Against Green New Deal Amendment

Green New Deal Committee members Bonnie L., Cihan T., Luci R., Michael K., Mike H., Susan S., Ted F.

The Proposed Amendment is not a single amendment but rather a group of amendments reflecting a variety of concerns that may be worth debating but not as a package deal. The Green New Deal plank emerged as a brief summary of the Green New Deal Committee’s ongoing commitment to coordinate with the national DSA Green New Deal Campaign and to continue local campaigns and projects that are at various stages of development. The Proposed Amendment would weaken rather than strengthen the plank.

1. The Proposed Amendment would delete the long-term campaign to shut down the Bay Area’s oil refineries and the Just Transition that is the heart of building a socialist path to the fossil-fuel free future in the Bay Area and beyond.  

As such, the Proposed Amendment directly contradicts DSA’s Green New Deal Principles adopted two years ago by the national organization and over 40 chapters and working groups, including East Bay DSA. As scientists have made clear, we need a massive reduction in fossil fuel production by 2030 to have a chance of stabilizing the climate. The socialist Green New Deal is an attempt to provide a path. DSA’s guiding GND principles include the call to “Nationalize fossil fuel producers to phase them out as quickly as necessary—no new fossil fuel projects can be authorized or built. Socialize fossil-dependent industries so that they can be scaled back or transformed to fossil-free processes.”

Furthermore, one of the core principles of DSA’s Green New Deal is Just Transition--social, environmental, and economic justice for workers and communities that will be impacted by the swift reorganization of the economy needed to prevent ecological catastrophe. The concept of Just Transition originated in the very union representing refinery workers and has become a core principle of climate justice, environmental justice, and racial justice activists who see protection of workers and communities impacted by the swift transformation of the economy as critical to our success. Our allies in the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Sunflower Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, and the Richmond Our Power Coalition are organizing around the decommissioning of the Bay Area refineries and Just Transition. We should be part of, not standing aside from, this effort.

2. The Proposed Amendment would insert “Develop relationships with union members working in the oil industry” and then provides a list of Contra Costa County Building Trades Unions and the Steelworkers who represent workers employed at the refineries. “Developing relationships” with union members is certainly a critical component in building a Just Transition campaign. However, it does not make much sense as a freestanding high-level campaign/project undertaken for its own sake as the Proposed Amendment would have it. Building relationships around what? 

3. The Proposed Amendment would add “Identify specific sectors that displaced workers might go to and plan for potential organizing drives in those sectors” and “Push for the expansion of unemployment benefits to a maximum benefit of $900 per week.” These specific projects are compatible with DSA’s Green New Deal Principles but do not function at the same level of generality as the short list of the GND Committee’s current local campaigns and projects. Identifying sectors that displaced workers might go is not simply a top down intellectual project that a single chapter of DSA can undertake. As for the expansion of unemployment benefits, no one would oppose that, but an amendment to the chapter’s Priorities Resolution is not an appropriate vehicle to launch a new campaign around statewide legislation.

4. The Proposed Amendment would delete “Mask Making and Distribution” and “People’s Community Gardens.” These two projects have attracted participation of dozens of EBDSA members. They complement the other campaigns of the Green New Deal Committee and East Bay DSA and have proven to be successful activities for member engagement, social bonding, and outreach to working class people outside East Bay DSA. 

5. The Proposed Amendment would insert “Job guarantee for all legislation.” This is superfluous as it is already encompassed by the “Jobs Guarantee Act” campaign identified in the plank’s section on organizing with national DSA campaigns.

Although there are certainly useful ideas underlying the Proposed Amendment, it would make more sense for members who want to pursue them to join the Green New Deal Committee and lead the way. The plank that came out of the Committee’s work is a rough outline. As we emerge locally from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Committee will be reevaluating all of its priorities.