You are here

Fridays for the Future

Strike Together: Strengthening the Climate Movement and Trade Unions

By Nicolas Rother - Rupture, May 5, 2021

Leipzig, central bus yard, 15 October, 3:30 am - Normally, the first wave of public buses spreads out all over the city to bring day-time workers to their workplaces and the late shift home. But not today. This autumnal and drizzly Thursday morning is a special one. It’s strike day!

Germany’s second-largest trade union, ver.di, called all drivers of Leipzig’s public transport company, LVB, out for a warning strike. It’s the second within a few weeks. And it’s the second time that the picket line looks very different from what most drivers and their bosses expected. You can see bicycles and cargo-bikes standing by the usually empty bike racks. Roughly 20 other Fridays for Future (FFF) activists and I crawled out of bed in the middle of the night to support the strikers for the second time.

The first time we did this, three weeks before, we felt a bit like aliens. Most drivers were reserved and sceptical when we arrived and unfurled our banner. When we explained that we were there to support them, some openly refused to listen to ‘truants’ and ‘intellectuals’. But we stayed, listened, asked questions and discussed until sunrise.

This time we came again to show that we really care. We brought tea, cake, music and even a burn barrel to break the ice. Still, we had to deal with people who were socialised with Stalinist anti-intellectual propaganda in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) and who had a wide repertoire of hackneyed sayings and jokes about people who go to university. But they were doing this while drinking our coffee and standing around our burn barrel which made us feel that we were more than just supporters, we were actually part of this picket line. Our initiative was necessary because the union was extremely worried about getting bad press for supposedly organising a super-spreader event and wanted everybody to strike from home.

Does fighting climate change require postponing the fight for system change?

By John Molyneaux, Climate and Capitalism, August 25, 2020

Time is always an important factor in politics and history but never has it mattered as much as on the issue of climate change.

The IPCC Report’s warning in October 2018 that the world has twelve years to avoid climate disaster was undoubtedly a major factor in galvanizing a global wave of climate change activism, especially in the form of Greta Thunberg and mass school strikes and the Extinction Rebellion movement. At the same it is clear that this warning could be, and was, “heard” or interpreted in different ways by different people. In this article I want consider some of those interpretations and their implications, particularly in relation to the question of whether there is time to bring about system change or whether, because time is so short, it is necessary to focus on and settle for changes that can be implemented within the framework of capitalism.

Before coming to that, however, I want to suggest that many an opportunist politician will have heard the twelve year warning quite differently from Greta and her followers. To them twelve years would be a very long time indeed: three US Presidential terms, two full length parliamentary terms in Britain and many other countries; in other words more than enough time to fulfill your ambitions, secure your place in the history books or, at least, secure your pension and several directorships, before anything serious would have to be done at all. The only practical implication of the twelve year warning would be the need to set up various commissions, draw up some action plans, attend a few conferences and generally engage in a certain amount of greenwashing. Should you be the CEO of a major oil, gas or car company exactly the same would apply.

At the opposite end of the spectrum there were large numbers of people, especially young people, who “heard” the warning as meaning that there is literally, only twelve years to prevent global extinction.

These are not equivalent misreadings: the first is utterly cynical and immensely damaging to humans and nature alike; the second is naive but well-intentioned. But they are both misreadings of what the report said and of what climate change is. Climate change is not an event that may or may not happen in 2030 and which might be averted by emergency action at the last minute, but a process which is already underway. Every week, month or year of delay in reducing carbon emissions exacerbates the problem and makes it harder to tackle. By the same token, there is no absolute deadline after which it will be too late to do anything and we might as well give up the ghost.

The Future of Climate Strikes

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, February 2020

This is the first in a series of commentaries on the Future of Climate Strikes. This introductory commentary asks whether strikes and forms of mass direct action “people power” might help halt climate destruction and bring about a Green New Deal. For the entire Future of Climate Strike series see here.

During the week of September 20, 2019 more than seven million people around the world participated in what was dubbed a global climate strike. They held more than six thousand events in 185 countries.[1] Weekly school strikes initiated by students had burgeoned within a few months into a global movement. The young people who initiated the movement vowed to continue their weekly protests and to build up to an even more disruptive week of global climate strike during the week of Earth Day 2020.

The logic underlying the climate strike movement was summed up by its founder Greta Thunburg: “Some say that we should not engage in activism, instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for change instead,” she said. “But what do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?”[2] Her answer was a strike that would disrupt “business as usual” around the world.

Meanwhile, mass strikes and nonviolent mass uprisings around the world have been demonstrating how ordinary people can make history by intervening in business as usual. Just in the past year, Puerto Ricans held a general strike and a million of them – about one in three Puerto Ricans – occupied the capitol San Juan, forcing the government’s highest official to resign.[3] In Sudan, a two-day general strike and street protests led to the ouster of the president. In Brazil, 45 million workers took part in a general strike to protect worker rights.[4] Massive confrontations in Hong Kong, featuring a general strike, continued month after month. India saw the largest general strike in the history of the world, with 150-200 million participants.[5] In Chile demonstrations against a subway fare hike eventually brought four million people to the streets to reject the country’s 20-year experiment with extreme neoliberalism and call for a new, more democratic constitution. Millions participated in general strikes and large street protests in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Ecuador, Indonesia, Italy, France, UK, Catalonia, and the Czech Republic.[6]

Could some similar kind of mass strike and popular nonviolent uprising create the political will for climate protection and break the power of the forces that are promoting climate destruction? As the world hurtles into climate catastrophe, such a possibility has begun to take hold on the imagination of those around the world who would not sit by and see the basis for human life on earth destroyed. Groups like the student strike organizations, the Sunrise Movement, and Extinction Rebellion have called for strikes and mass direct action to implement climate protection and a Green New Deal. Sunrise Organizing Director Dyanna Jaye recently wrote,

The only way to get the political establishment to make the Green New Deal a priority in 2021 and beyond is by disrupting business as usual. Young people around the world have already been doing this with the #ClimateStrike movement. This year, we’re going to turn up the heat, starting with massive strikes on Earth Day to make sure that the Green New Deal is THE story for 2020 as we head into the elections.

Amazon Abuses Workers and the Climate—Because It Can

By Sonali Kolhatkar - TruthDig, December 5, 2019

While online shoppers were busy taking advantage of bargain prices on Black Friday, retail workers in various European cities were walking off their jobs in anger. Hundreds of Amazon workers in six German cities protested, saying that their employer’s demands were making them ill. Similar protests were held by Amazon workers in France, aimed at the environmental cost of Black Friday, and in the U.K., members of the union GMB held signs saying pointedly, “We are not robots.” Here in the U.S., workers picked up on that theme as dozens gathered outside Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ Manhattan apartment to insist that they are “human beings, not robots.”

A majority of American households are members of Amazon Prime. All we see with our eyes is the website that we make purchases on and the boxes that arrive on our doorstep a day or two later. Sometimes we may catch a glimpse of a delivery person rushing away to their truck to drop off the next package. But the worker protests that have plagued the company ought to deeply trouble us, as well as documented abuses in numerous recent studies and investigative reports.

As millions of Americans this holiday season have been doing, I too have been relying on the convenience of Amazon’s shopping experience to tick off the boxes on my list of gifts. In fact, I routinely count on it to meet the needs of my family. As a parent with a full-time job, I have barely 20 minutes of free time during the day to run errands, buy groceries, drive my kids to their extracurricular activities, and so on. When I see heavy rain in the forecast and realize with dismay that my child has outgrown his rain boots, it is far easier to order him the right pair of boots on Amazon in minutes than spend more than an hour driving to and from a store that may or may not have the size and price I’m looking for.

Online shopping has been a boon, especially for working mothers like me. I will admit, I have often thought of my reliance on the convenient online shopping experience as “self-care,” to use the parlance of the modern wellness movement. But each click confirming a purchase comes with a heavy bout of guilt, knowing what I know about how the workers who fulfill my order are treated.

Blueprint for Europe's Just Transition: The Green New Deal for Europe (Edition II)

By various - The Green New Deal for Europe, December 2019

Europe today confronts three overlapping crises.

The first is an economic crisis, with rising levels of poverty, insecurity, and homelessness across the continent. The second is a climate and environmental crisis, with severe consequences for Europe’s front-line communities and even more perilous ones on the horizon. And the third is a crisis of democracy. Across the continent, people are disconnected from the locus of political decision-making not only in Brussels, but also in the communities where they reside.

These crises are products of Europe’s political decisions, and they are closely bound together. The promotion of extractive growth has driven environmental breakdown, and the devotion to budget austerity — over and above the democratic needs expressed in communities across Europe — has constrained our capacity to respond to it.

A radically new approach is necessary to reverse this destructive trend — and to deliver environmental justice in Europe and around the world. We call this approach the Green New Deal for Europe, and the following report is a comprehensive policy pack-age charting a course through Europe’s just transition.

Read the report (PDF).

Strike for a Sustainable Climate

By AblokeIMet - Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group, November 10, 2019

This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 8 No 5, Sep-Oct 2019.

On 20 September this year, there was a co-ordinated series of demonstrations around the world held under the umbrella of “School Strike for Climate”. At least 6 million people participated, with protests across 4,500 locations in 150 countries. It was followed the next week by another 2 million people protesting in 2,400 locations. In Australia, protests were attended by about 300,000 people – amounting to over 1% of the population.

These protests mark a watershed in global politics around climate change. In key countries, including Australia, huge numbers of people are angry about the impending climate disaster and willing to do something about it. Capitalist governments, however, are taking inadequate action and some are even denying there is a problem.

It will take more than protest to avert the danger of global temperature rises of 3-4 degrees C, which would cause the death of billions and possibly the end of industrial civilisation – and most people know it.

What is urgently necessary now is to turn protest into resistance, through turning the school strikes into workers’ strikes. In Australia, the next global school strike day should be the occasion for mass co-ordinated strikes by workers from as many industries as possible, with the aim of building towards a general strike.

Such strikes, of course, will be illegal. But this is such a broad and urgent issue that we now have a golden opportunity to smash the “Fair” Work Act and its vicious anti-union provisions to smithereens. Workers who have had strikes banned by the “Fair” Work Commission, or been injuncted off picket lines, or fallen foul of other rules that are designed to prevent us exercising our economic power have a vital interest in joining the next climate strike.

The Climate Strikers Walked Out of School. Next, Let’s Walk Off the Job

By Sydney Ghazarian - In These Times, November 5, 2019.

This September, the world erupted when over 7 million people — young and old—poured into the streets for the Global Climate Strike. The mass action, which made a Green New Deal a top demand, was sparked in the lead-up to Sweden’s 2018 general election, when teen activist Greta Thunberg began ditching school to protest Sweden’s inaction on climate change. Greta, who was already inspiring more student strikes through social media, catalyzed the Fridays for Future movement when she decided to continue striking on Fridays after the general election. Over the past year, young leaders—particularly youth of color—have been on the forefront of building Friday Climate Strikes into a worldwide student civil disobedience movement, taking aim at the political failure to address the climate emergency.

The logic of the Climate Strike movement was summated by Greta at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019. “Some say that we should not engage in activism, instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for change instead,” she said. “But what do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?”

With the Help of Teachers Unions, the Climate Strikes Could Be Moving Into Phase 2

By Rachel M Cohen - In These Times, November 4, 2019.

As young people across the country join the global movement to mobilize school strikes to demand climate action, one group is starting to think more seriously about how to best support those efforts: their teachers.

Educators, like those in the California Federation of Teachers and the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), are beginning to leverage their power both as teachers and union members to push the bounds of climate activism.

Kurt Ostrow, a high school English teacher in Fall River, Mass., has helped lead his union to the forefront of the climate movement over the last few years.

“Climate to me has always been the major crisis that needs to be addressed, and even though in the classroom I really try to prioritize it, it just doesn’t feel always enough,” he says. “So I have been trying to use the leverage that we have a as union of 110,000 people to support the movement.”

In his first year of teaching five years ago, Ostrow went as a delegate to MTA’s annual meeting, where the union’s social justice caucus—Educators for a Democratic Union—sought a teacher to introduce a resolution (known as a “New Business Item”) recommending the divestment of state pension plans from coal. Ostrow’s college friends had been leaders in the campus divestment movement, and he had always participated in their actions as an ally, so he was happy to volunteer to introduce it.

“We lost a quorum, so we weren’t able to take a vote on it, but the next year we did it again and it passed,” he said. “That was really how I first dipped my toes in.”

When the youth climate strikes took off last year, Ostrow, who now serves on the board of his statewide union, began thinking harder about how teachers could help them. At its March board meeting, he decided to introduce a resolution that the MTA would support the youth climate strike scheduled for March 15. It passed unanimously.

At the union’s next annual meeting, held in May two months later, leaders of the social justice caucus deliberated over what environmental resolutions they should introduce to best support the Green New Deal.

“I knew we could put forward a resolution that said MTA supports the Green New Deal, and I think that would have passed easily, but I really wanted to create a decision point, like a ‘which side are you on’ moment that would really force teachers to confront their own conscience,” he told In These Times. “So I decided to go radical, and I put forward a New Business Item calling for the MTA to propose a national teachers strike in support of the Green New Deal.”

It’s illegal for teachers to strike in Massachusetts, and following Ostrow’s impassioned speech at the conference, there was some heated debate. In the end, though, it passed.

Strike, Blockade, Shut it Down! Reflections on the Wollongong Global Climate Strike

By Mark Gawne & Nick Southall (with contributions from Sharon Pusell & Rascal Rowe) - Revolts Now, October 23, 2019

The Wollongong Global Climate Strike on September 20 was the largest protest in the city since the 2003 anti-war demonstration. The Climate Strike fits into a recent series of protests in the region, specifically coming off the back of the earlier school climate strike in March, and the climate action demonstration in May, with some other smaller protests taking place over the year as well. Of these actions, the Wollongong Global Climate Strike was by far the largest and drew together a vast array of groups and individuals. It was organised by open meetings composed of people from several organisations and groups, as well as individuals, all working together. The largest meeting had over 50 people participate, and there was a consistent number of at least 25-30 people attend each meeting. The Strike itself expresses the latest moment in a process of radicalisation in the region’s climate movement and provides a basis for ongoing struggle in and around Wollongong, most clearly demonstrated in the newly formed Illawarra Climate Justice Alliance (ICJA). We offer here some reflections on why the Strike should be understood as an important growth of struggle in the Illawarra, on the ecology of the strike in Wollongong, and the politics of the Strike, as we look forward to the next steps in the movement.

Earth Strike Ireland Rising

By IWW Ireland - IWW Ireland, September 22, 2019.

Millions of people took part in one of the largest international mobilisations seen in a number of decades as Earth Strike generated street protests across the globe from the biggest cities to the smallest of villages and Ireland was no exception.

As an internationalist working class movement, members of the Industrial Workers of the World have played a full role in helping to mobilise the grassroots in the build up to Earth Strike.

In Ireland activists took part in student rallies, street mobilisations and die-ins throughout the country from Cork to Derry at which thousands of people took part to help highlight this emergency call. Thousands including many schoolchildren along with teachers, parents, older supporters, community and trade union organisations came to out on to the streets in a unified global demonstration as part of a world-wide Climate Strike. Villages, towns and cities such as Ennis, Cloughjordan, Letterkenny, Belfast, Dublin, Waterford, Galway, Cork, Sligo, Derry and Athlone added their names to the vast growing list of mass protests and rallies across the country whilst similar demonstrations took part in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and beyond.

During the Earth Strike a spokesperson for the Industrial Workers of the World said that, “for wobblies, today’s actions around the world is one of people power and grassroots activism. Our union in particular has a long history of not just fighting against capital but the protection of our earth. Over the past decades our members have been targeted, arrested and imprisoned for their part played in the fight to save the earth from its destruction by the hand of capitalism. Make no mistake this is a class war in that the business class will stop and nothing in their pursuit of profit, that is the nature of capitalism.

“As a revolutionary grassroots union, it is our fundamental belief, that the only way in which we can stop the destruction of our planet before its too late is to make capitalism extinct. That can only be done by the workers themselves, the working class. Without doubt there is an urgency in that class war but it’s never too late to unionise that fight. What we can’t have now is for all that anger and energy witnessed today to be allowed to slowly evaporate. Widespread and continuing pressure must be increased on those who are killing our planet. On a day such as this, we should take note of the words of one our great troubadours, Utah Philips ‘the earth is not dying, it’s being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.’

Pages

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.