The BlueGreen Alliance (BGA) (and its associated 501(c)(3) arm the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation) is a project of America’s national labor unions and major environmentalist groups designed to show a united front for progressive environmentalist policies. The Alliance was founded in 2006 by the United Steelworkers labor union and the Sierra Club to allow unions and environmentalist groups to more easily push agenda items they hold in common. The BlueGreen Alliance absorbed another “green jobs” advocacy group, the Apollo Alliance, in 2011.
The Alliance’s membership consists of nine labor unions and five environmentalist groups. Notable member organizations include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA), and the Amalgamated Transit Union. The Laborers International Union of North America was previously a member, but the union quit the BlueGreen Alliance to protest the group’s opposition to the Keystone XL natural gas pipeline.
The BlueGreen Alliance receives funding from numerous sources, including federal government grants, contributions from environmentalist foundations, and financial support from member labor unions. The organization is led by executive director Kim Glas, a former Democratic Party congressional staffer and official in the Commerce Department during the Obama administration. The executive director of the Sierra Club and the international president of the United Steelworkers serve as co-chairs of the board of directors.
The BlueGreen Alliance (BGA) was founded in 2006 by the environmentalist Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers labor union. The partnership is notable for seeking to bridge a perceived gap between the job-creation needs of labor and the economic costs of environmentalist policies. David Foster, a United Steelworkers official, was appointed the founding executive director of the organization.
BGA was not the first effort to bring together labor and the environmental left: A “Blue/Green Working Group” was convened under former union official and then-president of environmentalist group Friends of the Earth at the urging of then-AFL-CIO president John Sweeney as early as the late 1990s. The Apollo Alliance, a major pressure effort aimed at obtaining federal subsidies for so-called “green-collar” jobs in environmentalist-backed industries, was founded in 2004.
By 2009, the labor-and-environmentalist-supported Democrats had taken power, and the BlueGreen Alliance made aggressive lobbying efforts for the ambitious progressive agenda of President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California). According to filings with the U.S. Senate, in 2009-2010 BGA reported $3.89 million in lobbying expenditures on such matters as “climate change legislation” and the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as the union “card check” bill.
However, the BlueGreen Alliance effort ultimately had more staying power. BGA merged with the Apollo Alliance in 2011, uniting the two organizations. BGA gained prominence in progressive and Democratic Party circles, and the group’s executive director, David Foster, was given a speaking role at the 2012 Democratic National Convention to attack Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s business record. Foster would leave BlueGreen in 2014 to take a job in the Department of Energy under the Obama administration.
The Alliance takes fairly orthodox environmentalist and labor union stands on most issues. In 2015, the group endorsed the Paris Agreement to compel reductions in carbon emissions. The Alliance also endorsed substantial new regulations on California oil refineries.
The BlueGreen Alliance (BGA) receives funding from across the progressive movement. The group consists of two organizations separated for tax purposes: the 501(c)(4) BlueGreen Alliance and the 501(c)(3) BlueGreen Alliance Foundation. The organization has been funded by its labor union membership, progressive donor groups and foundations, and the federal government.
Labor Union Support
As part of their membership in the BlueGreen Alliance, numerous labor unions provide funding to the organization and its foundation. In labor unions’ 2015 fiscal years, unions provided over $600,000 to the Bluegreen Alliance and the Foundation. Unions contributing over $100,000 included the Plumbers and Pipefitters; Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers; and the United Steelworkers.
Progressive Donor Support
The 501(c)(3) arm of the BlueGreen Alliance, the Bluegreen Alliance Foundation, receives substantial funding from progressive foundations. The group was also identified as part of a 2014 “Progressive Infrastructure Map” by liberal donor organization Democracy Alliance.
The foundations that contribute to BlueGreen Alliance and BlueGreen Alliance Foundation are largely environmentalist in outlook. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Park Foundation, and the Marisla Foundation have all contributed to the Foundation in recent years.
Other notable foundation funders of BlueGreen Alliance Foundation include the JPB Foundation, which is run by the widow of an alleged leading beneficiary of the Bernie Madoff fraud schemes. The Rockefeller Foundation contributed over $450,000 to BlueGreen Alliance Foundation in 2012.
During the Obama administration, BlueGreen Alliance received substantial funding from the federal government through a program associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the fiscal stimulus. The Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration awarded the BlueGreen Alliance a $5,000,000 grant to conduct green jobs programs in Minnesota. Tax forms filed by the BlueGreen organizations show substantial revenues from government grants were reported by the 501(c)(3) BlueGreen Alliance Foundation.
Kim Glas has served as executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance and president of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation since 2014. Prior to her taking the leadership of BlueGreen, Glas served in the Commerce Department during the Obama administration and as an aide to former U.S. Representative Mike Michaud (D-Maine).
The board of directors of the BlueGreen Alliance are mostly officers of the member unions and environmentalist groups of the alliance. Other notable board members include former Apollo Alliance Chair, California State Treasurer, and California Democratic Party Chairman Phil Angelides and Institute for America’s Future Co-Founder and President Robert Borosage.