News & Commentary

June 17, 2024

Holden Hopkins

Holden Hopkins is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News & Commentary, Chicago teachers to make climate demands as part of next CBA negotiations and environmental lawyers in the Justice Department begin a union campaign.

With contract negotiations beginning this Friday, the Chicago Teachers’ Union has pledged to bring its “green schools” initiative to the city. As a part of that initiative, the union is seeking to update school infrastructure to cut emissions, electrify the school district’s bus fleet, introduce training programs for students to pursue green energy jobs, and set a 2035 goal of net-zero emissions for the district. CTU played an important role in supporting the election of Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former teacher and union organizer, giving the union reason for optimism as they come to the bargaining table.

These climate-related demands from one of the nation’s most powerful teachers’ unions are not the first example of unions using their power to fight for a liveable planet. Los Angeles teachers went on strike last year around demands that included the incorporation of climate in more administrative decisions and curricula. Additionally, Ben shared this letter last year from environmental and climate advocates in support of the UAW’s strike against the “Big Three” automakers as consistent with goals of climate progress. And as I reported in February, a coalition of Service Employees International Union locals and unions representing teachers in the Twin Cities included climate demands in their “What Can We Win Together” campaign

Staying at the intersection of labor and the environment, trial attorneys at the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division have begun a campaign with the goal of collecting signatures from half of the 350 eligible lawyers in the division. As of now, organizers are optimistic about reaching their goal of a representation election through the Federal Labor Relations Authority by October of this year.

Chief among their concerns are return-to-office mandates, interventions against civil service protections from political officials, and the use of artificial intelligence in legal document writing. Should they succeed in their union campaign, they would be the first union of litigating attorneys in the history of the Justice Department.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.