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Retired Union Member Explains Why Veterans Should Want Peace

Our Strategy for Avoiding Total Catastrophe

By collective - Earth Strike UK, October 2023

Our mission is to achieve a world in which humanity is not in constant competition with itself or with the environment, to halt the rapid deterioration of our biosphere and to live in a world that is not on the brink of ecological collapse. In order to do that we must end capitalism and all other forms of oppression and exploitation which are the cause of injustice and threaten the stability and viability of our environment.

We believe that collectively we have the ability to bring about that better world through the power of organised labour and the application of industrial action. Through strikes, occupations and other forms of industrial action over environmental issues in our own workplaces we can have a direct, tangible impact on the trajectory of our climate. By employing those same tactics on a massive scale, across industries and across countries, we can launch a direct challenge to capitalism and the institutions that are driving the climate and ecological crisis.

With this in mind, we aim to promote, support or initiate general strikes for the climate nationally and internationally, as well as employ industrial action in defence of the climate more generally, and to create foundations of solidarity and mutual struggle on which we can build a better and more sustainable society.

However, organising a general strike for the climate is no easy task. We could simply set a date and call a strike but without a broad base of support, a mandate given by all of the people actually striking, it is unlikely that enough people would be willing to take the risk and participate. To be able to build a general strike that is actually effective there are a few things that need to happen first. It is not enough to simply mobilise, first we must organise!

There are several conditions that need to be met for a general strike for the climate to become a viable option in the struggle for climate justice. These conditions do not necessarily need to be fulfilled directly by Earth Strike UK. Our aim is not to be the banner under which all action should be taken, but to facilitate and encourage action that moves us towards a general strike. In fact, it is better if these conditions are fulfilled by a variety of groups, organisations and movements working independently and in parallel with one another, as this will lead to a more broad, dynamic and robust movement. There are several elements to our strategy.

None of them are mutually exclusive and any action that reinforces one is likely to reinforce others. Importantly, each strand of our strategy is also an end in itself; each will individually improve the world in a tangible way, even if they can’t all be brought together to materialise a general strike.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

As heat strikes, so do workers

By Katie Myers - Grist, August 1, 2023

The heatwave enveloping much of the world is so deadly that, in Europe, it has acquired two hellish mythical names: Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards Hades, and Charon, the man who, legend has it, ferries the dead to the afterlife.

Workers are taking a stand against the brutal conditions, using walkouts, strikes, and protests to call attention to the outsize danger the heat poses to the people who must work outdoors or in conditions where air condition isn’t available. The ongoing threat has taken the lives of people, from a construction worker in the Italian city of Lodi to farmworkers in Florida, and letter carriers in Texas. 

The organizing efforts started in Greece, where workers in the tourism industry — which accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP — are chafing under the strain. Athens’s most famous archaeological site, the Acropolis, closed for a few days earlier this month, but even as the government reopened it, temperatures continued soaring to 111 degrees Fahrenheit. The Acropolis’s staff, which is unionized through the Panhellenic Union for the Guarding of Antiquities voted to strike during the hottest four hours of each day.

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.

Green Unionism and Human Rights: Imaginings Beyond the Green New Deal

By Chaumtoli Huq - Pace Environmental Law Review, January 2023

Web Editor's Note: This publication contains an error, identifying the International Woodworkers of America (IWA), a CIO union, as an IWW affiliate. This is inaccurate. The IWA was cofounded by many radical workers, including (but not limited to) members of the IWW, but it was never an IWW union itself.

The Green New Deal harkens us back to the nostalgia of the New Deal era when a diverse and comprehensive set of federal legislation, agencies, programs, public work projects and financial reforms were implemented between 1933 and 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to promote economic recovery. Among them, relevant to this essay’s focus on labor, was the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which provided legal protection to organizing, and supporting unionization and collective bargaining. However, due to political compromises, categories of workers including domestic workers and agricultural workers, who were mostly Black and immigrants were excluded from the NLRA’s coverage. Despite these exclusions, it was a time when the New Deal state seemed to be a strong ally of workers and the labor movement. Industrial peace and security were dominant narratives fueling much of the New Deal legislation. This industrial peace and security rhetoric suppressed the radicalization and rising militancy of the labor movement of the time such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Moreover, the law was actively used to prosecute criminally radical unionists and through other extra-judicial means.

New Deal policies solidified one form of unionism, referred to as business or contract unionism which is based on the idea that the union or labor movement brokers wages, benefits from its members, through collective bargaining agreements, and unions become servicers or administrators of those benefits. Such an approach heavily defers to law, state and legislative spaces as the protector of labor rights; thereby, ceding power away from worker or community control. In contrast, social unionism espoused the view that the role of the labor movement was to build worker power which gives them greater control over their livelihood, workplaces and environment. This view encompassed a wide spectrum of political ideologies and strategies. Social unionism broadly advanced that unions should address the economic interests of its members, encourage them to be active on broader issues of social justice and engage with the state to pass protective worker legislation.18 Under the social unionism view, syndicalists like IWW were skeptical or at most contemptuous of the legal system and emphasized the direct role of the union as agents of social change and governance.

Read the report (PDF).

Building Trades Organizing: Young Worker Convergence on Climate

Blue Collar Workers and a Sustainable Economy

By Steve Morse - Labor Rise for Climate, Jobs, Justice, and Peace, November 2022

We who work and have worked with our hands, bodies and minds to build, manufacture and repair are committed to our own well-being and that of our families. Our unions have often fought successfully toward this goal, delivering on wages and pensions.

It’s time to face another commitment we owe our families and the next generation: to work for a healthy planet and for justice.

The Climate Crisis is now. We know about the melting glaciers, rising sea levels, droughts, floods, heat waves, fires and hurricanes. Youth, including our own children and grandchildren, are ready to fight for a livable planet, and many are already doing so. Our unions must stand with them.

Climate Change Is About to Cause a Viral Explosion

By Abdullah Farooq - Jacobin, August 23, 2022

As climate change disrupts migration patterns, animals and the viruses they carry will come into unusual contact with each other — and inevitably with humans, unleashing new pandemics. The only thing that can stop this unfolding nightmare is a mass movement.

When animals migrate, be they butterfly kaleidoscopes or elk herds or bat cauldrons, they do so in response to ecological cues, which guide the manner and extent of the migration process. As climate change disrupts those cues, so too will it disrupt the migration of animals.

Climate change will thus deal a horrible blow to butterflies, bats, elk, and all manner of migratory animals. That’s tragic enough, but it gets worse: according to a recent study in Nature, this disruption will result in unusual interspecies contact, which will in turn cause new transmissions and mutations of viruses.

Through extensive modeling work, the study’s authors show that climate change will lead to altered migration patterns for thousands of animals, resulting in close to fifteen thousand new interspecies viral transmission events by the year 2070. In addition to having a massive ecological impact on the global fauna, this trend is of critical public health importance to us as humans, given that the majority of emerging infectious disease threats are zoonotic (transmitted by animal-to-human contact) in origin. The authors are cautious about predicting the probability of zoonoses into humans, but predict that geographies that are densely populated with humans will be future hot spots for interspecies viral transmission.

The study’s findings suggest that we are on the precipice of this mass-scale viral transmission event. The authors predict that the majority of these transmission events will happen between 2011 and 2040, indicating that many of them may already be taking place. While keeping temperature increases to within or below 2 degrees Celsius is a necessary goal, the authors predict that the accomplishment of this goal itself will not result in reduced viral sharing. In short, we’re probably stuck with massive changes in animal migration and vast quantities of viral transmission even if we slow climate change. However, there are other interventions we can make to stop the worst from happening.

In their model, the authors rely on a variety of land use scenarios — including alterations in deforestation, agricultural land usage, and human settlements — due to the uncertainty of how land is going to be used over the next fifty years. But none of that is inevitable. We can ensure that our land usage mitigates the impacts of climate change and prevents the emergence of the next pandemic. This can only happen if we’re able to take back control over how land is used, and democratically determine the best way to use it instead of leaving the decision up to capitalist markets.

Currently, our governments are beholden to corporate interests, which means that real estate and agribusiness have outsized influence over where and how land is developed. This has led to the unmitigated proliferation of sprawling housing developments, which often push deep into important ecological niches. This trend has already directly led to the destruction of 67 percent of coastal wetlands, which play a critical role in supporting local ecosystems, flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, and erosion control. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government has facilitated the rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest to facilitate increased agricultural land usage. The Amazon is a massive carbon sink, and its destruction could make it impossible for the rest of the world to keep global warming from rising faster than 1.5-2 degrees Celsius.

Italian factories on strike over extreme heat after worker dies

By staff - The Local, July 22, 2022

For a non pay-walled version of the article, see the Red Green Labor version.

A worker operates machinery at a factory in Trezzano sul Naviglio, near Milan, Northern Italy, on June 25, 2021. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

The man, 61, fell unconscious and hit his head while performing routine tasks, according to La Stampa news daily. Efforts by colleagues to revive him with a defibrillator were unsuccessful.

The official cause of death is currently being investigated by police, but with temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the country, heat exhaustion is thought likely to be responsible.

Factory workers from the local area organised an eight-hour picket on Friday outside the Dana Graziano plant in Rivoli where the man worked.

Italy is in the midst of a scorching mid-July heatwave, and most factories do not have air conditioning systems.

The Fiom CGIL metal workers’ union say they have recently received multiple reports of factory temperatures reaching over 35 degrees Celsius in the Piedmont area. At the Mirafiori Fiat manufacturing plant in Turin, workers have reportedly recorded highs of 40 degrees.

A previous strike called by auto parts workers on Tuesday protested the “intense pace of work” workers are required to keep up in the “unbearable heat of these past few days”.

“There are many of our members who are reporting illnesses in the factory due to the intense heat of the last few weeks,” Edi Lazzi, Fiom CGIL’s Turin general secretary, told La Stampa.

Italy does not have a nationally unified labor code, but worker’s rights are enshrined in the constitution and touched on in various laws.

According to the site Lavori e diretti (work and rights), article 2087 of the Italian civil code requires employers to protect employees’ health and wellbeing.

National legislation does not require companies to keep the workplace within any particular temperature range, though workplace accident insurance institute Inail recommends in summer there should not be more than a seven degree difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures.

A 2015 Supreme Court case recognised the right of workers to stop working while retaining the right to pay in excessively cold conditions.

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