Drastic changes to American environmental policy are at the forefront of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-Hawaii) 2020 presidential run — the kind of changes organized labor and others have criticized.
The Hawaiian congresswoman appeared at North Hampton Centennial Hall in New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon at a town hall put on by the local Democratic committee. Gabbard said protecting the environment is “essential to our very existence” and that “partisan politics” should not get in the way of such proposals.
Gabbard did not mention any specific environmental programs, although she’s publicly supported the Green New Deal put forth by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and others. It aims to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2030, includes a federal jobs guarantee, seeks to renovate every building in America — and much more.
Plus, Gabbard introduced the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act into the House of Representatives in 2017, which stated that by 2035, “100 percent of electricity must be generated from clean energy resources.” Although this bill had 46 co-sponsors, it never came up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Congress.
While many progressives may favor the policy, labor unions such as the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), the United Mine Workers Association (UMWA), and the AFL-CIO have opposed these exact kinds of policies.
After Gabbard’s event on Sunday, LifeZette asked her about the concerns organized labor has expressed over her environmental stances. Her solution? More government intervention.
“We have to protect the planet we live on,” she said. “I definitely understand their concerns and they are valid concerns, since we make decisions that impact working people. There will need to be a transition period economically for these workers from a fossil fuel-based economy to one which relies on green energy — and we will make sure we take care of them in the process.”
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) February 17, 2019
Gabbard also said she would be looking at programs like Universal Basic Income (UBI) and job training and education programs as part of the solution.
UBI would cost American taxpayers $3.8 trillion per year, according to The New York Post.
Some of the criticism she addressed came earlier this month from Yvette Pena O’Sullivan, the LIUNA’s executive director. O’Sullivan told Reuters of the Green New Deal, “We will never settle for ‘just transition’ language as a solution to the job losses that will surely come from some of the policies in the resolution.
The UMWA’s spokesman, Phil Smith, had similar concerns. “We’ve heard words like ‘just transition’ before, but what does that really mean? Our members are worried about putting food on the table,” he told Reuters.
And in 2018 at the Global Climate Action summit in San Francisco, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked, “Does your plan for fighting climate ask more from sick, retired coal miners than it does from you and your family? If it does, then you need to think again.”
“Simply demanding that plants, industries and projects be stopped or shut down, with no plan for the people who are put out of work … no call for shared sacrifice … and no dialogue or solidarity with those whose lives and communities are dependent on carbon-based fuels … that poisons the well politically and slows meaningful action on climate policy,” he added.
During Gabbard’s speech on Sunday, she took a veiled shot at President Donald Trump and his administration. She said the current leadership in Washington is “fomenting hatred and bigotry.”
She ripped the president’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the U.S. and Russia.
Gabbard said, “We’re at a greater risk for nuclear catastrophe now than ever before in history.” Yet she did not mention that the U.S. abandoned that treaty because Russia violated it by building ground-launched cruise missile systems — nor that NATO supported the decision.
She also touted her opposition to congressional PAYGO rules — which prohibit Congress from spending on social programs for which it doesn’t have the funds.
Gabbard was one of only three House Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez, to take this stance, as Roll Call and other outlets reported.
Gabbard said opposing PAYGO is vital — in the hope of one day implementing Medicare for All.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.