Labour, Climate Change, and Social Struggle was the theme of the international conference in Toronto from November 29 to December 1, organized and hosted by the Work in a Warming World project at York University. The presentations at the 3-day event reflected the participants: trade unionists, academics, and representatives of social justice organizations from Canada, U.S. U.K., EU, Sweden, India, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia. Keynote addresses made by David Miller, former Mayor of Toronto and now CEO and President of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, and Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, the international union federation which includes 20 million members. The plenary speakers were Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress and Chris Tollefson, Professor and Executive Director of the Environmental Law Centre in Victoria, British Columbia. Other union speakers and panellists included representatives from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Public Service Alliance of Canada, British Columbia Federation of Labour, and the Labour Network for Sustainability (U.S.).
Speakers and workshops throughout the conference reflected a healthy balance and respect for both academic research and practical experience in striving for a worker-led strategic response to climate change. A broad range of topics were covered – to name a few: the role of worker capital and pensions funds, greening the built environment, the energy sector, power relationships between the global south and north, the emerging model of climate change law, gender and climate change, and greening the healthcare sector. A constant theme throughout the conference was the crucial leadership role that organized labour can play in the struggle for a sustainable, just economy, and the need for understanding and relationship-building with allies in the environmental movement.
A strategy meeting in Toronto in November brought together just such a gathering of like-minded union and environmental groups of the Green Economy Network: participants included the Council of Canadians, the Polaris Institute, the Climate Action Network, KAIROS, and unions including the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Unifor and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
Labour, Climate Change, and Social Struggle (W3 international conference): full list of speakers and topics is now available at: http://www.workinawarmingworld.yorku.ca/w3conference/program/program-details/; Papers will be available online in 2014.
Activists Rally around Green Jobs press release (summarizing the Green Economy Network Strategy Meeting) is at the CUPE website at: http://cupe.ca/green-jobs/Rally-green-jobs