In Illinois, we’re used to tough weather. We sweat on the softball field in the summer, freeze on our way to work in the winter, and we don’t shy away from a little rain. But the weather in Illinois is getting more unpredictable and extreme every year with hotter summers, colder arctic blasts, and worsening severe storms. In fact, right now Chicago is in the middle of one of the driest spring seasons on record.
This isn’t a coincidence. It’s climate change.
We have an obligation to our future generations to take bold action now to protect our planet. But any legislative change to slow the devastation of climate change could have a big impact on workers, especially those working at Illinois’ nuclear plants, currently our largest provider of clean energy.
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Lawmakers in Springfield are debating several bills to address climate change and move our economy towards a greener future. We in the labor movement are ready to partner with anyone who wants to protect our environment, but we must also protect working people and create the next generation of good-paying union jobs.
We cannot try to solve our climate crisis by throwing workers under the bus, particularly the thousands of highly skilled workers at our nuclear power facilities.
That is why the labor movement supports the Climate Union Jobs Act, which will strengthen our state’s economy, protect our environment, create thousands of good paying jobs, and preserve the clean energy jobs that exist today.
There are other proposals out there to promote clean energy, but some of these proposals don’t do enough to protect workers and could lead to thousands of layoffs.
The Climate Union Jobs Act will put union labor to work on constructing wind turbines, installing solar panels on schools and building out the electrical grid of the future.
We will create thousands of new jobs with decent wages and benefits while training thousands more from underserved communities in union apprenticeships, equipping them with valuable skills for a lifetime.
And we can save the state’s nuclear plants, facilities that currently generate over 90 percent of Illinois’ clean energy. That means protecting thousands of jobs and avoiding a big step backwards in our fight against climate change.
Taking on a problem as big as climate change requires all of us working together. What we cannot afford is to delay action, or worse, pass legislation that leaves workers in the dust.
The labor movement is ready to move our state toward a fully renewable future. Let’s make sure that future is built on a greener, fairer economy supported by a strong middle class.
Pat Devaney, Illinois AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer
Protect COVID vaccine protections
While the media concentrates its attention on what it considers to be more newsworthy matters, such as the federal budget and police reform, overlooked is the pernicious proposal by the Biden administration to suspend patent protection for COVID vaccines.
Suspending those patents would be an ominous warning that the time and expense of inventive efforts will be at risk any time the government thinks, for whatever reason, that it is proper to do so. That means, for example, that the billions of dollars and man-hours spent on trying to find cures for cancer and heart disease, which individually and collectively account for far more death and suffering than COVID, may not receive patent protection if the powers-that-be decide it is somehow appropriate those protections.
Do we really want to disincentivize scientists and, in doing so, jeopardize the development of such cures?
William P. Gottschalk, Lake Forest