We Need a Just Recovery for Virginia

Governor Northam, Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates

Screen_shot_2020-05-10_at_5.33.12_pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating event. While we're all in this pandemic together, the systemic inequities inherent in our society have starkly illustrated that we’re not all in this equally. Concrete forms of racial injustice do not allow for all people to be socially distant. Not everyone is able to work from home, or able to afford housing in a dwelling with physical dimensions that allow them to be socially distant. This pandemic has shown us the value of the most essential workers in our society: nurses, grocery store employees, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, housekeeping staff, farm workers, home-care providers, transit workers and teachers must be protected and supported better.

While working people are losing their livelihoods, the COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed the interconnection between the climate crisis and our economic and health systems: low-income communities and communities of color suffer from asthma at higher rates and are therefore now more vulnerable to COVID-19; communities who are most vulnerable to extreme weather events are also those with the lowest access to high-quality healthcare. As the economic crisis worsens and millions of people lose their jobs, Virginia needs a jobs program on an unprecedented scale starting right when social distancing ends.

To tackle these issues head on, we need a Just Recovery for Virginia. Our economy is being rocked as it has not been since World War II, and we need solutions that match the the scale of the problems we face. Expert reviews such as the one released by the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, report that the most effective economic strategies post-pandemic will be in renewable energy and massive efforts in retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency.

Virginia has the opportunity to create thousands of good paying, green jobs that will provide safe and healthy homes, build renewable infrastructure, and create community resiliency that simultaneously restarts our economy and tackles climate injustice. These jobs and resulting investments must be made available to the communities hit hardest by both the climate crisis and the COVID-19 crisis. Importantly, this immediate stimulus must be pared with a long-term green jobs program so that we can both recover from this crisis, and build a just and sustainable economy.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that we weren't prepared for this disaster, and we won't be for the next one unless things change. We are quickly approaching a worse-than-normal projected hurricane season and we need just and equitable disaster management to protect frontline communities against compounding crises. Investing in our communities to create climate resilience will create more good, green jobs.

We urge Governor Northam and the Members of the Virginia General Assembly to begin working now on a comprehensive package of proposals that will ensure a Just Recovery for Virginia.  That legislation should include, at a minimum, the following elements:

    1.  Declaration of a Climate Emergency to ensure that Virginia responds to the climate crisis with the same urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic.
    2.  Guarantees that job creation and investment programs be targeted to areas with concentrations of people that are of low income, high unemployment, high rent burden, low levels of home ownership or members of groups that have historically experienced discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity.
    3. An Essential Workers Bill of Rights, ensuring strong labor protections across all sectors, including project labor agreements, prevailing wage guarantees, protection of the right to organize and bargain collectively, and repeal of Right to Work.

   4. Resiliency investments in areas of Virginia vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as flooding, storm surges, and urban heat island effect.

Sign and share this petition to tell Virginia's leaders that we can't wait until the next crisis to protect the most vulnerable among us and jump start our economy.

To: Governor Northam, Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates
From: [Your Name]

Dear Governor Northam,

As the dual threats of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis worsens, and thousands of people lose their lives and their livelihoods, Virginia needs a jobs program on an unprecedented scale starting right when social distancing ends.

The pandemic has exposed weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our system and revealed the interconnections between the climate crisis and our economic and health systems: low-income communities and communities of color suffer from asthma at higher rates and are therefore now more vulnerable to COVID-19; communities who are most vulnerable to extreme weather events are also those with the lowest access to high-quality healthcare. We need to take this opportunity to fortify the holes in the system and build a sustainable economy that supports all Virginians.

The Commonwealth is preparing to reopen the economy and “return to normal." But normal left people without good jobs, and with polluted air and unsafe drinking water. We can’t go back to normal. We need a plan to lift us up much better than normal. COVID-19 has been a wake-up call and laid bare our society's shortcomings. Now is the time to transform our economy and our society to make it equitable, renewable and sustainable.

To tackle these issues head on, we need a Just Recovery for Virginia. We need good paying, green jobs to create safe and healthy homes, build renewable infrastructure, and create community resiliency that simultaneously restarts our economy and tackles climate injustice. These jobs and resulting investments must be made available to the communities hit hardest by both the climate crisis and the COVID-19 crisis.