UPDATE – 5/16, 5:07 p.m. EST: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has received a letter from seven subsidiary union leaders demanding that the labor group dissolve its relationship with environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer.
Steyer and the AFL-CIO have partnered to create a super PAC — For Our Future — with the goal of raising $50 million to support the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.
However, trade unions of the AFL-CIO, such as the Building and Construction Trades Department and Laborers’ International Union of North America, disagree with Steyer’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and other environmentalist positions which hurt job growth.
The letter says the parent labor affiliation has “officially become infiltrated by financial and political interests that work in direct conflict to many of our members’ . . . lives.”
The seven signing labor presidents represent a total 1.5 million American workers.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire ex-hedge fund manager from San Francisco, announced on Monday that his super PAC — NextGen Climate — will start a $25 million get-out-the-vote campaign on college campuses in seven states during the coming months.
The purpose of the effort to register millennials in “purple” states is to elect environmentally conscious candidates to the Senate and Oval Office in the general election.
NextGen Climate plans to set-up operations at 203 campuses in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa.
Steyer’s 2016 plan relies on the majority of America’s youngest voter-eligible generation to support environmental protection policies, which a June 2015 poll found to be true of 73 percent of millennials.
Currently, more than 50 million people aged 18 to 35 are registered to vote in the U.S.
“Millennials are the biggest cohort in this election cycle,” Steyer said on Monday. “This is about turnout and letting millennials’ voices be heard.”
This isn’t the first time NextGen has initiated a national political campaign to elect “green” candidates to Congress or state capitols. In 2014, Steyer’s super PAC spent $67 million supporting seven environmentally progressive Senate and gubernatorial candidates, three of which won.
Steyer also donates to candidates personally, giving $7 million in 2014 and $13 million so far in 2016, the second highest individual contribution total to-date.
As for the presidential race, the billionaire hedge fund manager turned environmentalist says, “On climate change, we have the starkest contrast I’ve ever seen between candidates in my life”.
While Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have promised to reign in the Environmental Protection Agency and remove the U.S. from the recently signed Paris climate change agreement, both Democratic candidates have pledged to continue President Obama’s legacy of environmental protection.
Millennials could make the difference in the 2016 presidential election if they exercise their right to vote in November. If not, American environmental progress may be on hold for at least another half a decade.
[Reuters] [New York Times] [The Hill] [artemia.com]