In the wake of President-Elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Governor Gina Raimondo for Commerce Secretary, we as Sunrise Providence feel it is important to recognize the weight of this position, and Raimondo’s history on union issues, job creation, and climate.
As Secretary of Commerce, Raimondo will be responsible for promoting job creation and economic growth, negotiating trade agreements, and creating conditions that benefit US businesses and workers. This position will impact labor issues as well as what types of economic development and jobs are created – all of which are issues of equity, climate, and labor rights.
Governor Raimondo has a history of misleading the public, prioritizing corporate profits over people, continually promoting fossil fuel infrastructure, and ignoring the climate crisis and the needs of Rhode Islanders. In 2019, two years after announcing a goal for Rhode Island to increase the state’s clean energy ten-fold by the end of 2020, Raimondo continued to support the Invenergy fracked gas plant proposed for Burrillville. With a price tag of $1 billion, and widely opposed by Rhode Islanders, the plant ultimately failed. She told the CEO, “I know you have choices about where you could be and I’m pleased you’ve chosen Rhode Island, and you should know we are going to make sure you are successful here.” This inability to connect with community needs and promote effective job creation will not change given a new position.
A venture capitalist before her former position as Rhode Island Secretary of Treasury, Raimondo has previously made decisions that directly hurt Rhode Island workers and unions. She clashed with unions over the past decade as she overhauled the state pension program and slashed retirement benefits. In the 2020 budget, she cut $58.7 million from Medicaid while budgeting $15.7 million for insurance companies. These decisions directly hurt Rhode Island workers, while giving money to corporations.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Governor Raimondo nominated Ronald Gerwatowski, Marion Gold, and Abigail Anthony to the Public Utilities Commission. [Editor’s note: Marion Gold, and Abigail Anthony were nominated to the PUC before the start of the pandemic.] All of these appointments were made after Raimondos executive action to go 100% renewable by 2030, and all have backgrounds working for National Grid or fighting for fossil fuel infrastructure.
These corporate nominees were directly responsible for the utility rate increases this past year, adding to the already devastating utility shut-off crisis facing Rhode Islanders, with thousands of us losing electricity every year.
Governor Raimondo’s history of business ventures that ignore the climate crisis, disregarding the needs of Rhode Island workers, and appointing members of the PUC who approve rate increases during a pandemic is vitally relevant at this time. Governor Raimondo’s appointment to Secretay of Commerce is one more reason we must continue to put pressure on President-Elect Joe Biden. It is clear that a climate cabinet will not be enough to tackle the climate crisis at the level we need to build an economic recovery grounded in green job growth, healthcare for all, and protections for frontline communities against the climate crisis and housing insecurity.