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Climate Strike

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

“Total, BP or Shell will not voluntarily give up their profits. We have to become stronger than them...”

By Andreas Malm - International Viewpoint, September 12, 2022

Andreas Malm is a Swedish ecosocialist activist and author of several books on fossil capital, global warming and the need to change the course of events initiated by the burning of fossil fuels over the last two centuries of capitalist development. The Jeunes Anticapitalistes (the youth branch of the Gauche Anticapitaliste, the Belgian section of the Fourth International) met him at the 37th Revolutionary Youth Camp organized in solidarity with the Fourth International in France this summer, where he was invited as a speaker.

As left-wing activists in the climate movement, we sometimes feel stuck by what can be seen as a lack of strategic perspectives within the movement. How can we radicalize the climate movement and why does the movement need a strategic debate in your opinion?

I share the feeling, but of course it depends on the local circumstances – this Belgian “Code Red” action, this sort of Ende Gelände or any similar kind of thing, sounds promising to me, but you obviously know much more about it than I do. In any case, the efforts to radicalize the climate movement and let it grow can look different in different circumstances.

One way is to try to organize this kind of big mass actions of the Ende Gelände type, and I think that’s perhaps the most useful thing we can do. But of course, there are also sometimes opportunities for working within movements like Fridays for Future or Extinction Rebellion for that matter and try to pull them in a progressive direction as well as to make them avoid making tactical mistakes and having an apolitical discourse. In some places, I think that this strategy can be successful. Of course, one can also consider forming new more radical climate groups that might initially be pretty small, but that can be more radical in terms of tactics and analysis, and sort of pull others along, or have a “radical flank” effect. So, I don’t have one model for how to do this – it really depends on the state of the movement in the community where you live and obviously the movement has ups and downs (it went quite a lot down recently after the outbreak of the pandemic, but hopefully we’ll see it move back up).

Finally, it’s obviously extremely important to have our own political organizations that kind of act as vessels for continuity and for accumulating experiences, sharing them and exchanging ideas. Our own organizations can also be used as platforms for taking initiatives within movements or together with movements.

Are Refinery Workers Climate Enemies? - Part 2

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, May 25, 2022

For context and background, see part one, here. Unlike the first installment, this second response has ommitted the comments that preciptated it, for the sake of clarity, as well as the fact that the author tried to echo the rebutted points in the response. It should be noted that only one individual has expressed outright opposition to showing solidarity with striking refinery workers. It's a foregone conclusion that the overwhelming majority of the IWW does not share this one individual's view.

First of all, let me be clear: my position is that humanity must collectively phase out burning fossil fuels for energy, transportation, and locomotion as rapidly as possible.

That said, nobody seriously believes we can collectively cease burning fossil fuels in a single day, so the likelihood is that the burning of them will continue for some time (I aim to make that as little time as possible).

Regardless of how long it takes, no oil refinery is going to simply shut down just because large masses of people, even 3.5% of the population demand it. It’s not even technically possible, let alone economically or politically possible. Most of the Environmental Justice and Climate Justice organizations (other than a few ultra-sectarian extremists) get this, and they’ve crafted their demands accordingly.

While there’s a degree of variation among the various organizing, most of them call for the following:

  1. No new extraction of new fossil fuel sources;
  2. Rapid phase out of existing fossil fuel sources;
  3. Managed decline of the existing fossil fuel supply chain;
  4. Just transition for any and all affected workers in the entire fossil fuel supply chain;
  5. Repurposing of equipment for non fossil fuel burning purposes;
  6. Bioremediation of damaged ecosystems across the extraction supply chain;
  7. Reparations for the affected communities and tribes.

Supporting refinery workers involved in a strike is not in any way contradictory to the above demands.

Unions Making a Green New Deal from Below: Part 1

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

While Washington struggles over job and climate programs, unions around the country are making their own climate-protecting, justice-promoting jobs programs.

While unions have been divided on the Green New Deal as a national policy platform, many national and local unions have initiated projects that embody the principles and goals of the Green New Deal in their own industries and locations. Indeed, some unions have been implementing the principles of the Green New Deal since long before the Green New Deal hit the headlines, developing projects that help protect the climate while creating good jobs and reducing racial, economic, and social injustice.

Even some of the unions that have been most dubious about climate protection policies are getting on the clean energy jobs bandwagon. The United Mine Workers announced in March that it will partner with energy startup SPARKZ to build an electric battery factory in West Virginia in 2022 that will employ 350 workers. The UMWA will recruit and train dislocated miners to be the factory’s first production workers. According to UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer Brian Sanson, “We need good, union jobs in the coalfields no matter what industry they are in. This is a start toward putting the tens of thousands of already-dislocated coal miners to work in decent jobs in the communities where they live.”[1]

Are Refinery Workers Climate Enemies?

By an anonymous ex-member of the IWW (with a response by Steve Ongerth) - ecology.iww.org, April 28, 2022

Editor's Note: Since Monday, March 21, 2022, the workers at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, members of the United Steelworkers Local 5 have been on strike and picketing the facility after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage increases and demanded cuts in union staffing that focused on health and safety in the refinery. The bosses have responded by bringing in scabs (including managers from other Chevron facilities). Meanwhile, USW Local 5 members have been picketing the refinery 24-7, and have been, at times, joined by members of the local BIPOC and/or environmental justice community. After IWW EUC cofounder and long-time Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch member, Steve Ongerth, brought a call for solidarity with the striking workers to the April branch meeeting, a disgruntled member (who has since resigned from the organization), sent the following letter to the branch (name deleted for privacy reasons).

Message from a Disgruntled (former) Member:

I’m sorry to say how disappointed I am in the IWW. I’m a relatively new wobbly and although I believe in standing in solidarity with fellow workers it seems at some point lines must be drawn.

As I’ve read through these last emails about the USW Local 5 and the call to action for us to stand with them as they strike, many questions come to mind. The first one is what if fellow climate activists, many of whom are wobblies were to implement a protest blockade to stall production of this refinery in defense of the environment? I wonder if those refinery workers with whom we are picketing would come outside and join our protest line? I also wonder if they would be interested in the invitation to join the 2022 Global Climate Strike that you forwarded to us? In both cases I assume it is reasonable to conclude they would not.

As wobblies, where do we draw the line? What if oil pipeline workers go to strike for hazard pay because a tribal nation, whose land the pipeline is planned to cross blocks safe access to thier jobsite in protest of the poisoning of thier waterways? Would the IWW Environmental Caucus also put a call out to picket with those Union workers? We draw the line when it comes to police unions who’s membership is hellbent on beating and imprisoning people protesting civil injustices. Why are we supporting refinery workers? This makes no sense. Iunderstand that just about every industry is to some degree tainted with These workers primary job is to process and prepare for market the product that’s catapulted us into the current global warming apocalyptic meltdown!

Green Unionism on the Chevron Richmond Refinery Workers Picket Line

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, April 15, 2022

Since Monday, March 21, 2022, the workers at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, members of the United Steelworkers Local 5 have been on strike and picketing the facility after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage increases. The bosses have responded by bringing in scabs (including managers from other Chevron facilities). The strike has gotten a good deal of media coverage:

However, the capitalist (and progressive) media have mostly missed some important details.

First of all, the striking refinery workers and their elected union leaders continue to emphasize that their issues extend beyond narrow bread and butter issues, such as wages and benefits. A major concern that they continue to articulate is that Chevron continues to try and cut unionized safety jobs and refuses to hire sufficient workers to safely and adequately staff the facility. Workers have complained of 12-hour days and six-day workweeks. All of these deficiencies not only risk the health and safety of the workers, but the surrounding, mostly BIPOC communities as well. Worse still, they have adverse environmental effects, a problem that hasn't been lost on the striking workers. As stated by USW Local 5 representative, B.K White:

“If we had more people and could get a better pay rate, maybe our members wouldn’t feel obligated to come in and work as many as 70 hours a week to make ends meet. We don’t believe that is safe. (that and the use of replacement workers) is at the detriment of the city of Richmond and the environment.”

Even less noticed by the media has been the presence of environmental justice activists (including, but not limited to, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Extinction Rebellion, Fossil Free California, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Sierra Club, Sunflower Alliance, Sunrise Movement, and 350), various socialist organizations (including DSA in particular), and members from the nearby front-line BIPOC communities, who have joined the pickets in solidarity with the workers, something the workers have also not hesitated to point out. Indeed, in spite of the fact that many environmental justice activists and community members are harshly critical of Chevron's role in turning the city of Richmond into a capital blight infested sacrifice zone, they recognize that the workers are not their enemies nor are the latter responsible for the damage done by the company. On the contrary, many recognize that the unionized workforce is one of the best mitigations against far worse capital blight (it bears mentioning that there has also been a good deal of support and picket line presence from rank and file workers and union officials from many other unions, including the AFSCME, IBEW, IWW, ILWU, SEIU, UFCW, and the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council).

Such seemingly unlikely bonds of solidarity, though delicate and, at times, fragile didn't arise out of thin air, but, in fact, have resulted from years of painstaking grassroots organizing.

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/

Youth Strikes Worldwide Demand Climate Action That Centers 'People Not Profit'

By Jake Johnson - Common Dreams, March 25, 2022

"We live in a broken system, one where the richest 1% of the world population are responsible for more than twice the pollution as the poorest 50%. That's why we strike."

From Dhaka, Bangladesh to Turin, Italy and beyond, youth climate strikers took to the streets across the globe Friday to demand that political leaders stop ignoring the scientific community's deafening alarm bells and take action to slash carbon emissions before it's too late.

Organized by the international Fridays For Future movement, the latest mass demonstrations stressed that worsening global class inequities and the climate emergency are deeply intertwined and must be tackled together—a message encapsulated in strikers' rallying cry of "People Not Profit."

"We live in a broken system, one where the richest 1% of the world population are responsible for more than twice the pollution as the poorest 50%," Iris Zhan, campaign coordinator for Fridays For Future Digital, said in a statement. "That's why we strike today to demand climate reparations to kickstart a transformative justice process in which political power returns to the people."

As Fridays For Future organizers put it in their preview of the new global strikes, "Climate struggle is class struggle."

Another Silent Spring: Strategies for the Climate Struggle

By Paul Fleckenstein - Tempest, March 15, 2022

After the worst year yet of climate disruption, 2021 closed with another failure of international negotiations at COP26 and the slow death of President Biden’s meager legislative climate agenda.

North America faced heightened levels of drought, heat, fire, flooding, wind, climate-enhanced migration, and crop failures. Yet the climate movement’s support and campaigning for Biden and Democratic Party achieved little. Expectations are even lower for the next three years.

To respond to this impasse the climate movement, particularly the predominant organizations in the U.S., needs to reorient away from the over-emphasis on electoral politics, and toward protest and struggle as the priority strategy.

Fortunately, there are some glimpses at how to expand this potential, but the central question remains, what socialists and the Left, in general, can do now to best catalyze more disruptive, sustained, and mass-based climate action.

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