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Unifor

Unifor's Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery

By staff - Unifor, June 2020

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy.

The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

Unifor brings a modern approach to unionism: adopting new tools, involving and engaging our members, and always looking for new ways to develop the role and approach of our union to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Every person of working age in Canada has a right to a good job and the benefits of economic progress.

Unifor is presenting this plan in June 2020, four months after the novel coronavirus arrived in Canada, at a time when restric-tions on movement, activities and business operations are begin-ning to lift, but infection rates and illness continue to grow.

Read the report (PDF).

Take the Plant Save the Planet (pamphlet)

By Green Jobs Oshawa - Socialist Project, March 22, 2020

On November 26, 2018, General Motors announced a number of plant closures in North America, the largest of which was in Oshawa, Ontario. The Oshawa facility, once the largest auto complex on the continent, was to end all its assembly operations by the end of 2019.

The issue is not simply a matter of bringing the environmental movement and the labour movement together; each must be transformed if the sum is to be more than the currently limited parts. The environmental movement must raise itself to a new level by concretely engaging the working class and the labour movement must escape what for it has become an existential crisis. The threats and opportunities of the environmental crisis offer a chance for labour revival, but only if this incorporates a renewed approach to organizing, struggle, radical politics, and the maximization of informed membership participation.

Read the report (PDF).

Take the Plant, Save the Planet (article)

By Russ Christianson - The Bullet, September 22, 2019.

It is a tragic irony that General Motors (GM) chose its hundredth anniversary in Oshawa to announce the December 2019 closure of its Oshawa assembly plant. This means the loss of over 15,000 jobs in Ontario: 2,200 GM assembly jobs, 300 salaried positions, 500 temporary contract positions, 1,000 inside and 1,000 outside supplier jobs, and a related 10,400 multiplier jobs. The closure of Oshawa’s assembly plant is estimated to decrease Ontario’s GDP by $4-billion per year until 2030, also reducing federal and provincial revenues by about $1-billion a year.1

Over the months following the November 26, 2018 plant closure announcement, GM and Unifor (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers’ union) negotiated the Oshawa Transformation Agreement (May 2019)2 that promises:

  • 300 stamping and parts assembly jobs and a $170-million investment.
  • Donating the 87-acre Mclaughlin Bay Reserve to the City of Oshawa.
  • A 55-acre test track for autonomous vehicles.

It has yet to be seen, whether GM will keep its promise. But even if they do, it will still mean losing over 13,000 jobs and a major hit to the economy.

This preliminary feasibility study offers an alternative. The Government of Canada can provide the leadership to acquire the GM Oshawa assembly plant and repurpose the production to building battery electric vehicles (BEVs). There is a strong business case for this alternative, based on a triple bottom line analysis that considers the economic, social and environmental benefits:

  • A public investment estimated at $1.4 to $1.9-billion to acquire and retool the Oshawa assembly plant for BEV production, and potentially manufacturing other products.
  • Manufacturing and selling an estimated 150,000 BEVs in the first five years of production, for total sales of $5.8-billion.
  • Estimated government procurement of one quarter of the BEVs produced in the first four years, representing about 23,000 vehicles with an estimated value of $900-million.
  • Reaching a breakeven point in year 4, and making a modest profit in year 5.
  • Creating over 13,000 jobs: up to 2,900 manufacturing-related (including 600 parts supplier jobs) and over 10,000 multiplier jobs.
  • Decreasing CO2 emissions by 400,000 metric tonnes by year 5.

Renewable energy: planning a just transition

By Sandeep Pai and Savannah Carr-Wilson - The Ecologist, November 28, 2018

As the transition to renewables speeds up, governments will have to seriously think about what will happen to people working in the fossil fuel industry.

When governments start planning for national renewable energy transitions, it is important that they are clear about new job creation (in renewables or any other sector) and how to rehabilitate fossil fuel workers and connected communities.

Forward planning 

Ken Smith of Unifor explained the need for governments to have a just transition plan. “Suppose there is a man living by the river in a fire zone. He has children and belongings. He doesn’t want to lose things when fire comes. What should he do?

"He should build the bridge before fire comes. That’s what is required. Similarly, countries have to plan a transition. Give training, and deploy fossil fuel workers in other industries. Create jobs before the transition.” 

Sandeep asked Ken whether he thinks oil sands workers need a transition plan. He replied, “Yes, absolutely. There are all kinds of things that can be done. There is lots for all of us in Canada. The future doesn’t have to be so gloomy. But we have to plan a transition for workers.

"I was unemployed so I had to move here. But I moved away from my family. Now Fort McMurray is my home and people here are my family members.

"It’s like a temporary community. However, it can’t just work on oil. We need to diversify, get training and develop industries like wind, solar and hydro. This will prevent a collapse.”

Jobs vs the Environment?: Mainstream and Alternative Media Coverage of Pipeline Controversies

By Robert A Hackett and Philippa R Adams - Corporate Mapping Project, September 2018

Much of the argument advanced in support of expanding Canada’s fossil fuel production centres on job creation and economic benefits. Politicians, pundits and corporate spokespeople who support fossil fuel infrastructure projects—such as new oil and gas pipelines—often evoke this rhetoric when they appear in the media.

This study examines how the press—including corporate and alternative outlets—treats the relationship between jobs and the environment. Focusing on pipeline projects that connect Alberta’s oil sands to export markets, it also asks which voices are treated as authoritative and used as sources, whose views are sidelined, which arguments for and against pipelines are highlighted, and what similarities and differences exist between mainstream and alternative media coverage of pipeline controversies.

Read the report (PDF).

Nova Scotia’s Dirty Secret: The Tale of a Toxic Mill and The Book Its Owners Don't Want You to Read

By Jimmy Thomson - DeSmog.Ca, February 9, 2017

Lighthouse Beach, a white sand crescent on the north coast of Nova Scotia, was once considered the jewel of the region. People would flock there from New Glasgow and Pictou on summer weekends, visiting the lobster bar and swimming in the clear waters of the Northumberland Strait.

There had been plans for a twice-daily train that would carry visitors between the seaside, a hotel and a local yacht club. Dreams began of a destination national park. But all of these plans were choked off by the introduction of a giant pulp and paper mill in 1967 that literally transformed a large part of Pictou Landing into a toxic dump.

You can smell it usually before you can see it: clouds of sulphur belching from the Abercrombie Point Pulp and Paper Mill smokestacks. For decades, the plant pumped contaminated water into the strait, using Boat Harbour, once an idyllic tidal lagoon used for fishing and clam digging, as a settling pond for highly toxic effluent.

It was also once my family’s home.

My family settled over 200 years ago in this piece of Mi’kmaq First Nation territory, eventually transferring their own property into government care for — as they were told — protection for future generations.

Waves now roll in on Lighthouse Beach dark brown and foamy, the colour of Guinness, where I — like so many other kids in the area — learned to swim and sail.

The story of Pictou Landing is one of desperation, of corruption and incompetence. So perhaps it’s no surprise that when Canadian journalist and anthropologist Joan Baxter tried to tell it, old forces of power moved in to silence her. The mill’s owners tried to banish Baxter and her book The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest from local bookstores.

Of course, that backfired in spectacular fashion: The Mill sold out two printings and became the best-selling book in Nova Scotia Chapters and Coles book stores the month it was released.

I reached Baxter at her home in Nova Scotia to talk about The Mill, the stories that were told to hide industry’s impacts from locals and the fight against years of environmental racism and degradation still plaguing the region to this day.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

B.C. Using Kitimat Smelter Workers as ‘Guinea Pigs’ for Air Pollution Monitoring, Union Says

By Carol Linnitt - DeSmog.Ca, November 6, 2017

In October, B.C. Premier John Horgan made a visit to the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter on the banks of the Douglas Channel in Kitimat.

He praised the facility for being “a great example of how companies can improve conditions for workers and reduce pollution all while improving their bottom line.”

What he didn’t mention was the ongoing battle at Rio Tinto Alcan over a provincial permit that allowed the company to increase sulphur dioxide pollution by more than 50 per cent, or the union representing 800 workers at the smelter that appealed that permit, saying the increase in pollution was a direct threat to their health.

Exposure to sulphur dioxide aggravates the respiratory systems of asthmatics and is known to negatively affect the respiratory systems of children and the elderly.

At the heart of the controversy is a decision by the B.C. Ministry of Environment in 2013, which allowed the smelter to increase its sulphur dioxide emissions into the Kitimat airshed during a $5 billion expansion project. The ministry approved the increase in emissions under an environmental monitoring plan that would measure, but not prevent, the impacts of the pollution on human health until 2019, when the plan would be revisited.

B.C. did not require the company to install scrubbers, commonly used in smelters to remove airborne pollutants from emissions, a decision that still bothers Sean O’Driscoll, president of the smelter’s union, Unifor local 2301.

Having a monitoring program ongoing, with suitable human health mitigation plans required to be implemented at a later day, has folks feeling like they, their children and neighbours are being treated like guinea pigs,” O’Driscoll told DeSmog Canada.

The Future of Forestry: A Workers' Perspective for Successful, Sustainable and Just Forestry

By Unifor Foresty Industry Council and Unifor Research Department - Unifor, August 2017

Web editors' note: In this document, the Canadian foresty workers' union, Unifor, is proposing to accept (limited, "strongly regulated") "Cap & Trade", "REDD+", and "Market Based Solutions" (policies that front line communities and First nations generally oppose, because they allow capitalists to continue to profit by "trading" carbon "credits", much like the "Catholic Indulgences" of the Middle Ages, at the expense of the affected communities) whereas the IWW argues that capitalism cannot be reformed, but having said that, some of the other ideas presented within are a good foundation for a workers' based forestry, so we are presenting it here with that in mind.

From the introduction:

Forestry can have a strong future, one that provides good jobs, benefits our communities, sustains the environment, and brings opportunities to the next generation. But this future will only come about if we make the right choices, adopt strong policies and put them into action. Forestry is one of the most important sectors of the Canadian economy, shapes many of our communities and affects a wide and diverse range of stakeholders. Important policy decisions affect forestry, and workers need to ensure their views and heard, and their interests are represented.

The Unifor Forestry Sector Council made it a priority to develop a renewed forestry policy as soon as it was formed, building on a proud legacy of advocacy. Through discussion, debate, analysis, and feedback from our Local Unions; this policy has been developed to bring our union’s views and plans for action to our members, their families, our communities, forestry stakeholders, the broader public and elected officials.

We believe that with the right choices, and strong action, we can have successful, sustainable and just forestry.

Read More - Download PDF.

March for jobs, justice and the climate launched in Toronto

By Megan Devlin - Rabble.ca, May 22, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

It was chilly in the shadow of the TD building at King and Bay Thursday morning as about 40 members of a coalition of grassroots organizations raised their red placards at the launch for the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate.

The march will happen July 5 -- on the eve of the Pan American Climate Summit of the Americas -- but it was clear that the movement has already gained support.

The launch criticized the fossil fuel industry's power and called for a justice-based transition to a clean-energy-based economy.

"We're ready for the next economy," Naomi Klein said in her address. "Canadians are clearly getting tired of the fossil fuel roller coaster."

The march is a collaboration among a range of stakeholder groups including 350.org, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, GreenPeace, oil divestment activists from the University of Toronto and Canada's largest private sector union, Unifor, which represents many of Alberta's energy workers.  

Rank-and-File Environmentalism

By Trish Kahle - Jacobin, June 11, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The “jobs versus environment” debate is often seen as a fundamental division between labor and environmentalists, most recently emerging in the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite dire warnings from scientists about its potentially disastrous environmental impact, the pipeline was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, which justified its decision by citing “job creation.” Estimates range from 5,000-9,000 temporary positions — a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 794,000 unemployed construction workers in the US — and a mere 35 permanent jobs.

Is there any kind of environmental degradation, environmental activists might wonder, unions won’t endorse to secure a small handful of construction jobs?

Jeremy Brecher is right to point in a recent piece to the need for the labor and environmental movements to “evolve toward a common program and a common vision.” To do so, we’ll need to break down the false “jobs versus environment” dichotomy created by capital to obscure the fact that the exploitation of workers and the degradation of the environment go hand in hand.

Noting the common source of workers’ exploitation and ecological degradation is important because it also points us to a solution. Workers are the ones who can halt the assault on the planet.

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The Fine Print I:

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The Fine Print II:

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