Trumka to Labor Energy Partnership: America's Energy Future Can't Exclude Working People

Hello everyone, welcome to the Labor Energy Partnerhsips’s Ohio River Valley Workshop, I’m Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. 

Secretary Moniz, thank you for your partnership. More importantly, thank you for showing that America’s energy future cannot exclude working people and leave our communities behind.

To our keynote speakers, on behalf of America’s unions, thank you for being here. 

We hear it from the White House, from the president himself. 

We see it in Executive Orders, and in the actions of the agencies: Responding to the climate crisis means good-paying, union jobs. 

That’s what our pro-worker champions are fighting for. 

See, working people have suffered a long-term hollowing-out of our country’s industrial base.

But now we’re at an inflection point. 

We have an opportunity to define a 21st Century Industrial Policy, to modernize our energy and manufacturing sectors, so our children and grandchildren inherit a livable planet and a broadly-shared prosperity. 

It starts now. Built in America. In every part of America. 

Labor will pave the path, and it runs right through the mighty Ohio River Valley. 

My home town Nemacolin, Pennsylvania is part of the Ohio River watershed.

It’s a place where the entire local economy depended on coal. 

And when the mines closed, the local economy was devastated. 

Think, really think, about what this means. 

It’s kids struggling in under-resourced schools. 

Pensions earned by a lifetime of hard, dangerous work taken by our rotten bankruptcy laws. 

Entire regions left with no economic driver, in soul-crushing poverty, no hope for the future. 

And when there is a poverty of hope, people die from deaths of despair. 

But what we’re talking about today, hydrogen with carbon capture, means we can decarbonize industries without destroying livelihoods and lives. 

We can use this region’s abundant natural gas resources to create a clean fuel that preserves existing jobs and creates new ones

Keeping jobs in steel and concrete and power generation means food on the table. Families in their homes. 

It means a revival for Ohio River Valley communities, our cultures and traditions.

And it shows the county that answering the climate crisis doesn’t have to cost America jobs. It can create them. 

Jobs building 21st century infrastructure. Jobs establishing geologic storage facilities. Jobs manufacturing the equipment.

And here’s the single most important point I want to make. 

As we talk about and promote these new technologies, we must guarantee worker rights from the start.

The fundamental imbalance in our nation, that keeps us from moving faster on climate, on diversity, on justice for all, is the imbalance of power between working people and corporations. 

The answer to that fundamental imbalance of power is called a labor union. 

That’s why the most important policy to this discussion today is the PRO Act. 

It’s a bill that passed the House with bipartisan support—twice. It guarantees a free and fair path to a union.

If our rights, dignity and power are at the center of the clean energy transition... 

We will create widespread opportunities, lift each other up—out of poverty, away from the margins, into a new era of hope and possibilities.  

The single greatest key is passing the PRO Act. Because if you empower us, we will be the most powerful answer to the threat of a changing climate...union labor will build the most resilient infrastructure and supply chains. 

And it’s time for a revival. For every person and every place in America. Especially for the Ohio River Valley.

I have been saying for years: the key to moving faster on climate change is to give workers the rights and the power we need to make all the new jobs good jobs.

Workers and communities need to know that we are doing this with them, and for them; it’s not something we are doing to them.

That’s why this discussion today is so important. We’re grateful to have you. Thank you.