Michael Guerrero discusses labor, climate justice at Avogadro’s Number

Pat Conrey

Avogadro’s Number invited Michael Leon Guerrero to speak Monday evening about the impact climate change will have on the world’s work industries.

According to the United Nations, the world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050,  25 years after current freshmen at Colorado State University will enter the workforce.


Michael Leon Guerrero speaking
Michael Leon Guerrero sits and discusses a few stories on how he got into the sustainability side of the world on February 12th 2018 at Avogadro’s Number off of S Mason St. Guerrero, is the Executive Director for the Labor Network for Sustainability organization and gave a speech on how to “make a living on a living planet.” (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Guerrero, the executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, addressed the audience about topics including progressive labor movements and climate change policy at the event co-sponsored by CSU’s Environmental Justice Working Group and the Department of Political Science.

“The whole issue about jobs and environment as a dichotomy was always a false dichotomy,”Guerrero said. “We felt we should never have to trade off jobs for our health, our safety and the environment.”

According to Guerrero, the environmental justice communities have to live with both realities.

We felt we should never have to trade off jobs for our health, our safety and the environment.”Michael Guerrero, executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability

Guerrero left the environmental justice and community organizing sphere to work with the labor unions. Guerrero praised the work of his peers and their analysis of times when labor unions changed their positions on major issues, like civil rights, immigration and healthcare.

“It was the same story,” Guerrero said. “It was a bottom up process within the labor movement that created the change.”

During the panel, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has made its way onto the federal political scene, was used as an example of worker and environmental rights.

On Jan. 1, 1994 the United States entered NAFTA. Guerrero worked closely with cross-border organizations on NAFTA where labor unions, faith-based groups and environmental groups came together.

“We all got sold out by Bill Clinton,” Guerrero said. “Those agreements were not worth the paper they were written on.” Guerrero stressed the importance of the labor workers to organize themselves.

Between labor groups organization has not always been easy. Often times, Guerrero will be shown the door if he even mentions a just transition to a world that is more sustainable and fair for laborers. Guerrero said he believes the question “What would climate change mean to your industry?” opens the conversation.

“Climate change is the real job killer,” Guerrero said. “I found that union people around the country really are thinking about this issue. They just need some guidance.”


LNS hosted their first Labor Convergence on Climate in January 2016. At the convergence, the group approved a set of guiding principles.

Groups like LNS and EJWG are actively working towards a more sustainable world.

“This is one economic transition that we cannot afford to be reactive to,” Guerrero said. “We all have to be all in.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the United States entered the North American Free Trade Agreement Jan 1., 1989. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the U.S. entered into the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement Jan. 1, 1989.

Collegian reporter Pat Conrey can news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Load_of_Crop.