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Labor-Environmental Relations: An Analysis of the Relationship between Labor Unions and Environmentalists

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Objective. I seek to assess the quality of relations between labor unions and environmental organizations and to identify economic, political, and organizational factors that influence those relations. Methods. A survey of state labor leaders was conducted in order to determine the quality of relations between unions and environmental organizations around the United States. Ordinary least squares regression is used to identify associations between state level economic and political indicators and the quality of labor-environmental relations. Results. Relations between labor unions and environmentalists are generally positive. Except for the timber industry, there is no evidence of hostility between environmentalists and unions in industries that may be threatened with job loss due to environmental measures. Republican control of state government and labor-industry cooperation are associated with poor labor-environmental relations. Conclusions. Popular beliefs about entrenched “jobs versus the environment” conflict are largely unfounded. Instances of conflict between unions and environmental advocates are rare and largely isolated in certain employment sectors. Although unions and environmentalists share certain interests, Republican political control reduces cooperation between these two constituencies. Unions can be seen as situated between employers and environmentalists in regard to environmental issues. Cooperation with employers results in poorer relations between unions and environmentalists.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: State University of New York, New Paltz

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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