Federal delegation leaders unveil groundbreaking food security, sustainable housing, and jobs agenda

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley joined members of the Massachusetts Renews Alliance (MARA) coalition on Thursday, Feb. 11, to introduce the newly formed alliance and an agenda that includes legislation that is being filed next week — the Building Justice with Jobs Act and Food Justice with Jobs Act. The 10 a.m. kick-off event was live-streamed to an audience of over 1,300.

MARA, part of the Renew New England Alliance, is a coalition of more than 40 Massachusetts organizations — that represent environmental justice, youth, labor, racial justice, and housing groups. This is the first time such a broad coalition has written legislation for Massachusetts, and the first time disability rights activists have been included in the drafting of environmental legislation.

“This coalition is made up of our Commonwealth’s greatest, greenest minds,” said Sen. Ed Markey in his speech. “You are the green monster of Massachusetts!”

“Today’s announcement could not be more relevant or more timely,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley in her opening remarks. She went on to voice her support for the intersectional, grassroots nature of the alliance: “The grassroots level does translate into legislative action … We organize, we mobilize, and we legislate our values!”

Alan Palm, Director of Organizing for 350 Mass, introduced the Building Justice with Jobs Act, which would “train and hire thousands of people into the building trade and provide good-paying jobs. It will invest in communities who have been most impacted by our overlapping crises.” He noted that “the crises we face are interlocking so our solutions must be as well. The transformative change that we need can only be formed if we join together.”

The sponsor of the bill – State Senator Marc Pacheco – called the Building Justice with Jobs Act an “exciting opportunity for Massachusetts to once again take the lead” on climate. State Rep. Maria Robinson, who will sponsor the bill alongside State Rep. David Henry ArgoskyLeBoeuf, shared her excitement to work on a bill that “brings together labor, housing climate, environmental justice, and Indigenous activists to work towards a shared goal.”

Kannan Thiruvengadam, Director of Eastie Farm and Coordinator of Mutual Aid Eastie, introduced the Food Justice with Jobs Act, which would create “an entirely new food system, one that revolves around localized sustainable agricultural production, fair labor standards, and a fundamental right to enjoy nutritious food.” He went on to say that “the Food Justice with Jobs Act will help create a more resilient, a healthier, and a more economically secure Massachusetts.”

Rep. Madaro, House sponsor of the Food Justice with Jobs Act, highlighted how the COVID pandemic has exposed “just how fragile our food systems are.” Sen. Boncore, the Senate sponsor, called on viewers to ask their representatives to support the bill.

Darlene Lombos, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council, added, “Environmental policy is economic policy. That means workers and the communities we live in are key to developing long-lasting solutions that will unite us in addressing the disparities in our current economic system as we also advance towards more sustainable and equitable energy policies.”

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