As Political Action Director at the electrical workers union IBEW, Shaunie Wheeler knows Labor can be a catalyst for progressive issues, like climate change.

IBEW, also known as the electrical workers union, is one of the largest IBEW Local Unions within the United States. They represent about 7,000 working men and women in Washington State, parts of Idaho and Montana.

Global warming is real and we’re all seeing the effect it’s having on Washington State.

For labor, there’s a careful balance between job retention, responding to ecological concerns and making change at a pace that won’t economically hurt communities. Still, Wheeler says not a reason to ignore the dangers of climate change. “We see the handwriting on the wall, it’s not a secret anymore. Global warming is real and we’re all seeing the effect it’s having on Washington State.”

So unions, like IBEW, are makings forays into clean, green technology and are looking at solar, wind and tidal power. They are in the early stages of an apprentice program for commercial solar farms and battery storage. “Creating apprenticeships in clean energy is what we need to do to make sure members have jobs in the future. The clean energy revolution is happening right now, so we need to step up to the plate or we’ll get left behind.”

Wheeler is buoyed to see solidarity amongst legislators, environmentalists, people of color, health organizations and various sectors of builders — carpenters, electricians and ironworkers. “Our hearts and minds are in the same place. And if we’re not united, we’re divided. Solidarity is the thing.”

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