mice.jpgI get tons of emails about companies going green, green jobs, green ways to commute, etc.

I usually just hit the delete button, but not last week when an email showed up in my mailbox about a union that was going green.

My first thought was: “why the heck is a union using it’s valuable time worrying about the environment when workers’ paychecks are declining and most working stiffs are worried about losing their jobs in this economy?”

The email was from the Service Employees International Union and it details a host of things its leadership wants to do in order to help the world become a green place.

If I had gotten the email from any other union — say the United Auto Workers, which has seen its membership decimated and its members put through the ringer — I would have gone ballistic in this blog, mocking any initiative that doesn’t help its members shore up their livelihoods.

But the SEIU, with its 1.9 million members, has actually been one of the few unions in this country that is growing.

Do they have the luxury to focus on “green” and not just wage and hour issues? I’m not sure. But I’ll give them a bit of leeway here.

Basically, they want a bit of “green” language in their local contracts for members. And some of what they propose will also help workers themselves, well, more directly than helping cut down on overall pollution for the earth.

Here is some of what the SEIU proposes:

Public transportation benefits to decrease automobile use.

Replacement of toxic cleaning supplies to protect workers, land and water.

Encouragement of daytime cleaning to reduce nighttime energy use in buildings.

Establishment of labor-management environmental committees for ongoing monitoring of environmental issues in the workplace.

All these sound reasonable, but the SEIU leadership has to convince management and their own members, that pushing these issues during contract negotiations is critical. Typically, such negotiations are contentious enough as both sides battle over money and benefits. So, adding “green” demands will probably stir up the pot even more.

“We need to do a whole education thing with our members about this,” says Gerry Hudson, SEIU’s executive vice president. “We need to do something about climate change. We can use our bargaining power to be helpful.”

The green initiative will kick off with a resolution at the SEIU’s convention in June, and Hudson is hopeful the proposal will get some momentum coming out of the convention that will lead to pilot projects after the November election.

That’s when he believes dialogue involving climate change throughout the country will “heat up.”

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