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Paul Hampton

Towards Workers' Climate Action

By Traven Leyshon - Solidarity, March 2016

Workers and Trade Unions for Climate Solidarity:
Tackling climate change in a neoliberal world
By Paul Hampton
Rutledge, 2015, 211 pages, $54.95 kindle.

For Workers’ Climate Action:
Climate Change and Working-Class Struggle
By Paul Hampton, 54 pages, £4.

[The workers had] “done more for the future of green energy and green jobs in the UK in two weeks than the government has done in 12 years.” — National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers President Bob Crow speaking of the Vestas factory occupation.
“The myth that the environment movement is the preserve of the do-gooding middle class must be exploded. It is, in fact, the workers who are most affected by the deterioration of the environment and it is therefore up to the trade union movement to give it a higher priority to fighting to improve it.” — Builders’ Labourers Federation Secretary Jack Mundey.

“The AFL-CIO Executive Council therefore calls upon the President to refrain from signing the proposed Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.” — AFL-CIO Executive Council statement, January 30, 1998.

IN THE FACE of capital’s ecocidal embrace of extreme energy, unprecedented numbers of people are mobilizing in climate marches, bravely engaging in direct actions to stop the expansion of fracked gas pipelines. There is also a growing anticapitalist, climate justice wing, including an ecosocialist current.

While workers are participating in these “inter-classist” protests, we are told that “they do not participate as workers, with a consciousness of their specific role…the working class is now in the rearguard of the struggle over the climate, while peasants and indigenous peoples are in the front line with anticapitalist demands.” (Daniel Tanuro, Confronting the Ecological Emergency,

Paul Hampton, a trade union researcher in Britain, addresses these issues offering a Marxist perspective on the potential role of the working class in climate politics, as well as the tasks of revolutionaries, in this pamphlet and book (which originated as a PhD thesis on climate change and employment relations).

In his introduction Paul poses key questions for climate politics:

“Whether workers organized in trade unions possess the interest and power to tackle dangerous climate change, and whether unionised workers can become strategic climate actors.”

“Whether trade unionism in the twenty-first century can succeed in reinventing itself as a social movement capable of tackling climate change.”

Workers and Trade Unions for Climate Solidarity focuses primarily on the interrelation of climate and class politics; on union climate debates, policies and practices worldwide and in the United Kingdom; on UK workplace green reps; and on the 2009 Vestas occupation, in which workers at a wind turbine factory occupied the workplace to try to stop closure.

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