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Fridays for the Future

Beating the Climate Clock: Workers, citizens and state action in the UK

By Hillary Wainright - Transnational Institute, February 21, 2024

It’s April 2020. In the UK, the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height. Ventilators were running out. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was calling for ‘Our Great British Companies’ to come to the rescue and manufacture emergency supplies. Apart from existing producers of ventilators, there was little response. But at the Airbus factory in North Wales, the well-organised Unite branch representing over 4,000 workers, took matters into their own hands and, in a matter of weeks, led the conversion of the factory’s research and development facility into an assembly line producing components for up to 15,000 ventilators for the National Health Service (NHS).

‘Without the union’, commented the Unite convenor, Darren Reynolds, ‘it would have been chaos, lots of problems without any procedure to resolve them. We’ve built up a tried and tested organisation and established procedures for solving them’. He cites the all-important role of workers’ elected health and safety representatives in turning the Welsh government-funded Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (part of the Airbus site) into an adapted sterile environment. ‘Our 60 health and safety reps have been able to pre-empt the problems and solve them in advance’, he explains.

In this way, 500 Airbus workers, previously producing aircraft wings, turned their skills to producing ventilator parts, meeting social needs, securing jobs, and strengthening their union organisation in the process.

The organisation of the conversion process, the speed at which it was achieved, and the capacity of the workforce to collaborate to meet the challenge, were impressive. This was largely due to the role of the union branch and its shop stewards who organised the aircraft-turned-ventilator workers and their determination to extend collective bargaining beyond wages and conditions to change the product on which they worked. 

Moreover, in the context of a crisis in the supply of ventilators to meet the needs of COVID patients, and a call from a Conservative Prime Minister for companies to make them, management could hardly resist the union’s public-spirited efforts to find a solution. Finally, and especially significant for today’s climate emergency, this worker-led experience of successful industrial conversion also offers a glimpse of the potential role of workplace trade unions in moving from a high-carbon to low-carbon economy without job losses. At the very least, the experience points to the importance of a well-unionised workplace for the achieving such a transition.

NASA Scientist on how we beat Climate Change "Physics doesn't care about your politics"

Labor Rise at End Fossil Fuels Demo

By Ted Franklin - Labor Rise, September 18, 2023


Labor Network for Sustainability contingent at Sacramento, California climate emergency demonstration. Credit: Ted Franklin CC-BY-NC-4.0

Labor Rise members helped organize a contingent of rank-and-file union members to join hundreds of other demonstrations in the End Fossil Fuels march and rally in Sacramento, California, on Sunday, September 17, 2023. We marched under the banner of Labor Network for Sustainability, a national organization building Labor/Climate movement solidarity. The Sacramento action was one of many in the United States during the international week of action to end fossil fuels. In New York City, where the United Nations gathered for meetings on climate, 75,000 people marched.

In Sacramento, where hundreds gathered, Labor Rise member Martha Hawthorne spoke on behalf of Labor Network for Sustainability:

Why the Climate Movement Is Supporting Auto Worker’s Fight for a Just Transition

By Sydney Ghazarian - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 17, 2023

Welcome everyone! My name is Sydney, I am an organizer with the Labor Network for Sustainability, and I am honored to facilitate tonight’s Solidarity Call for United Auto Workers Union, which is currently bargaining for a fair contract with the Big 3 Automakers- Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. 

What makes tonight’s call so special is that it’s a solidarity call by and for the climate movement because we recognize that UAW’s fight is our fight too.

What I love about the climate movement is that we are fighters. And our fight has spanned decades and across generations, and for the last several years, hundreds and thousands of us have rallied, door knocked, made calls, and done sit ins and direct actions to fight for a Green New Deal– which is a society-wide mobilization and just transition to decarbonize the economy while repairing historic harm and creating millions of high-paying, union jobs.

And I want to be clear: Without us fighting for a Green New Deal, there would be no Inflation Reduction Act and its historic investments in clean energy. But we also know that the IRA is not a Green New Deal, and falls desperately short of the Green New Deal’s vision of the world we are trying to build. Rather than massive investments in the public sector, frontline communities, and good, green, union jobs that uplift working people, the IRA invests primarily in private corporations– often the same ones responsible for perpetuating the climate crisis in the first place. 

Unlike the IRA, the Green New Deal understands that the implementation of climate policy, and how resources are distributed to achieve it, are key to ensuring climate justice and ensuring that millions of people are equipped to take that leap of faith away from fossil fuels and into a green economy. 

To The CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis:

By various - Labor Network for Sustainability, et. al., August 16, 2023

(Mary Barra, Jim Farley, and Carlos Tavares)

We, the undersigned climate, environmental, racial, and social justice organizations, stand in solidarity with auto workers and their union the United Auto Workers (UAW) in their upcoming contract negotiations with the “Big 3” automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. We firmly support the UAW members’ demands and believe that the success of these negotiations is of critical importance for the rights and well-being of workers and to safeguard people and the environment. Only through meeting these demands will the United States ensure a just transition to a renewable energy future.

Lack of fair wages, job security, and dignified working conditions have left workers and our communities reeling. Worse, in recent months, workers and their communities have experienced unprecedented extreme heat, smoke pollution, flooding, and other disasters. The leaders of your companies have historically made decisions that exacerbated both of these crises over the past few decades — driving further inequality and increasing pollution. That is why we are standing in solidarity with the UAW and all workers and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis and the necessary transition.

Within the next few years — the span of this next contract — lies humanity’s last chance to navigate a transition away from fossil fuels, including away from combustion engines. With that shift comes an opportunity for workers in the United States to benefit from a revival of new manufacturing, including electric vehicles (EVs) and collective transportation like buses and trains, as a part of the renewable energy revolution. This transition must center workers and communities, especially those who have powered our economy through the fossil fuel era, and be a vehicle for economic and racial justice. We are putting you on notice: Corporate greed and shareholder profits must never again be put before safe, good-paying union jobs, clean air and water, and a liveable future.

Amazon Strikes as a Climate Justice issue; Trade Union briefing

The first signs of an ecological class struggle in Germany

By Franziska Heinisch and Julia Kaiser - Progressive International, March 31, 2023

On 3 March 2023, on the occasion of the global climate strike, a special political alliance took to the streets in Germany: side-by-side, climate activists and public transport workers went on strike. In at least 30 cities, climate activists visited workers’ pickets and brought them along for joint demonstrations. According to Fridays for Future, a total of 200,000 people participated in the nation-wide protests.

The way employers reacted showed that this alliance of workers and climate activists is a potential threat to the ruling class. Steffen Kampeter, CEO of the Confederation of German Employers (BDA), publicly denounced them on the morning of the joint strike day as “a dangerous crossing of the line”. He said that the German service union ver.di was blurring the lines between strikes for collective bargaining and general political concerns, thereby entering the terrain of political strikes. To the delight of campaigners, this accusation contributed to the fact that the joint strike dominated the news that day.

This unity between the labour and climate movement was long overdue: a wider and more affordable public transport system is one of the central measures to achieve socially just climate protection. However, the mobility transition in Germany has so far been made impossible: many employees in local transport work in shifts under terrible conditions and barely make ends meet — with salaries just above the minimum wage. Many therefore decide to quit their jobs. There is already a shortage of tens of thousands of drivers. And this problem will only get worse in the coming years. At the same time, ticket prices are rising steadily and the passenger transport systems, especially in rural areas, are thinned out.

What It Really Takes To Save the Planet

'Tomorrow Is Too Late': Climate Strikers Target Fossil Fuel Financing Worldwide

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, March 3, 2023

"The capitalistic system continuously puts profit over people," says Fridays for Future. "The Global North's fossil finance is the cause of the climate crisis, neocolonial exploitation, wars, and human rights violations."

"It's time to end fossil finance because #TomorrowIsTooLate!"

That's the takeaway message from climate strikers who took to the streets worldwide on Friday to demand an immediate end to the financing of all fossil fuel projects amid a worsening global emergency largely driven by coal, gas, and oil.

"The capitalistic system continuously puts profit over people," the youth-led Fridays for Future movement said in a statement. "Corporations' greed for more profit is driving the destruction of ecosystems and the climate. At the same time, frontline communities are paying the highest price while being the most affected by the climate crisis."

#Insorgiamo: A Factory Occupation for the Climate

By Lukas Ferrari and Julia Kaiser - Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, January 11, 2023

Over the last two years, Italian autoworkers have built a broad and inspiring alliance for ecological transformation:

Imagine a climate strike in which 40,000 industrial workers, climate activists, pacifists, and other non-politically active people are brought together. In their speeches, they denounce the shutdown of an automotive supply factory. They all agree that what is needed is a conversion of production instead of layoffs. The bloc right at the front of the demonstration is made up of workers from the affected factory, and behind them are masses of militant climate activists and spontaneous demonstrators.

The workers of the plant join forces with scientists to develop a conversion plan together and, based on their skills and the latest research in environmental sciences, a vision emerges of producing components for hydrogen-powered buses. More and more people agree: we need production centred on people instead of profits!

This vision — one that would not be at all out of place in an ecosocialist manifesto — became a reality in Tuscany, Italy. After the 422 employees and approximately 80 agency workers of the automotive supplier GKN Driveline received an email on 9 July 2021 informing them that they didn’t need to come to work next Monday, they occupied their plant in Campi Bisenzio, on the outskirts of Florence.

The strategic centre of the occupation and the wave of mobilization that developed around it came to be known collectively as the Collettivo di Fabbrica GKN, which operates autonomously from but closely with official trade union structures. The majority of the more than 500 workers, including the workers’ councils organized within the Federazione Impiegati Operai Metallurgici (FIOM), the Italian metalworkers’ union, identify as part of the collective, which meets outside of working hours.

GKN is an automotive supplier with more than 50 production plants worldwide. Up until the production halt in summer 2021 the plant in Campi Bisenzio mainly produced axle shafts for Fiat (Ducato), Maserati, and Ferrari. The plant has changed ownership many times over the last decades. Once under the property of Fiat, in 1994 it was bought by the company GKN, which in turn was bought by the British investment fund Melrose Industries in 2018 for 8 billion pounds. Only three years later management announced the shutdown of the plant in Campi Bisenzio and the layoff of all its employees, days after the Italian government lifted the ban on dismissals it imposed during the pandemic.

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