AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka offered the lowest, quietest cheer possible for the Environmental Protection Agency's new proposed rule calling for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions. The leader of the nation's largest labor federation said it was important for the U.S. to lead on the issue but added a long list on concerns and qualifications to that.
"President Obama is right to lead on this issue, since other nations won't act if the United States does not. Acting first can confer long-term advantages -- if we do it right," Trumka said Monday. That was about as enthusiastic as it got.
Trumka then warned that the fight climate change cannot be "another excuse to beat down working Americans." He cited the case of McDowell County, W. Va., claiming the region was "devastated after coal production declined."
"The AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement will fight to make sure that our efforts to prevent climate change are as good for working families as they are for the planet, and that will be the true measure of success," Trumka said.
United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts was much less equivocal, saying the new rules would cost 75,000 jobs by 2020 while doing nothing to cause a significant drop in global greenhouse gas emissions.
Trumka had been president of the UMW from 1982 to 1995. He resigned to join the leadership of the AFL-CIO as secretary-treasurer. He became president in 2009.
Since then, Trumka has worked to form alliances with environmentalist groups. Under his tenure, the AFL-CIO has sometimes taken softer positions on environmental issues, like the Keystone XL pipeline, than some of its member unions.