"Union made" could soon be a phrase you can utter at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland, as a conservation corps team might be working there later this year under supervision of an organization related to the AFL-CIO.
Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), an organization representing affiliates and members of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating their collective commitment to "rebuild, renew, and restore our country’s national parks, national wildlife refuges and other public lands alongside youth and veteran conservation corps."
The agreement will pair the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance all-volunteer “Work Boots on the Ground” program with shovel-ready projects on public lands.
“This agreement with the AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is really a win-win,” said Secretary Jewell in prepared comments. “Not only will our nation’s parks and public lands benefit from the expert labor, but many young people will have an opportunity to work alongside the volunteers, learning about the great outdoors and gaining important trade skills. I applaud the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for their work to continue to strengthen the nation through volunteer efforts that will make a big difference in conservation projects across the country.”
The MOU outlines a mutual commitment to the cooperative “Work Boots on the Ground” program among the Department of the Interior and its three land-managing bureaus - the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management - and the AFL-CIO, acting through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.
“America’s workers are committed to doing our part to save our nation’s parks and restore our public lands,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “The USA was established to unite the union community for conservation under a single banner, to protect our most precious and beautiful lands, waters and wild spaces.”
There are already “Work Boots on the Ground” projects identified as `shovel-ready’ in Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin. At Assasteague Island National Seashore in Maryland, a ready-to-go project is the need to install a concrete floor in the maintenance building storage building in the Maryland district of the park. However, decisions on which projects to tackle have not been finalized yet.
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance created the all-volunteer “Work Boots on the Ground” program in 2010 to provide a framework to recruit and coordinate members of the labor union community to volunteer their expert trade skills for conservation projects. In 2013, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance announced the launch of its park program. Since then, park projects have been completed in several states, saving agencies thousands of dollars. The park projects are in addition to many other “Work Boots on the Ground” projects around the country, including Get Youth Outdoors Day and Take Kids Fishing Day events in three cities.
The agreement complements the Interior Department’s youth initiative to inspire millions of veterans and young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. The Memorandum of Understanding emphasizes that, when possible, the AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance will work collaboratively with youth and veteran corps in order to share experience and expertise.