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Labour and Climate Activists Protest Against Anti-union Laws

By staff - Free Our Unions, October 12, 2022

Around 80 activists from a range of campaign groups and unions protested outside the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on 10 October, as part of an action called by Free Our Unions and Earth Strike UK’s Empower the Unions initiative. As far as we know, this is the first piece of direct action called specifically to protest the Truss government’s plans for new anti-union laws since Truss revealed the policy.

BEIS was chosen because it will likely be central to developing the legislation for new restrictions on strikes, and because it is a key department in terms of climate policy. Free Our Unions has sought active coordination with activists from the climate movement, and Earth Strike UK’s Empower the Unions initiative seeks to highlight the specific ways in which anti-union laws constrain workers’ ability to take action in defence of the climate.

Speakers at the protest included Mark Boothroyd (A&E nurse and Unite activist); Sab (Earth Strike UK activist and Industrial Workers of the World organier); Ruth Cashman (Lambeth Unison); Jared Wood (RMT London Transport Regional Organiser); Ria Patel (Green Party Equality and Diversity spokesperson); EC (PCS rep); Andy Warren (firefighter and local rep for the FBU); Hamish (Exctinction Rebellion Trade Unionists); and Benedict Flexen (Earth Strike UK: Empower the Unions).

Speeches were punctuated by chanting, accompanied by drumming from the Extinction Rebellion samba band.

Following the protest, an assembly took place in a venue nearby, discussing various aspects of the politics of anti-union laws, and proposals for campaigning on the issue forward in our workplaces and unions.

I Survived the Rig Explosion That Caused the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill; This Is What I Saw

By Maximillian Alvarez and Leo Lindner - In These Times, October 7, 2022

It’s been 12 years since the catastrophic explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers and causing the largest marine oil spill in human history. A lot of forgetting can happen in that time. A lot of cultural amnesia and historical distortion has set in over the past 12 years, whether that came in the form of a years-long PR campaign from British Petroleum (BP), the high-budget Hollywood-ification of the disaster in the 2016 movie starring Mark Wahlberg, or just the general lack of workers’ voices and stories in the media. 

In this episode, we talk with Leo Lindner, who worked for 10 years at the mud company M-I, the last five of which were spent working on the Deepwater Horizon. Leo was on the rig on April 20, 2010, the day of the explosion. We talk to Leo about his life, about moving to and growing up in Louisiana as a kid, working on tugboats and in oil fields, and about the experience of being a worker in the midst of one of the most devastating industrial and environmental disasters of the modern era.

Outdoor Workers and Organizers in Miami are Fighting for a Countywide Heat Standard

By Alexandra Martinez - Prism, October 6, 2022

Marta Gabriel has been picking tomatoes in Homestead, Florida, since she arrived from Guatemala five years ago. She didn’t know how hot and grueling conditions would be, but the job guaranteed her money that she could use to support her growing family as a mother of young children. However, after she nearly fainted from heat exhaustion and then suffered heatstroke while bending down to cut tomatoes, Gabriel realized her working conditions were not sustainable. She was already a member of WeCount!, a coalition of immigrant workers in southern Florida, and shared her concerns with organizers. 

Hundreds of thousands of other outdoor workers across South Florida share Gabriel’s experience. Starting in 2017, they began telling organizers at WeCount! that heat had become an issue. Now, construction workers, farmworkers, and other outdoor workers across Miami-Dade County are fighting for a countywide heat standard to ensure workers are protected from the deadly rising temperatures on the frontlines of climate change and extreme heat.

As it stands, workers in southern Florida are forced to work outside in the extreme heat without any local, state, or federal heat standards. WeCount!’s “¡Que Calor!” campaign (Spanish for “it’s so hot!”) is hoping to enact a heat standard similar to the one states like California, Washington, or Oregon, have already implemented—one that highlights the need for water, shade, and rest for workers. Led by those most impacted by the problem—farmworkers, plant nursery workers, day laborers, and construction workers—¡Qué Calor! is building a grassroots movement for climate, health, and labor justice. 

A Just Transition Primer from Global Climate Justice Leaders

By Molly Rosbach - Sunflower Alliance, October 1, 2022

A new report from leaders of the global climate justice movement argues that “a broad vision of Just Transition with social justice at its core is critical, especially as fossil fuel companies and defenders of ‘business as usual’ are adopting the language of climate action and just transition to thwart real solutions.”

The report, From Crisis to Transformation: A Just Transition Primer, released by Grassroots Global Justice and the Transnational Institute, “explores the root causes of the climate crisis . . . and argues that we need transformative and anti-capitalist visions to bring us “from crisis to transformation.” The report lays out the big picture of those causes, starting from colonialism, capitalism, and the industrial revolution, and traces the development of the current crisis. It outlines key elements of a true just transition:

  • Decolonization and restoration of indigenous sovereignty
  • Reparations and restitution
  • Ancestral and science-based solutions
  • Agroecology, food sovereignty, and agrarian reform
  • Recognition of rights to land, food, ecosystems, and territories
  • Cooperatives, social, and public production
  • Just distribution of reproductive labor
  • Going beyond endless economic growth

And provides case studies of communities putting visions of Just Transition into practice today:
* The Green New Deal
* Cooperation Jackson and the Jackson Just Transition Plan
* Just Transition in North Africa
* Movement of People Affected by Dams

Authors of the report include Jaron Brown of Grassroots Global Justice, Katie Sandwell and Lyda Fernanda Forero of the Transnational Institute, and Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

The report was released in Arabic, Spanish, and English, with plans to add translations in Bahasa, French, and Portuguese.

Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) “is an alliance of over 60 US-based grassroots organizing (GRO) groups of working and poor people and communities of color,” including the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Jobs with Justice, Cooperation Jackson and many more.

The Transnational Institute “is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic, and sustainable planet.”

They “offer this primer as a contribution to the broader ecosystem of Just Transition frameworks and articulations. In particular, we honor the work of the Just Transition Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Climate Justice Alliance, Movement Generation, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, among many others.”

First LNS Young Workers Convergence on Climate

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 1, 2022

For LNS’s inaugural Young Worker Convergence, we brought together nearly 100 young workers from 23 states (as well as DC and Canada) and more than 50 different worker and environmental organizations to participate in workshops, to hear from our union comrades who have successfully built labor power in service of climate justice, to share strategies across states and sectors, and to build a collective vision for a climate justice movement led by and for workers.

We know that there are thousands of other young workers who could not make it to the convergence who are ready to join us in building a stronger labor-climate movement, which is why we’re planning a multimedia zine project to commemorate the conference as well as provide a resource for other workers who want to fight for climate justice! Stay tuned for photos, facilitation materials, and other reflections from the Young Worker Convergence on Climate!

For more information: www.labor4sustainability.org/ywlp/ywlp-in-depth/young-worker-convergence/

Coal industry workers in Australia are taking their destiny into their own hands

By Léo Roussel - Equal Times, September 30, 2022

The coal industry is to Australia what the Second Amendment of the US Constitution (granting citizens the right to bear arms) is to the United States: it would be hard to imagine the country without it. With fossil fuels still accounting for 92 per cent of Australia’s energy mix, including 29 per cent for coal in 2021, the industry is still vigorously defended by lobbies, even in parliamentary circles and the corridors of ministries.

Australia’s conservative former prime minister Scott Morrison famously held up a piece of coal in Parliament in 2017, when he was finance minister, admonishing his colleagues not to be afraid of it. When he became prime minister, he also directly surrounded himself with lobbyists like John Kunkel, former vice-chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia, who he appointed chief of staff in 2018.

In the Hunter Valley, a region north of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, the local economy is still dominated by coal. From the mines to the cargo ships departing from the port of Newcastle, the industry directly and indirectly employs more than 17,000 people. “Newcastle is the world’s largest coal port,” says Dr Liam Phelan, a researcher at the University of Newcastle (Australia) specialising in the uncertainties and risks of climate change. “Coal mining has been a part of life here since white people arrived in Australia.”

For many years, mining projects were still supported and approved, not least by the Morrison government, which was widely condemned in Australia and around the world for its inaction on climate change. But the tides have begun to turn. In May 2022, voters ousted ‘ScoMo’ and returned Labor to power. The new prime minister Anthony Albanese has promised to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower” and to reduce the country’s CO₂ emissions by 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 – a target that the scientists of the Climate Change Authority nonetheless still consider to be insufficient.

Leaving energy transition aside, the Australian coal industry has already seen its exports slow in recent years, partly as a result of the trade war with China since 2020, while domestic demand has shifted to cleaner energy sources which are gaining ground. According to Clean Energy Council’s 2022 energy report: “The Australian renewable energy industry accounted for 32.5 per cent of Australia’s total electricity generation in 2021, which represented an increase of almost 5 percentage points compared to 2020.”

A “Greenhouse Gas Rule” for Transportation

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, September 30, 2022

The US Department of Transportation recently proposed a Greenhouse Gas Rule requiring state departments of transportation to measure greenhouse gas emissions and establish targets to lower those emissions. The Labor Network for Sustainability, as part of its transit justice work, signed on to a letter urging adoption of the rule. It read in part:

The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. There is no time to waste as record amounts of federal taxpayer funds are already flowing to states thanks to the infrastructure law.

The Georgetown Climate Center summed up the stakes in a recent issue brief: “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act [IIJA] could be an important part of the U.S. response to climate change. Or it could lead to more greenhouse gas pollution than the trajectory we are currently on. Where the actual outcome falls within that range will depend on the decisions made by state, federal, regional, and local governments about how to spend the money made available by IIJA.”

IIJA is a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, and the public has a right to know how those funds affect our climate future.

The climate crisis is not coming; it is here now. And given that urgency, we ask for your support in quickly finalizing this rule to meet the moment of crisis we are in.

You can review the proposed rule here and the full letter and signers here.

LA Teachers, Parents, and Communities Demand Heat-Safe, Climate-Safe Schools

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, September 30, 2022

As Los Angeles temperatures soared this September, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and its allies demanded that the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) bargain over their comprehensive climate justice proposals and take immediate action to address the extreme heat searing LA schools. The announcement for a September 6 press conference stated,

In the midst of LA’s worst heatwave of the year – and a climate crisis that hits Black and brown communities the hardest – LAUSD is completely unprepared to deal with extreme heat. Despite broken AC units and hot asphalt schoolyards, the District has rejected parents’ pleas for even temporary shade from the sun.

The UTLA, together with parents, students, and community representatives, made a series of climate justice bargaining proposals to address the climate crisis in LA schools as part of its common good “Beyond Recovery” platform. But the LAUSD has refused even to bargain over them.

The UTLA’s bargaining proposals for “Healthy Green Public Schools” include:

  •  Create strategic plan for a Green, Clean, Free, and Healthy LAUSD, including but not limited to: conversion of buses, installation of solar panels, use of school land for collection of clean water, creation of schools as cooling zones, creation of schools as climate change/grid shut-down resiliency centers, and increased healthier food options
  • Provide support for school/community gardens to feed students and families
  • Shaded and appropriate play areas for all students
  • Support of local struggles for environmental justice and equity
  • Increase healthy food options for students and families that address food insecurity, nutrition, culture, and support of environmentally sustainable and worker-friendly food sources
  • Expand green spaces and tree planting at schools
  • An LAUSD audit on green practices, including energy use, carbon emissions, air quality, and water use

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