A Focus on Unions and Climate Justice
Tulo March 2022
Inspiration from the past
The Climate Emergency can sometimes be seen as separate from the struggles of workers. This is a misconception as the Climate Emergency is a byproduct of the very same Global Economic System that has been exploiting the labouring classes for centuries. The exploitation of natural resources and the exploitation of human resources are intricately linked within the overall system of Capitalist exploitation. Trade Unionists are becoming ever more concerned that the fight for workers’ rights is fought alongside the fight for Climate Justice. There is no rule book on how best to do this. We are making it up as we go along.
In our search for examples from the past, on how to go forward; these are few and far between but remarkable in themselves and truly inspirational: –
1) The ‘Green Bans’ as documented in Rocking the Foundations (Video available on Vimeo) (*a) (*b) (*b i) The Green Bans were used by the Sydney State Australian Builders Labourers Federation in the 1970s. This union worked alongside communities to hold up millions of dollars’ worth of investments in the runaway high-rise City developments. The union succeeded in preventing the destruction of rain forest areas, wild green spaces, parks, low-cost housing communities and cultural and heritage buildings.
2) THE PLAN that came from the bottom up (See YouTube documentary part one and part two) (*c) (*d) ) Also in the 1970’s, the Lucas Plan was developed by the Lucas Aerospace UK engineers after they were threatened with redundancy. The workers produced an alternative plan for the future of their company that would not only save their jobs but also help save the planet. They developed alternatives to the military products the company made, including wind turbines and hybrid cars and ‘socially useful’ products. They were eco-pioneers. Ahead of their time.
If anyone knows of any other examples like this, please get in touch.
Back to the present day.
What developments are there in joint working with Unions and the Climate Justice Movement? Here is a thrown together round up as a starter……
- The Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (*e) part of the wider Campaign Against Climate Change. The group is supported by a number of National Unions, Trade Councils, and local Union Branches including PCS, CWU, UCU, TSSA, FBU, BFAWU, NUS, Unite, Unison and more. The Group has produced a Climate Jobs Report Climate Jobs: Building a Workforce for the Climate Emergency. (*e i) They organised a major Trade Union mobilisation across the UK for the COP26 protests.
- The COP26 Coalition Trade Unions Caucus. A recently formed group focusing on ‘rewiring the system’ in a way that addresses injustices, poverty, and inequality.
- Extinction Rebellion Trade Unionists. This is a newly forming group aimed at promoting trade unionism in the Climate Justice Movement and the Climate Justice Movement within trade unions.
- The Greener Jobs Alliance (*f) This alliance works with training bodies, colleges, universities, employers, local and national government, trade unions, housing associations, campaign, and community groups – to build the policies, investment and partnership needed to drive the transition to a zero-carbon economy forward. Supported by UNITE, PCS, NEU, UCU, SOSUK, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, The Haidane Society of Socialist lawyers…. Free online course available. Online debates. Newsletters. Facebook.
- The Trade Union Clean Air Network TUCAN (*g) launched in February 2019. The group is taking a lead in the under acknowledged issue that many workers are working in polluted air environments. Air pollution is a trade union issue. They devised a Charter (*h) with a set of demands to be used by unions at a local, regional, national, and international level.
- The New Lucas Plan Just Transition working Group (*i) A New Lucas Plan for a Just Transition to a zero carbon, peaceful and socially useful economy.
Learn with Unite: Environment Task Force
Unite the Union has launched an environment taskforce:-
“Climate change means workplace change. We want our members to be at the forefront of that change, making the decisions alongside their employers. Ensuring everyone benefits from a greener economy, change focused on skills, education and high-quality green jobs!”
The Taskforce has produced an Environment Charter