, BGA calls for the “greening” of school curricula across the United States.
In pursuit of the aforementioned objectives, BGA staff and supporters regularly design policy proposals, conduct research, and run public-education campaigns to “advocate for practical solutions; facilitate dialogue between environmentalists, union members and other stakeholders; and [teach] America’s labor union members and environmentalists about the economic and environmental impacts of climate change and the job-creating opportunities of environmental protections.”
BGA currently has operations in eight U.S. states: California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition to the Sierra Club and USW, the Alliance’s member organizations also include the American Federation of Teachers, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Service Emplyees International Union, the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association; the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Communications Workers of America, the Utility Workers Union of America, the National Wildlife Federation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United Auto Workers, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry, EDF Action (affiliated with the Environmental Defense Fund), and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.
BGA’s international president is Leo Gerard, who also serves as president of the USW. A notable member of BGA’s board of directors is Robert Borosage, co-founder of the Campaign for America’s Future. The BGA board also includes numerous officials from the Alliance’s member organizations.
The executive director of BGA is Kim Glass, who previously served in senior leadership positions in the Obama administration and the U.S. House of Representatives. Immediately prior to joining BGA, Glass was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
BGA is home to the Blue Green Alliance Foundation (BGAF), which in 2009 partnered with Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection to launch a Labor Climate Project designed to expand anti-global warming initiatives through the new labor movement. BGAF also works with cities and states nationwide to implement green-jobs strategies.
For additional information on BGA, click here.