You are here

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

You can’t fix what’s meant to be broken

By D'Arcy Briggs - Spring, April 22, 2021

Regarding the battle against climate change, there is a common liberal argument that says we simply need an improvement in technology, or to push market investments to companies already producing this kind of tech. We’re seeing a boom in renewable energy investment, with many groups clamoring to add these companies to their portfolios. But this push towards new technologies doesn’t exist in an economic vacuum. They are directly informed by the labour processes which create them. No matter how many wind farms or electric cars we create, capitalism will necessarily find a way to destroy us.

Because capitalism is in a constant state of over-production, there is a drive to replace old goods with new ones. If we were happy with the amount and quality of products we fill our lives with, and if we could replace them among our own means, consumer capitalism wouldn’t be able to exist. I think this is pretty self evident and we can easily relate. We are constantly bombarded with ads for new products: phones with better cameras, computers with faster processors, cars with stronger engines, etc. Capitalism can’t function in a world with clean, ‘green,’ energy. It can’t function in a world where the working class are given the tools to function and thrive. Simply put, you can’t fix what’s meant to be broken.

Retooling Our World for the Future

By staff - Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change - June 24, 2020

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists joined Green Jobs Oshawa’s first “Retooling Our World for the Future” Summit; a summit for community leaders, environmentalists, labour and social justice advocates all working towards the common goal of public ownership and repurposing our world and jobs for socially beneficial manufacturing. Here is the link to the video of the summit and a description of the speakers on Youtube.

Take the Plant Save the Planet (pamphlet)

By Green Jobs Oshawa - Socialist Project, March 22, 2020

On November 26, 2018, General Motors announced a number of plant closures in North America, the largest of which was in Oshawa, Ontario. The Oshawa facility, once the largest auto complex on the continent, was to end all its assembly operations by the end of 2019.

The issue is not simply a matter of bringing the environmental movement and the labour movement together; each must be transformed if the sum is to be more than the currently limited parts. The environmental movement must raise itself to a new level by concretely engaging the working class and the labour movement must escape what for it has become an existential crisis. The threats and opportunities of the environmental crisis offer a chance for labour revival, but only if this incorporates a renewed approach to organizing, struggle, radical politics, and the maximization of informed membership participation.

Read the report (PDF).

Take the Plant, Save the Planet (article)

By Russ Christianson - The Bullet, September 22, 2019.

It is a tragic irony that General Motors (GM) chose its hundredth anniversary in Oshawa to announce the December 2019 closure of its Oshawa assembly plant. This means the loss of over 15,000 jobs in Ontario: 2,200 GM assembly jobs, 300 salaried positions, 500 temporary contract positions, 1,000 inside and 1,000 outside supplier jobs, and a related 10,400 multiplier jobs. The closure of Oshawa’s assembly plant is estimated to decrease Ontario’s GDP by $4-billion per year until 2030, also reducing federal and provincial revenues by about $1-billion a year.1

Over the months following the November 26, 2018 plant closure announcement, GM and Unifor (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers’ union) negotiated the Oshawa Transformation Agreement (May 2019)2 that promises:

  • 300 stamping and parts assembly jobs and a $170-million investment.
  • Donating the 87-acre Mclaughlin Bay Reserve to the City of Oshawa.
  • A 55-acre test track for autonomous vehicles.

It has yet to be seen, whether GM will keep its promise. But even if they do, it will still mean losing over 13,000 jobs and a major hit to the economy.

This preliminary feasibility study offers an alternative. The Government of Canada can provide the leadership to acquire the GM Oshawa assembly plant and repurpose the production to building battery electric vehicles (BEVs). There is a strong business case for this alternative, based on a triple bottom line analysis that considers the economic, social and environmental benefits:

  • A public investment estimated at $1.4 to $1.9-billion to acquire and retool the Oshawa assembly plant for BEV production, and potentially manufacturing other products.
  • Manufacturing and selling an estimated 150,000 BEVs in the first five years of production, for total sales of $5.8-billion.
  • Estimated government procurement of one quarter of the BEVs produced in the first four years, representing about 23,000 vehicles with an estimated value of $900-million.
  • Reaching a breakeven point in year 4, and making a modest profit in year 5.
  • Creating over 13,000 jobs: up to 2,900 manufacturing-related (including 600 parts supplier jobs) and over 10,000 multiplier jobs.
  • Decreasing CO2 emissions by 400,000 metric tonnes by year 5.

COPPING OUT AT COP, Avoidance and possibility in a burning world

By Dave Bleakney - Global Justice Ecology Project, November 30, 2017

During the recent Bonn summit a taxi driver provided a clear summary. Asked what he thought of COP 23, he replied “the climate is in crisis, but here, this is about money”. He had provided what had been missing inside. As we race toward certain and expanding catastrophe, he underscored that profiteering off a destructive cycle production, consumption, shipping, the unnecessary transport of products over vast distances and continuous growth models form the basis from which these discussions are framed. It is as though the elephant in the room is never acknowledged, with few exceptions.

How does this appear? In North America you can try this experiment. Turn down the volume of your TV and watch the myriad of commercial advertisements where someone is unhappy until they possess a certain product and suddenly, presto! Everything is great and everyone is happy. The same rubric repeats, again and again. Buy and smile. Smile and buy. Crave to belong as if this will somehow connect us together and create momentary windows of happiness while the earth burns. A crude system of modern feudalism has engulfed the planet where a handful of men – eight, to be precise – own half the planet. In this obscene reality a man can be worth more than a nation. Political leaders and major institutions act as though by convincing a handful of rich sociopaths we can save life on the planet.

Yet power does not, and never has, surrendered anything without a fight or creation of something new. Our uncomfortable future demands that climate criminals should not be enabled with our caps in hand with appeals to do the right thing – certainly those outcomes have been far too modest to date. The rules of the game must change that would remove them from their pedestals of power and our addictions to things we really do not need (and often having them increases the cycle and need for more) while altering the current definitions of value including patriarchal approaches thousands of years old of competition and “winning” at the expense of another.

At COP we are like hamsters on a wheel, living off the ripples of colonialism and wealth accumulation while discussing the speed at which the wheel turns through a series of silos and frameworks. What is needed is to get off that wheel and reconnect with our essence, the earth, and one another.

In this madness, the darker your skin the more you pick up the slack now resulting in myriads of climate refugees fleeing a crisis created while a minority of the planet went shopping. Under current conditions this phenomenon will play out over and over. Hungry people intent on survival will be blamed and shamed, even attacked for doing the only thing left to them: escape to a better place. When people are hungry, what can you expect? Famine breeds war and conflict. The world’s greatest militarist, the United States, built on dispossession has essentially been at war with someone on a continuous basis for nearly two centuries of conquest, often aided by one ally or another. Since 2001, that nation alone has spent $7.6 trillion on the military and Homeland Security in an ongoing war economy.

Little was accomplished at COP, a few very modest breakthroughs (or diversion) lacking any enforcement mechanisms or meaningfully incorporating a gender or Indigenous analysis into the core of action. While climate talks are essential, they are rendered ineffective by living in this bubble. One former UNFCCC official told me that people know this but are locked into a series of “frameworks” and disconnected silo building that does not dare upset the apple cart, a centuries-long mercantilism built on exploitation, greed and accumulation at the expense of the other and all living systems. This same system that uses the atmosphere as a chemical sink for profit. The oil continues to flow and the coal dug.

No longer can it be business as usual where the new normal is unprecedented and frequent catastrophic weather conditions (which can only get worse) and will be normalized for new generations. A tweak here and there won’t cut it.

Indigenous peoples appear to have a better grasp of living with the earth rather than against it as their lands continue to be exploited for resource extraction and profits. Indigenous voices are tolerated, welcomed even, but rarely is this wisdom applied to our reality. In the Canadian context, this vision is met by a system where Indigenous colonized peoples are undermined by super mines, pipelines and general disrespect.

It does feel good to see any progress whatsoever and we hang our hat on that. Political cachet can be earned by playing to domestic audiences as part of this theatre. No better example exists than the myth of Canada as a progressive nation and its new proposed phase-out of coal policy. Through carbon offsets, which shall keep the coal burning until at least 2060 and exports continuing after that date (hardly a victory). While presented as progress it is ineffective, and a diversion which obscures the continuing plan to build pipelines and keep dirty Canadian oil flowing. The tyranny of oil extraction and the use of the atmosphere as a chemical sink for profit remains while the human and animal population subsidize this senseless tragedy.

Who will take on international transport, shipping and aviation? If these sectors were a country they would be the seventh largest polluter where products that could be produced locally at less environmental cost are shipped vast distances.

What does this mean for workers? As we say, don’t oppose, propose. The Union I represent, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers know that a just transition out of destructive practices requires better approaches that we all need to be a part of. We live in a society where some work too much and others have no possibility at all. Incorporation of other more holistic and sustainable values allows us to step outside the box and refocus. Our Delivering Community Power initiative, driving Canada Post to be an engine of the next economy including the use of renewable non-polluting energy, transforming and retro-fitting post offices to produce energy at the local source and eliminate carbon from delivery systems– the latter which has already happened in over 20 cities in Norway (and is growing). Putting more postal workers on the street and less cars also means more face to face contact and added community value by checking in on senior citizens who are isolated. Postal workers have put climate change on the bargaining table. By incorporating Indigenous and feminist values of nurture and care into our future we shift the nature of work and become meaningful actors in solutions. This approach was energized and inspired by the LEAP Manifesto which calls for a restructuring of the Canadian economy and an end to the use of fossil fuels. This is framed by respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship. We cannot leave it to corporations and politicians. We are all part of this solution now and have the opportunity to claim the space to do it.

The indigenous Ojibwe have a saying about the seven generations. They say that for every move we make, it must always be done with a view on how it could impact people seven generations from now. The leaders of this planet would do well to listen to that advice.

We require a new kind of COP. There will be no shopping on a dead planet and reassembling the deck chairs of the Titanic will not help. Creativity and better value systems can.

Delivering Community Power: How Canada Post can be the hub of our Next Economy

By various - CUPW, Leap Manifesto, et. al., March 2016

Many think of Canada Post as a place to mail a care package, buy stamps or pick up the latest commemorative coin.

Some consider the post office past its prime: the last decade has seen efforts to cut, devalue and undermine this quintessentially public service. These moves have been fiercely resisted by people across the country.

What if our cherished national institution, with its vast physical infrastructure and millions of daily human interactions, could offer us something completely different? What if the post office could play a central role in building our next economy — an economy that is more stable, more equal, and less polluting?

Just Imagine...

  • Charging stations for electric vehicles at post offices
  • a renewable-powered postal fleet that connects farms to dinner tables
  • Door-to-door mail carriers checking in on seniors and people with mobility issues as well as delivering locally-produced food and other services
  • Post offices as community hubs for social innovation, connecting climate-friendly businesses to customers
  • Postal banking services that provide small towns and Indigenous communities with inclusive financial services – like loans to families underserved by commercial banks
  • Public-interest financial services that fuel the green energy transition in urban, rural and Indigenous communities We want a 100% renewable economy that addresses inequality, puts power in our hands and improves our lives.

Our post office can deliver it.

Read the report (PDF).

Secret documents reveal trade deal could limit Canadian climate-change fight

Press Release - Canadian Union of Public Employees, December 3, 2015

As world leaders are gathered in Paris for the COP21 climate talks, 23 government negotiators including Canada are in Geneva negotiating a secretive trade deal that will give oil and gas companies new powers.

Wikileaks has released a section of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) draft text that, if adopted, would prevent governments from favouring clean energy - such as solar - over more polluting sources - like the tar sands.

The leak reveals TiSA would also make it difficult, or even impossible, to ban fracking or phase out hazardous and polluting energy extraction. This poses enormous barriers to government action, like Alberta’s recent climate change strategy.

“It’s urgent that we collectively phase out – not expand – our fossil fuel use,” says Mark Hancock, CUPE National President. “TiSA keeps our planet on the path to climate disaster, by allowing corporations to continue exploiting dirty energy sources, and preventing governments from favouring renewable alternatives.”

A CUPE delegation to the COP21 climate talks, including National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury, is calling on international leaders to reject any trade deal that hinders the fight against climate change.

“In Paris, we’re pushing for public ownership of renewables. It’s the best way to transition away from fossil fuels and meet ambitious emissions targets,” says Fleury. If Canada wants to show leadership on climate change, it’s time to walk the talk. Our government must reject TiSA.”

Global trade union federation Public Services International has analyzed the leaked text: 

CUPE is committed to stopping trade deals like the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and TiSA, which put corporate profits ahead of the public interest and the environment.

CUPE is calling for fair trade deals that work for people and the planet – not just a global corporate elite.

Learn more in the Trade section of our website.

To stop climate change and move to a renewable future, we must take the profit motive out of our energy strategy. CUPE supports public ownership of the energy sector and works with allies like Trade Unions for Energy Democracy to find solutions to the climate crisis that can strengthen worker and community power while advancing social and environmental justice.

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.