AOC & Bernie Expose Bright Power Firings
The elected officials used their huge social media presence to publicly shame the company
On Friday, UCOMM reported on employees at Bright Power getting fired by their bosses for organizing with Local 3 IBEW. Thanks to coverage from news outlets like VICE and UCOMM Blog both Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), Congressman Mark Pocan, and Senator Bernie Sanders sent out communications in support of the striking workers.
According to the VICE article, the 12 fired Bright Power employees, AOC’s Green New Deal was an inspiration for them to want to organize. The Congresswoman seemed to take that to heart by not only sending out a tweet but also an email to her expansive list. “This was retaliation for unionizing, plain and simple,” said Cortez in an email from “Team AOC.” “Even at a supposedly progressive green energy company, greedy CEOs can violate fundamental workers’ rights. But we’re not letting them get away with it. Alexandria heard about what happened, and she’s not happy.” She went on to ask her supporters to click a link where they would be able to send an email to Bright Power demanding that the company rehire the fired workers.
Both Sanders and AOC also sent out tweets supporting the fired workers.
Many have told me they think the pro-justice & worker provisions in the Green New Deal are “unnecessary.”
Yet this example is why a just transition is vital. Without it, oil barons turn into energy barons, & workers are hurt all the same.
Bright Power must be held accountable. https://t.co/HmP3IOAyzF
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 22, 2019
This is absolutely unacceptable and Bright Power must be held accountable. All workers deserve the right to form a union free from harassment and retaliation. https://t.co/eizewAL3a6
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 22, 2019
While the support from elected officials with some of the biggest social media followings is appreciated, some rank and file members reached out to UCOMM to privately gripe about the tone of AOC’s message. In her tweet, she did not mention the word “union” once. This is important. These workers were fired for one simple reason: they wanted a voice in their workplace, they wanted a union. AOC did make up for this in her email, saying “This was retaliation for unionizing, plain and simple. Even at a supposedly progressive green energy company, greedy CEOs can violate fundamental workers’ rights.”
While it is important for politicians to support these union drives and to put pressure on bad bosses, it is also important for them to be clear with the facts. While the Green New Deal is a good talking point, the workers told UCOMM that they began organizing after two dangerous incidents that nearly killed two of their co-workers.
As a just transition happens between coal and renewable sources like solar and wind it is important to ensure that these jobs are good-paying, union jobs. It is also important for the elected officials who are writing the new laws that force an industry change to understand the effect that their legislation has on workers. Including just transition provisions in bills like the Green New Deal are important measures that will stop a good-paying coal job from becoming a low paying, non-union solar installer position.