Memo: Bargaining the Green New Deal

By Jared Odessky, Data for Progress Legal Fellow

Executive Summary


News coverage of the Green New Deal portrays organized labor as a major obstacle to its enactment. But a new report from Data for Progress paints a different picture. Union members overwhelmingly favored the proposed reforms, with 62 percent in support and 22 percent against. Democratic voters prioritize turning out voters who stayed home in 2016 over persuading Trump voters.

In step with the rank-and-file, some union leaders have already backed the ambitious plan. In a resolution adopted by its executive board, the Service Employees International Union called the Green New Deal “an unprecedented opportunity to unite the fights for environmental, racial, and economic justice.” Los Angeles County Federation of Labor secretary-treasurer Rusty Hicks said the “framework is vital to fighting both” inequality and climate change. Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson explained that it is “not the solutions to climate change that kill jobs,” but climate change itself.

Still, the current political climate in Washington means that passage of the Green New Deal is unlikely unless Democrats win back the presidency and the Senate, even as union support for the measure continues to grow. But labor leaders have a more immediate way to translate worker power into environmental victories: bargaining green union contracts.