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Labor unions fear Democrats’ Green New Deal poses job threat

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Labor unions fear Democrats’ Green New Deal poses job threat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Labor unions say they are withholding support for a Green New Deal unveiled by Democrats last week to transition the American economy away from fossil fuels, arguing the loosely-defined plan could kill jobs if its architects aren’t careful.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) hold a news conference for their proposed “Green New Deal” to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    The cool response from unions underscores the challenge facing Democratic presidential hopefuls who support aggressive action on climate change but must also win back the blue-collar voters that swept President Donald Trump to victory in 2016.

The Green New Deal is a non-binding Congressional resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey that would legislate government-led investment in clean energy infrastructure with the goal of making America carbon neutral within a decade.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren have already thrown their support behind it.

The resolution’s backers say the plan – once fully sketched out in the legislation – would create jobs in much the same way as President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s by putting Americans to work on transformative government-led projects.

It also calls for a “just transition” for current fossil fuel workers – from coal miners to pipeline workers – through guarantees of healthcare, jobs, and job training.

Union officials told Reuters they were skeptical.

“We will never settle for ‘just transition’ language as a solution to the job losses that will surely come from some of the policies in the resolution,” said Yvette Pena O’Sullivan, executive director of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), whose members work in construction and other industries.

    Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers (UMWA), which represents workers in the coal industry, echoed the concerns.

    “We’ve heard words like ‘just transition’ before, but what does that really mean? Our members are worried about putting food on the table,” he said.

LIUNA and UMWA said they were not contacted for input on the resolution before it was released.

    Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, representing construction workers across all sectors including energy, said his staff had been contacted by Markey’s office about the Green New Deal, but said his members are skeptical of “green job” promises.

    Members “working in the oil and gas sector can make a middle-class living, whereas renewable energy firms have been less generous,” he said at a pipeline safety event last week.

APPALACHIAN BACKLASH

Democrats backing the resolution are seeking to highlight the contrast in their position with the Trump administration’s vocal support for drilling and mining and its skepticism about the causes and impacts of global warming.

Trump’s approach was warmly received in 2016 in parts of Appalachia and the Rust Belt, which have been suffering from manufacturing and mining jobs losses.

Trump’s Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton struggled to sell her clean energy agenda in those regions, and suffered politically after saying her policies would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

The Sunrise Movement, a youth organization backing the Green New Deal, plans to launch a multi-state campaign in March to drum up support, featuring stops in Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

    “A lot of places struggling with joblessness are fossil fuel dependent places that suffer from poor air and water quality. Guaranteeing the right of clean air, water and jobs is something we think a lot of people can get behind,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a spokesman for the group.

Unions have expressed support in the past for more moderate approaches to addressing climate change, including cap-and-trade systems to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s offices did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Sonya Hepinstall

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Presidents Day protests decry Trump’s emergency declaration

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Presidents Day protests decry Trump's emergency declaration

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Activists in Washington, Chicago and dozens of other U.S. cities protested on Monday’s Presidents Day holiday against President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

A woman holds a sign during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump on President’s Day near the White House in Washington, U.S., February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Calling Trump’s declaration an abuse of power and usurpation of Congress, organizers with the nonprofit advocacy group MoveOn.org and other participants said it was important to let the outrage over the move be heard.

“We disagree with the state of emergency declared by the president and stand with our immigrant colleagues and friends,” said Darcy Regan, executive director of Indivisible Chicago, which co-hosted the protest there.

Trump invoked the emergency powers on Friday after Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise. His move aims to let him spend money appropriated by Congress for other purposes.

The Republican president says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border. Democrats and opponents of the wall say it is unnecessary.

The protests in Chicago and Washington each drew a few hundred people on Monday afternoon.

Protesters gathered in Chicago’s Federal Plaza carried signs that read “Dump Trump” and “Fake Emergency” and chanted “No wall, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”

Cheryl Krugel-Lee, a 32-year-old student, said she brought her 4-year-old daughter to the protest in freezing weather to set an example for her.

“This was a power grab by the Trump administration, and it’s immoral and illegal,” Krugel-Lee said.

Organizers said 250 events were planned, including in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Democrats have vowed to challenge the national emergency declaration as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. California state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in television interviews that his state and others would sue the Trump administration on Monday.

Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Dan Grebler

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Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’

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Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, said it’s a “lie” for critics to say the Green New Deal is too expensive to implement.

GREEN NEW DEAL, ‘MEDICARE-FOR-ALL’ DRAW FRESH SCRUTINY FROM OTHER 2020 DEMS

“This is the lie that’s going on right now,” Booker told Fox News in Nashua, N.H., as he campaigned in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

The New Jersey senator was asked about the costs of the Green New Deal, which is supported by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives and aims to implement a range of big-government programs while pursuing a level of “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” — essentially, a total economic transformation toward clean energy that, among other points, includes building upgrades across the country.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported it cost nearly $2,000 per apartment for the New York City Housing Authority to switch to LED lighting, which lasts longer and consumes less energy than incandescent bulbs. Asked about that report, Booker said it’s possible to “revive your economy, and create a bold green future,” citing his experience as mayor of Newark, N.J.

“We environmentally retrofitted our buildings. Saves taxpayers money, created jobs for our community and lowered our carbon footprint,” Booker said.

He added, “This lie that’s being put out – that somehow being green and responsible with the environment means you have to hurt the economy – a lie.”

WHAT IS THE GREEN NEW DEAL? A LOOK AT THE ECONOMIC AND CLIMATE CONCEPT PUSHED BY PROGRESSIVES

The Green New Deal is a sweeping proposal designed to tackle income inequality and climate change at the same time. It’s modeled after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal package of public works programs and projects created to help the economy during the Great Depression — but in many ways goes much further.

The rollout itself was muddled by the release of Ocasio-Cortez documents that, among other things, promised economic security even for those “unwilling” to work.

The plan itself aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and agriculture and dramatically expand energy sources to meet 100 percent of power demand through renewable sources. The proposal also calls for a job-guarantee program and universal health care, among other things.

Republican critics have vehemently pushed back against the proposal, pointing in part to the price tag – estimated to be about $7 trillion. Republicans have also decried the job guarantee idea, calling it a “deeply flawed policy” that would be detrimental to small businesses.

Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

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N.C. congressional contest marred by voter fraud scheme: official

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N.C. congressional contest marred by voter fraud scheme: official

RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – An investigation into a disputed 2018 congressional election in North Carolina has uncovered a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” to influence the vote’s outcome, a state election board official said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Mark Harris, Republican candidate from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina U.S., October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The scheme involved collecting absentee ballots in contravention of state laws, and, in some cases, filling out those ballots in favor of Republicans.

Investigators found evidence that a political operative working for Republican candidate Mark Harris collected absentee ballots from voters in the state’s 9th congressional district, the executive director of the state’s election board, Kim Strach, said at the start of a hearing that could lead to a new vote.

The scheme affected 1,019 ballot requests in Bladen and Robeson counties during the 2018 election, Strach said.

Harris declared victory in November over Democratic rival Dan McCready after early vote tallies showed him with a 905-vote lead, out of 282,717 ballots cast.

But the U.S. House of Representatives seat has remained vacant as state officials have refused to certify Harris’ apparent victory after voters said the Harris campaign team had collected their incomplete absentee ballots.

Republican political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless conducted an absentee ballot operation from April 2017 up to the 2018 elections while working for Red Dome Consulting, a firm hired by the Harris campaign, Strach said.

Lisa Britt, who said she worked for Dowless, testified that she collected unsealed ballots and filled them out in favor of Republicans at Dowless’ home or office.

Britt said Dowless tried to prevent her from testifying at Monday’s hearing by asking her to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Dowless paid workers $150 for every 50 absentee ballot requests they collected and another $125 for every 50 ballots collected, Strach said.

Investigators found Dowless tried to avoid detection by instructing those who worked for him to deliver ballots to the post office in small batches and to ensure the same color ink was used for forged witness signatures, Strach said.

State officials have named Dowless as a person of interest in their election fraud probe after voters in Bladen County said people working with Dowless came to their homes and collected ballots, which would violate state law.

Dowless and Harris both attended Monday’s hearing in Raleigh. Dowless’ lawyer, Cynthia Adams Singletary, has denied her client violated state or federal campaign laws, and Harris has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Under state law, the five-member elections board could order a new vote if it finds sufficient evidence that fraud affected the outcome of the election. If it does not, it could certify Harris as the district’s congressional representative.

“We hope to have Dr. Harris certified so he can take his seat in the congressional district,” said David Freedman, a lawyer representing Harris.

Representatives for McCready did not respond to a request for comment.

If the Democrats pick up the seat, they would widen their 235-197 majority in the House after taking control of the chamber from President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Nov. 6 election.

Reporting by Marti Maguire; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Tom Brown and Bernadette Baum

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