Club Teams Up With Labor & Faith Groups for Pennsylvania May Day Rally
On May 1, more than 200 people rallied outside the Pennsylvania State Capital in Harrisburg calling for Governor Tom Corbett to invest in renewable energy, infrastructure, and education. The Sierra Club partnered with a coalition of labor and faith groups to organize the rally.
Sierra Club President Robin Mann, below, addressed the crowd. That's Pennsylvania State Representative Tom Conklin, at right, who also spoke.
"We're calling on the Corbett administration to throw away their playbook—a playbook that was written by, and for, the fossil fuels industry and other special interests—and to reverse their gutting of critical investments that can drive Pennsylvania toward a prosperous future for us all," Mann said.
Representative Conklin charged that the administration "wants to invest in nothing but carbon fuel, but the future is in clean, renewable energy." He said green energy jobs will not only benefit the environment and the state's economy, but they will be good-paying jobs that will give people the training they need for a lifetime.
Among the Sierra Club's partners in organizing the May Day rally were the Blue Green Alliance, the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania NAACP, and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.
Watch this video of the rally.
Mike Brunelle, below, Executive Director for SEIU's Pennsylvania State Council, charged that, "Governor Corbett and his administration are waging war on workers, the middle class, good jobs, and education."
Prior to Corbett's administration, Pennsylvania was nationally renowned as a leader in renewable energy. But the Corbett administration has dismantled many previously successful programs that advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state.
"These programs fueled the growth of more than 100,000 jobs in Pennsylvania's clean energy sector, but by squandering opportunities to build on past progress, the state is now falling behind the rest of the country," Mann said in her remarks. "Instead of investing in Pennsylvania's infrastructure, such as rail systems and bridges, the Corbett administration is allowing the deterioration of bridges to continue while raising the fares and reducing the service of railways."
Reverend Sandy Strauss, below left, Directory of Public Advocacy for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, said that investment in the state's infrastructure will lift the state's economy, not drain it.
"We must acknowledge that all of creation is a web," Strauss said. "A web is very strong, but that strength is contingent upon protecting the web as a whole. When we do harm to one portion of the web, all other parts of the web will experience harm in ways we cannot predict. Because we're all dependent on this fragile and intricate web of creation, our neighbors suffer when we violate its integrity. For far too long, we've failed to truly care for this magnificent creation we've been given."
Rick Smith of The Rick Smith Show, below right, was master of ceremonies at the rally. He indicated that the $3.5 billion of investment needed in the state would provide more than 100,000 jobs over the next five to ten years.
During her speech, Robin Mann mentioned that "instead of investing in preparing our children for the economic opportunities of tomorrow through a strong public education system, the Corbett administration was pulling back, robbing kids of their full potential."
These sentiments were echoed and reinforced by Dwayne Jackson, below, First Vice President of the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches, who urged the governor and the state legislature to restore funding to education to ensure that children in the Commonwealth are entitled to a free public education.
The Pennsylvania Sierra Club pulled out the stops to turn out members and supporters for the May Day rally, including multiple phone banks in both Pittsburgh and Philly, a mailing that went out to members and supporters in the Harrisburg area, and an email that invited people to the rally and let them know how they could take action the day of the rally if they were unable to attend.
Below left, Mann with Pennsylvania Chapter Chair Wendi Taylor; below right, with Pennsylvania Chapter Director Jeff Schmidt.
Many new volunteers were involved in the May Day rally, and Club activists collected some 100 comments supporting the enactment of strong greenhouse gas emissions rules in the state.
Pittsburgh-based Sierra Club organizer Randy Francisco, who took a lead role in putting together the rally, gave a special shout-out to Susanne Graham, "our roving organizer who came to Harrisburg in the weeks leading up to the event," Pennsylvania Chapter Chair Wendi Taylor "who hatched this idea," and Pennsylvania Chapter staff Jeff Schmidt and Lindsay Delp "for all the heavy lifting they did to make the rally such a success."