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COVID-19

Global Climate Jobs Conference 2022: Jonathan Neale on the meaning of Climate Jobs

“It’s time to transform” LVC welcomes the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on COVID-19 and the right to food

By staff - La Via Campesina, September 6, 2022

After more than two years, the COVID-19 pandemic is still a reality in our daily lives. More people today still bear the brunt of the pandemic with health restrictions, limited access to markets, worsening hunger and poverty, inequality, and also repression to people’s fundamental rights. During this period, hundreds of millions of people have contracted COVID-19, and over six million people succumbed to death. For peasants and other people living in rural areas, the pandemic has shown the importance of local, peasants’ food systems that are feeding the people and preventing widespread hunger. It is time to transform. The rights of people, dignity, and solidarity, not profits, should be the foundation of the new society post-pandemic.

In similar notes, Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, examines the emerging issues concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and the right to food. The report, entitled “The right to food and the coronavirus disease pandemic” (document A/77/177, available in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian).

In this report, Fakhri summarizes the current situation of pandemic and framing the problem during pandemic times: especially the lack of concerted actions by governments all over the globe and the exacerbated situations done by corporations in putting profits first before humanity. The Special Rapporteur goes further showing the fragility of our general food systems in these pandemic times, highlighting that “[The pandemic] has underlined the value of sharing and solidarity, and the importance of the application of traditional, local knowledge in times of extreme hardship. Communities persevered when they were not exclusively dependent on food value chain operations for their food security. Resilient solutions included localized markets, public food reserves and associated public food distribution systems, mutual assistance and the sharing of food, as well as jut transition to agroecology [as a means for adapting to climate change].”

The report benefited from a series of regional consultations with civil society and inputs from Member States of the United Nations. Therefore it is worth to mention that just transition for workers was raised as one of the solutions for immediate response to the pandemic and the current food crisis, along with upholding land rights and genuine agrarian reform, curtailing corporate power, developing action plans on the right to food based on the principles of solidarity, self-sufficiency, and dignity, addressing debt crisis and financial needs, and ensuring that international trade law and policy create fair and stable markets.

The important report also makes good references to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), provisions from International Labour Organization (ILO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), also the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Climate Politics and the Ukraine War

By staff - Fight the Fire, September 2022

There are three aspects to the war in Ukraine.

First, the war began as a Russian invasion. A large majority of Ukrainians support the resistance by the Ukrainian armed forces. This is a fight for democracy. Invasion is always an act of dictatorship, whether in Ukraine, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine.

Putin’s invasion is of a piece with his previous military interventions in Chechnya, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Syria. This is part of reestablishing Russian power and influence in the region of the old Soviet Union and the previous Russian Empire.

But Putin is also afraid of the spreading movements for democracy in Belarus and Central Asia. And he is afraid of the growing internal opposition in Russia. Military excursions to solidify internal power are a constant in the history of Putin’s Russia.

A victory for Ukraine would make the movements for democracy in Central Asia and Eastern Europe stronger.

But then there is the second aspect: this is a real war between Russia and Ukraine. But it is also a proxy war between the United States / NATO and Russia.

What this is not is a confrontation between the forces of democracy led by Biden, Scholtz and Macron and the forces of dictatorship led by Putin. What Russia is doing to Ukraine now, the US has done to many countries. Joe Biden supported the American invasions of Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington, Paris and Frankfurt have supported the Israelis, the Assads in Syria, the Saudis in Yemen and Sisi in Egypt. The list goes on and on.

The most important climate crime in the world right now is the US economic blockade of Afghanistan. The purpose of this blockade is to punish the Taliban and the Afghan people for defeating the American military. The blockade has turned a serious drought caused by climate change and a massive earthquake into a serious famine.

A victory of Ukraine over Russian invasion would also strengthen the power of NATO and American imperialism in many parts of the world.

The third aspect of the war is political. Putin is the leading figure in the growing global movement of the racist right. Other leading figures include Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump in the United States, Orban in Hungary, Le Pen in France and Duterte and Marcos in the Philippines. There are many more leaders, in many more countries, that constitute this reactionary international, which is a bullwark for climate chaos.

Statement in Support of U.S. Railroad Workers on the Precipice of Their Historic Strike

By Jim Abernathy - Labor Network for Sustainability, September 2022

Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) stands firmly in solidarity with railroad workers in this historic moment. Our railways are the veins of our nation, and these workers ensure our healthy circulation, getting our people and our goods wherever they are needed. Every person in this country fundamentally relies on the hard work and immense expertise of rail workers.

They worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the country alive, without a contract, and they have been thanked by private railroad corporations with sweeping layoffs, a refusal to pay just wages and benefits, and utterly inhumane working conditions. Let us not mince words - being forced to work alone, in dangerous conditions, sometimes for up to 80 hours a week is fundamentally inhumane. These workers, too long pitted against one another by the bosses, by CEOs who seek to divide and conquer the working class of the nation, now stand united as one against this unacceptable status quo.

Rail transportation and rail labor are also vital to the health of our entire planet. They are a crucial piece of solving the climate crisis, and they must be respected as a core part of the solution to many of our systemic problems. Respect for rail transportation and rail workers means expanding the workforce so that workers can have decent schedules, ensuring robust compensation, and ensuring their safety - putting our railroads front and center in the fight for good union jobs and a livable planet.

The bosses will not act unless they are forced to by a unified working class. Our railroad workers, united, spurred on by their own righteous history of labor militancy, are prepared now to use their collective power. LNS stands ready to support our brothers and sisters on the railroad and their fight for justice on the job and for all our communities.

Read the text (PDF).

Workers’ rights and the fight for climate justice

By D'Arcy Briggs - Spring, July 7, 2022

Low-wage workers have been hit hardest by the pandemic, they were the first to lose their jobs and most likely to get COVID. A new survey shows that workers in the most precarious jobs, who are disproportionately racialized, are directly dealing with the impacts of the worsening climate crisis. Spring Magazine spoke with Jen Kostuchuk of Worker Solidarity Network about the links between climate justice and workers’ rights.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the Worker Solidarity Network

I’m a settler from Treaty 1 territory, currently working on Lekwungen territory. My experience as a worker in the hospitality industry motivated me to engage with and advocate alongside workers in food service. I’m currently filling the Worker Solidarity Network’s (WSN) climate and labour project coordinator position. WSN is a community-centered organization that fights for worker justice. Through organizing, mutual aid, and legal advocacy, our goal is to support workers through labour injustices and build worker power. 

Given the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and climate change, how have workers been affected?

Between being overworked and understaffed, lay-offs, and termination, workers have been affected in ways that lead to deep vulnerability. But disproportionately, COVID-19 and climate change have hurt essential, low-wage workers in highly gendered and racialized sectors. Many workers in industries like hospitality, retail, and food service, bear the brunt of stolen wages, normalized discrimination, sexual harassment, and harsh working conditions like cooks standing in front of hot grills during heatwaves. 

At the height of the pandemic, I heard from folks whose employers told them to ignore COVID protocols if a customer “wanted it a certain way.” I also heard from food and beverage servers who were asked to remove their masks before customers entered a tip. So in some cases, it’s clear that workers were risking their own health and safety to avoid jeopardizing their income. 

The pandemic fostered an environment where we saw first hand that low-wage workers were deemed essential yet not treated that way. At the same time, we know that the pandemic provided an opportunity to build momentum to expose our most broken systems through mobilizing together for racial, gender, and environmental justice. 

Green aviation: trade unions demand strong international commitment with social sustainability and a Just Transition

By staff - IndustriALL, June 21, 2022

The transition to a more sustainable aviation sector will impact workers and trade unions are demanding concrete measures to ensure a Just Transition and a fair transformation of the sector, which is inclusive and maintains and creates decent jobs.

This week, international and European trade unions representing workers in the aerospace and aviation sectors met to discuss a united position ahead of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in September, at which it is hoped that the future pathway towards sustainable aviation will be agreed by international governments and key industry stakeholders.

At such a critical time, where the aviation industry faces the urgent challenge of responding the continued fallout from the Covid crisis, unions have identified the need for a coordinated industry-wide response from airlines, airports, governments, and unions to rectify capacity shortages, flight delays and beleaguered service levels that have plagued the industry for months.

Workers’ participation is critical, not just in fixing the underlying issues that are currently crippling the industry, but crucially in the addressing the long-term sustainability and decarbonisation of the industry. Workers’ participation will be essential in the social management of such a major industrial change. Climate justice cannot exist without labor justice with decent work being created through freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The meeting organized by IndustriALL Global Trade Union, International Transport Workers’ Federation, and their European counterparts industriAll European Trade Union and the European Transport Workers’ Federation follow successful collaboration on the Toulouse Declaration on the future sustainability and decarbonisation of aviation.

The aerospace and aviation sectors are intrinsically linked. Global trade union federations are particularly important in these processes playing a key role linking common needs and are essential in turning them into an international vision and strategy. Trade unions from both sectors see significant opportunities offered by a combined and cross-sectoral approach, based on a supply chain-wide vision and an international industrial strategy that is built on foundations of sustainability and decent work.

On Inflation and Working Class Struggle

By anonymous - angryworkers.org, June 17, 2022

On Saturday 18th of June, (there was) a national TUC demo in London, and as part of the build up, we were invited to sit on a panel hosted by the People’s Assembly called ‘Wages Up, Bills Down, Tories Out’. We were joined by six other panelists from the RMT, Bristol Co-operative Alliance and the Tribune, Bristol Trades Council and the NEU, the TUC and PCS, the Green and Labour Councillors for Ashley Ward, and the Secretary for Unite South West, who chaired the meeting.

Below is the transcript of the input from one AngryWorkers comrade about the current crisis, followed by a report from a comrade on the meeting in general.

I work as a housekeeper at Southmead hospital and I am a GMB rep there. I previously worked for several years in warehouses and food factories. I can see every day how people who earn around the minimum wage are struggling more.

I think we’re in a crisis in more ways than one. It’s a cost of living crisis, yes. It’s also coinciding with a long-running crisis of working class organisation and militancy (e.g. the fact that NHS workers can’t even enforce an actual pay rise, despite all the public support and the fact that we slogged our guts out in the pandemic, says a lot). And it’s also a crisis of the system where there aren’t any obvious answers.

“We Want Everything”: A Four-Day Work Week

By Samantha O’Brien - Rupture, June 9, 2022

“It’s not fair, living this shitty life, the workers said in meetings, in groups at the gates. All the stuff, all the wealth that we make is ours. Enough. We can’t stand it any more, we can’t just be stuff too, goods to be sold. Vogliamo tutto - We want everything”

- Nanni Balestrin

Labour Power

The four-day work week has captivated media headlines internationally, with different countries piloting programmes in the Global North. Seventeen companies have signed up to commit to a pilot programme in Ireland. Thirty companies in the UK are taking part in a new pilot. Workers will maintain one-hundred per cent productivity for eighty per cent of their time.[1] Belgium has given workers the right to request a four-day work week with no loss of pay, effectively condensing their five day work week into four days. This has rightfully attracted criticism, as working time has not reduced, but workers get to maximise their stress levels by working nine and a half hours per day.[2] The central theme of many global campaigns is that the implementation will look different in varying sectors, rosters and working arrangements. The campaign’s main aim is for a shorter working week with no loss of pay and challenging the dominant narrative that long hours equate with greater productivity.[3]

The key demand of socialists has long been a shorter working week with no loss of pay. Karl Marx in Capital describes how the hours that make up the working day mean different things to employees and employers. Workers put in their time to afford the basic necessities in life. Employers buy labour-power, and the value is determined by working time. Any labour-power beyond what is required to produce the necessities of life is surplus-value that employers get for free. It is not necessary for us to work long hours to produce what is needed, but instead employers maximise their profits by taking our surplus value. Marx notes that “the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working-day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e., working-class.”[4]

There are many examples of struggles over shorter working hours throughout history. The eight-hour working day in the Global North was not granted because of benevolent employers or lobbying politicians, but fought for and won through struggle. In 1856, Australian Stonemasons who were working harsh ten hours days walked off their job and eventually won an eight-hour day.[5] The same story was echoed in struggles internationally, with workers taking a collective stand for their pay and conditions. Eleanor Marx, who was a founder of the GMB Union in 1889, fought and won an eight hour workday for gas workers. On May Day in 1890, she also played a crucial role in organising the Hyde Park protest in London. This protest gathered hundreds of thousands of people with the key demand of an eight-hour workday.[6]

Workers and Communities in Transition: Virtual Discussion on the Just Transition Listening Project

By J. Mijin Cha, Vivian Price, Dimitris Stevis, and Todd E. Vachon - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 3, 2022

The Center for Global Work and Employment, Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN) and Center for Environmental Justice at Colorado State University have recently sponsored a virtual discussion on the Just Transition Listening Project (JTLP)’s 2021 report Workers and Communities in Transition. You can watch the recording online on LEARN-TV.

Webinar: Investing in Workers for a World Beyond Fossil Fuels

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