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Labour and the Global Climate Strike: An interview with Nigel Barriffe

By Spencer Bridgman and Nigel Barriffe - Spring, September 20, 2022

For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island have cared for and protected the land and water we all rely on. This is especially true in settler-colonial Canada, where Indigenous Peoples have always been at the forefront of the climate justice movement. Two recent examples of this is the work of the Wet’suwet’en People and the Keepers of the Water. Their calls for climate justice have been amplified in recent years through the blossoming of Fridays for Future: a youth-led, international movement demanding immediate action to address the climate crisis. Under this banner, student strikes have been held across the globe, from Tokyo to Tehran to Toronto. 

This year, a Global Climate Strike is taking place on September 23 and Fridays for Future TO is leading the Toronto action. A number of groups are joining the strike in solidarity, including a Labour and Allies Contingent, who are meeting at Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St. at 12:30pm and will unite with the main march at Queen’s Park at 2pm. 

Spring Magazine spoke to labour organizer and elementary school teacher Nigel Barriffe about the climate strike and the many intersections between the labour and climate justice movements. Nigel is active in a number of roles including as Vice President of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, President at the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and a board member at the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and Good Jobs For All

Climate justice as a workers’ issue and the struggle for planetary health

By Gabriela Calugay-Casuga - Rabble, September 7, 2022

After a scorching summer that saw record temperatures in the territories, B.C. and other parts of Canada, the effects of climate change are impossible to ignore. Under the intense heat, labour organizations are not stopping their mobilization to fight for climate justice. 

“Climate justice absolutely is a workers’ issue,” said Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress in an email to rabble.ca. “Labour rights and human rights go hand in hand, and a transition to a net-zero economy must be achieved respecting both labour and human rights.” 

The extreme weather events caused by climate change also have a direct, concrete impact on workers, according to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) National President, Jan Simpson.

“Our members feel the direct impact of climate change every day on the job,” Simpson said. “Working outside and in non-climate-controlled workplaces, our members face big mental and physical health risks from climate change and increasing extreme weather events, like heat waves and forest fires.” 

Heat events have become a growing health and safety concern for workers. Without legislation that lays out the maximum temperature people can work in, workers can suffer from heat related illness that can sometimes be fatal.

Heat events put workers at risk

By Gabriela Calugay-Casuga - Rabble, July 25, 2022

As summers are getting hotter around the world, workers are at risk. After the UK hit record temperatures the week of July 19, Canada’s Atlantic provinces are now under a heat warning along with Southern Ontario and parts of Quebec, according to the public weather alerts from Environment Canada.

Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) put out a statement urging members to be prepared to work in the heat. 

“Summer is late this year. With a few exceptions across the country, where they have experienced brief periods of heat, the hot weather is overdue,” CUPW said in their statement. “However, we must not regard this situation as the norm and disregard the eventual heat waves that will inevitably occur in the weeks to come.”

Heat events have been devastating for some communities. In the 80s, Unifor lost a member to heat stress. Sari Sairanen, Unifor’s director of the Health, Safety and Environment Department, said that although it has been decades, tragedies such as this remain in the collective memory and impact how unions approach emergency preparedness plans amidst rising temperatures.

According to the website for the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), there is no legislation that lays out a maximum temperature that workers can be exposed to at work. They said that exposure limits are influenced not only by temperature but also by relative humidity, exposure to sun or other heat sources, amount of air movement, how physically demanding the work is, how acclimatized the worker is to their workload, what clothing is worn (including protective clothing) and the work-rest regimen. 

CUPW laid out some precautions that workers can take to keep safe in the hot weather. These precautions include taking all the breaks that workers are provided and slowing down to avoid overworking in the heat. 

Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en fight against CGL pipeline in so-called British-Columbia

By staff - Liberté Ouvrière, July 21, 2022

If you’ve followed the news in the past years, you’ll remember the massive wave of train blockade in 2020. This movement was initiated in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people’s fight against Costal Gas link pipeline in so-called British-Columbia.

See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Canadian_pipeline_and_railway_protests

The fight hasn’t stopped since. Wet’suwet’en people need our help as soon as possible to stop the project!

As revolutionary anarcho-syndicalists, we won’t let the capitalists destroy Earth and threaten First Nation’s rights to their own territory. The corporate and statist climate crimes have world-wide consequences and such shall be scale of our solidarity! Let’s act as a world-wide class in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en opposing the pipeline!

First step is to spread knowledge of this fight across the world.

 »Further ressources » will help you to stay connected with the last updates. For example Wet’suwet’en people are right now collecting funds in order to organize a tour across so-called Canada in the mean to  »build on [their] existing relationships and build new relationships« .

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. 

Gas price burden on rural mail carriers; also harms environment

By Gabriela Calugay-Casuga - Rabble, July 4, 2022

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) claims that Canada Post is placing an undue burden on Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) that is also harming the environment. As Canadians from coast to coast are feeling the pinch at the pumps, RSMCs are paying out of their own pockets to do their delivery routes. RSMC vehicles are left out of Canada Post’s plan to move their fleet to electric, which means that there is no end in sight. 

As the thousands of RSMCs continue to shoulder the burden of gas, they struggle to serve the more than 8,000 routes they cover. In 2021, over six million Canadian residents, or 17.8 per cent of the population, lived in rural areas, according to Statistics Canada. Including relief employees, there are more than 11,000 RSMCs who cover 8,129 routes, according to CUPW National President Jan Simpson. 

Amidst rising gas prices, CUPW members launched a petition urging the government to act on the high gas prices. 

“The members who initiated the petition tell us that the additional cost for gas cuts into their earnings, and that some of them have to consider changing jobs because they can’t afford to keep delivering the mail,” Simpson said in an email to rabble.ca. “It’s an extra burden on top of the costs of maintenance and insurance to keep their own vehicles on the road for work.” 

According to a press release by CUPW, RSMCs are currently compensated for their mileage up to the CRA cap for non-taxable automobile allowances for 2022, which is 61 cents per kilometer up to 5000 kilometers. The release says that this cap was set in December 2021, which means it is based on 2021 inflation figures. 

The tax-exempt per-kilometer allowance limit is reviewed annually against inflation to ensure that it continues to roughly reflect the average costs involved in business driving. Any changes to cost components that arise during a year will typically be reflected in the limit that applies in the following year.

Simpson said that RSMCs collectively drive more than four million kilometers daily. She calculated that at an average consumption of 13 liters per 100km, that would be more than 62,000 liters of fuel used daily.

“This burden does not belong on the individual worker,” Simpson said. 

The large amount of fuel used by RSMCs falls under Canada Post’s Scope 3 emissions, which means they are not considered direct emissions caused by Canada Post. Scope 3 is supposed to be for emissions by contractors and suppliers that Canada Post does not have control over. Simpson said, Canada Post makes the routes, and tracks the distances for compensation. 

CUPW said in their press release that RSMC emissions should be included in Scope 1 which encompasses emissions that Canada Post is directly responsible for. 

Due to the classification of RSMC vehicle emissions, the more than 11,000 RSMCs are left out of Canada Post’s plan to move to electric vehicles. This means Canada Post RSMCs will continue to use tens of thousands of liters of fuel daily. This not only maintains the cost burden on workers, it also means that Canada Post will not truly have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Simpson said that the burden of responsibility should shift from the worker to the corporation. 

“If Canada Post Corporation were responsible for equipping RSMCs with vehicles and fuel, then the workers wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of the gas they need to do their job,” Simpson said. “It would also bring the RSMCs’ emissions into CPC’s scope 1 emissions, which would increase their incentive to electrify more of the delivery fleet. Or there may be other solutions we could find to make Canada Post responsible for rising fuel costs, which would also increase their incentive to improve fuel economy and emissions.”

REPORT: Canadian pension fund investment managers’ entanglement with fossil fuel industry raises conflict of interest concerns

By Adam Scott and Patrick DeRochie - Shift Network, May 5, 2022

New analysis finds 80 Canadian pension managers with 124 different roles at 76 fossil fuel companies, raising questions from beneficiaries about fiduciary duty and pension administrators’ potential conflicts of interest on climate-related investment decisions. 

Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health’s May 2022 report, Canada’s Climate-Conflicted Pension Managers: The Oil and Gas Insiders Overseeing Canadians’ Retirement Savings, reveals the deep entanglement between the fossil fuel industry and directors, trustees and investment managers at Canada’s largest public pension funds. 

The overlap raises serious questions from beneficiaries about their pension administrators’ ability to objectively manage climate-related financial risks and make critical climate-related investment decisions – when the pension administrators are so deeply entangled with an industry whose products are the primary cause of the climate crisis, whose bottom line depends on the continued production of climate-damaging products, and that has a long and ongoing legacy of obstructing efforts to cut carbon pollution.

The analysis finds that among Canada’s ten largest pension funds, which together manage more than $2 trillion in assets:

  • 80 different pension directors, trustees, executives and senior staff currently hold or previously held 124 different roles with 76 different fossil fuel companies. 

  • This includes nine current pension fund directors or trustees that currently hold 13 roles on the board of directors of 12 different fossil fuel companies, and 56 senior staff or investment managers at pension funds who hold 76 different corporate director roles at 39 different fossil fuel companies. 

  • Seven of the ten pension funds have at least one board member who simultaneously sits on the board of a fossil fuel company. 

  • In some cases, over a quarter of the pension fund’s board has direct connections to the oil and gas industry.

The best long-term interests of pension fund beneficiaries are not aligned with the financial interests of shareholders of fossil fuel companies. A pension director who is also a corporate director of a fossil fuel company could find themself with real or perceived conflicts of interest between their fiduciary duty to invest in the best long-term interests of pension beneficiaries, and their simultaneous legal obligation to act in the financial interests of the fossil fuel company on whose board they sit.

Press Release

Read the text (Link).

Against a Climate Popular Front

By Graeme Goossens - Candian Dimension, April 18, 2022

I can’t forget those crisp November mornings. I’d stand respectfully still, a Scout’s red sash across my shoulder. I remember the veteran steadying himself with his cane, standing as straight as he still could, crying silently as the “Last Post” rang out.

“How many of you would have fought?” Ms. Allen had asked our class.

Every tiny hand was raised.

The heroism of the Second World War was etched into my memory.

For the left, there are few national myths fit for duty, but author, activist and organizer Seth Klein has called up the the greatest conflict in history to serve as the key parable in the fight against global warming. Just as Canada mobilized for the war, it must now mobilize for climate change. Klein’s recent book, A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, published by ECW Press in September 2020, makes a powerful case against defeatism and timidity.

Yet despite his impressive call to action (A Good War spent 12 weeks on the CBC Books non-fiction bestseller list), Klein misinterprets Canada’s wartime history and misunderstands the capitalist state. Ultimately, his cross-class strategy cannot deliver climate justice.

Klein’s vision of climate politics is unapologetically state-centric. The stunning wartime transformation of the Canadian economy, vigorously directed by the federal government, proves what is possible. Such a transformation can simultaneously create a more equal society, a development good in itself, while winning public support for a difficult program. And if this seems unimaginable in today’s political climate, Klein argues the war teaches us that public opinion can be shifted through bold leadership from actors primarily, but not exclusively, in the state.

A Good War is written for political impact and as such, Klein gets quickly to the point. The book is structured as a series of lessons we can learn from the wartime experience, introduced in boldface for those too busy to read to the end.

His central argument is a historical comparison: Canada’s success during the Second World War demonstrates what is possible and necessary in our fight against climate change today. So why has such a mobilization not yet been repeated in our contemporary struggle against runaway global warming? Here Klein casts a villain in his story. Though he considers picking the fossil fuel industry, he instead settles on what he terms the “new climate denialism” as the key impediment.

Previous denialism dismissed the science on climate change, but today, our primary enemy is a “way of thinking and practice” that accepts the science while obfuscating its implications. This must be overcome through bold leadership. For Klein, Canada demonstrated such leadership in its fight against fascism. Now, he argues, we must wield it again.

Bold leadership, in his view, must seek to rally the public onside. As in the Second World War, this will involve propaganda, but also efforts to combat the inequality which corrodes a sense of common cause. Wartime plans for post-war social democracy must be echoed by today’s Green New Deal. Klein believes economic barriers can be overcome through a massive expansion of state planning. The government should spend whatever it requires and tax as necessary, but also intervene directly through regulation and the creation of new Crown corporations. Concrete ideas such as a jobs guarantee, a federal high-speed rail network and an inheritance tax add texture, but Klein’s argument does not hang on policy specifics.

In part, his text reads as a direct plea to progressive lawmakers. “This book is an invitation to our political leaders,” he writes in the preface, “to reflect on the leaders who saw us through the Second World War and consider who they want to be, and how they wish to be remembered.” The work was researched through a series of interviews with Canadian politicians, activists and academics. He questions parliamentarians and ministers from various parties on the barriers they face, quotes their responses, and replies in good faith. Central to his rebuttal is a poll commissioned for the book demonstrating strong support for emissions mitigation. “The public,” he argues, “is ahead of our politics.” His role for social movements is ultimately to shift our politicians.

A Good War stands at the cutting edge of progressive climate politics. Along with closely related proposals for a Green New Deal, the climate movement has finally identified a program both adequate for the scale of the challenge and capable of assembling a coalition to achieve it. The book should be lauded for making clear that only the state can coordinate transformation at the speed and scale required.

Yet while A Good War is correct that only the state can bring emissions to zero, Klein is wrong to assume that the state can show the markets who’s boss. And because he misunderstands the capitalist state, he proposes a cross-class coalition aiming to inspire “bold leadership” in our elites. Klein’s program is solid, but this strategy cannot win. Capitalists will fight a just transition tooth and nail, and we cannot overcome their resistance in alliance with them.

Climate Strike!

By Philly Metro Area WSA - Workers Solidarity Alliance, April 13, 2022

Philly Metro WSA was visited by Lucien-Charles Tronchet-Ridel, a Quebec-based WSA activist. He met with members of the branch last month to discuss his work in Quebec with Workers for Climate Justice, a network of union activists.

The “Earth Invites Itself to Parliament” in 2019 built solidarity between workers and students, and culminated in a mass climate march in September 2019. This climate march was not only the largest demonstration in Canadian history, but also one of the biggest climate-marches in world’s history..14 unions declared a climate strike, which was mostly carried out by teachers of various CEGEP (publicly funded colleges). CEGEPs have a tradition of organizing student strikes for social causes. 

Cédric Gray-Lehoux, spokesperson for the youth network of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, was one of three people to make a speech in September 2019. Before this, a training camp linked non-native activists with native activists during two days to share their knowledge and experiences. There is a growing concern in the Quebec ecological movement to connect itself to First Nation struggles. The student movement mostly works to build connections with Native people.

In 2021, Earth Invites Itself to Parliament created a separate network of green unionists: Workers for Climate Justice. This network decided to have another mass mobilization for fall of 2022, when they plan to be more oppositional than in the fall of 2019. The 2019 march was mainstream enough that even the prime minister of Canada marched. The Workers for Climate Justice, for their more oppositional march, have prepared a workshop for workers to present on the workshop floor. 

Waging a strike campaign outside of a bargaining period between two contract periods is technically illegal. Since it will be a social strike, a strike for bettering society, it will be a legitimate campaign even if not a legally sanctioned strike for collective bargaining.

Lucien-Charles is helping Workers for Climate Justice to get in touch with environmental and radical ecology groups in North America, and branch members of WSA were happy to put him in touch with their contacts in Philly and Delaware County. 

When asked what pro-IWA groups can offer to this work, Lucien-Charles replied,“the IWA, I feel, can provide a critical anti-capitalist and anti-statist viewpoint, which is lacking in the mainstream Climate movement, which is largely oriented toward the Green New Deal, and is limited to the UN Recommendations for Carbon Emissions.” He added, “IWA and the IWA Climate Committee can bring a much more radical viewpoint, grounded in the creative possibilities of workers’ direct action, to such as strikes and boycotts, and the ideals of anarcho-communism/anarcho-syndicalism.”

Branch members expressed interest in how to engage on a local level with IWA Climate committee work. When Lucien presented a small film from the mass mobilization of 2019, the visual effect of the never-ending march was inspiring..Branch members shared their reactions and reflections. 

2022 Global Climate Strike: Travailleuses et Travailleurs pour la Justice Climatique

By staff - Travailleuses et Travailleurs pour la Justice Climatique, April 10, 2022

Greetings to all climate conscious workers

Who are we?

We are Travailleuses et travailleurs pour la justice climatique (TJC, Workers for Climate Justice), a Québec-based network. As workers, we are union officers, union executive or rank-and-file union activists. We are conscious of the highest relevance of Climate Justice for the future of our species, all the biosphere and the welfare of our class. Therefore we want to put pressure on fossil fuel profiteers and their politician puppets to make sure greenhouse gas emissions are kept under a secure level.

What do we want?

Our demands are to ban fossil fuels in Québec and Canada by 2030, and tax the rich massively in order to reinvest in public services and social programs. That is why us rank-and-file and local union officers intend to take action in our workplaces. We are calling for nothing else but a Québec-wide social strike for Climate Justice in Autumn 2022!

Climate strike in the past

In September 2019, we organized our first climate strike, in which 14 local unions representing around 7,500 workers across Québec participated. The strike took place alongside the historic climate march of 500,000 people in Montréal on September 27, 2019 - the largest demonstration in our history. 

Climate strike in 2022

This year, we are organizing to mobilize a climate strike on an even greater scale, seeking at least 20 local unions with 10,000 workers to initiate the strike sometime this fall. We are also organizing in solidarity with student movements and community groups in order to build broader support across the province. We will be determining the date of the strike in collaboration with our comrades in the student movement. 

Our outreach intentions

We believe that in order to fight effectively against the climate catastrophe, we must build a movement for climate strike among workers across North America. The greenhouse gas emissions have no borders; it takes an international working-class to fight against them. While the concrete demands may be different in different places, we can support each other and pressure our respective strategic targets, and ensure international visibility and create bonds of solidarity for our common cause.

If your organization or anyone you know is interested in working with us, please let us know and one of us will be in touch with you shortly. Furthermore, please spread this message to as many labour groups in your area as possible. It’s up to us, workers of the world, to act for Climate Justice. Let’s build a Global Climate Strike!

In solidarity, 

Travailleuses et travailleurs pour la justice climatique (TJC)

Coordinating Committee of TJC.

https://justiceclimatique.org/

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