Environmentalists and Workers Must Link Up to Stop Global Warming and Fight for Workers’ Rights

Home » Environmentalists and Workers Must Link Up to Stop Global Warming and Fight for Workers’ Rights

Yesterday, I rallied with hundreds of protestors to say NO to Shell’s Artic oil drilling, and to demand that the rig leave the Port of Seattle. To be successful, those who are passionate about fighting for the environment must link up with workers to collectively stop global warming and improve workers’ rights. Here’s a solidarity letter I sent to Port workers yesterday morning.


May 17, 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On Monday, May 18, I will be joining concerned community members in an act of mass non-violent civil disobedience to build the campaign to stop Shell’s Arctic oil drilling venture. As an elected official, I see it as my moral and political duty to stand with the hundreds of activists who are refusing to let Shell Oil and its subsidiaries severely jeopardize the planet’s future in the interest of profits for a few.

I am reaching out to you to reiterate my solidarity with you, and to emphasize that the action planned for tomorrow is in no way meant to be antagonistic to the interests of our sisters and brothers who work at Terminal 5.

As we have discussed in our previous conversations, the billionaire shareholders and executives of oil corporations present a false dichotomy between jobs and environmental sustainability. As a matter of fact, they have proven that they care about neither. This is evidenced by the thousands of oil refinery workers throughout the nation who courageously went on strike recently against intolerable working conditions.

We know a shift to a renewable energy economy cannot happen overnight. Every job today, especially a union job, is critical to our well-being and living standards. It is also clear that drilling for oil in the Arctic will take us many steps in the wrong direction. A recent study published in Nature confirms what many of us already know: to give humanity a shot at keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, to give humanity a shot at survival, the oil in the Arctic must stay in the ground.

There were many options to prevent Shell Oil, who have a criminal track record of drilling, from returning to the Arctic. The Obama Administration could have demonstrated political leadership and denied Shell a new lease. Port of Seattle Commissioners could have refused to grant Foss Maritime a lease at Terminal 5, and instead focused on deploying T5 sustainably as a cargo terminal in support of our working waterfront. Mayor Murray could have informed the public in November last year that the rig was headed to Seattle, and enabled the community to intervene at the port in time to prevent the rig from arriving here in the first place.

With elected leadership having utterly failed us, the community has no alternative but to launch a movement of non-violent civil disobedience to stop this project from going ahead.

There is a long history of struggle that has been necessary for us to win and defend union jobs at the port. I truly believe workers and the labor movement will ultimately lead the fight to stop global warming, to demand the resources of the major fossil fuel corporations be used to create millions of living wage union jobs retooling our economy with clean, renewable energy. Only powerful mass movements of workers can counter the might of oil industry tycoons and the disproportionate political influence they wield with the trillions of dollars they own.

On Monday, I will not only be demanding the rig leave our port. I will be emphasizing that workers are environmentalists also. Every day through their jobs, union workers on our waterfront exercise environmental stewardship. I will be demanding that we protect our working waterfront and bring living wage union jobs to Seattle that do not risk our collective future.

In Solidarity,

Kshama Sawant
Councilmember, City of Seattle
Member, American Federation of Teachers Local 1789