“Bargaining language for a green agreement” , posted to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Table Talk newsletter on July 25, is a brief article highlighting some of the innovative bargaining done by CUPE locals on the issues of environmental stewardship, transit passes, bicycle reimbursement, sustainable work practices and green procurement. The Table Talk article reproduces the actual language of the agreements; for links to the full agreements, and almost 200 others by many unions, go to the Green Collective Agreements database maintained by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project (ACW).
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post are currently negotiating a new collective agreement, with “Canada Post hellbent on labour dispute as talks continue, union president says” in the Toronto Star (July 12). If no deal is reached by September 9, a strike or lockout is possible by September 26. An important goal has been to consolidate two agreements into one, and to achieve equity between the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) unit and the Urban unit on job security, guaranteed hours of work, and wages, following an arbitration award in CUPW’s favour on June 1 . Also highly important in this round of negotiations, however, are CUPW demands related to climate change and the environment.
CUPW’s interest in environmental issues is not new. In February 2016, CUPW launched The Delivering Community Power Initiative which re-imagines the postal service by leveraging its huge retail network to provide: Charging stations for electric vehicles at post offices; postal banking, especially to rural and indigenous communities; community hubs for digital access and social innovation. In addition, the postal vehicle fleet could be converted to renewable fuels; provide consolidated last-mile delivery service that would ease congestion and pollution in urban centres; and vulnerable people in their own homes could be served with a check-in service by door-to-door mail carriers. The 2012-2016 collective agreement between CUPW and Canada Post included an Appendix T: Service Expansion and Innovation and Change Committee, which secured the right “to establish and monitor pilot projects which will test the viability of the proposals” to expand services – and from CUPW’s perspective, these could lay the groundwork for its Community Power initiatives.
In the current negotiations, CUPW’s Negotiating Update (August 2) states: “We recognize that both Canada Post and CUPW have responsibilities to work together to reduce our environmental impact. We have put forward a bold vision: Delivering Community Power. Our vision will expand services for everyone and generate more revenue while also creating new jobs. It’s interconnected: our environment demand supports the Delivering Community Power campaign, and the campaign’s massive public support will help us in bargaining. “ An updated statement of the Community Power document was released in August: Delivering Community Power: Postal Service and the Low carbon economy and in June CUPW published It’s time for a postal bank for everyone: How a bank in the post office could help you to present the advantages of postal banking and describe examples from other countries.
The specific environment–related demands, as outlined in Negotiating Program Bulletin are :
C.3: Improve Services and Standards to the Public: Expand retail services, delivery hours, banking, and internet and other services. Contract-in all work that CUPW members can perform with no contracting out of work. Maximize work in local communities.
C.22: Green Canada Post Operations and Reduce Emissions with New Services: Require CPC to take measures to reduce its environmental footprint, initiate new environmental services and negotiate joint environmental sustainability committees.
Follow CUPW updates to the current negotiations here .
CUPW’s long history with environmental concerns is outlined by Geoff Bickerton, Meg Gingrich and Sarah Ryan in Chapter 9: “Climate change and work and employment in the Canadian Postal and Courier Sector”, in the book Climate@Work (2013) . In 2016, Carla Lipsig Mumme of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project (ACW) made a presentation to the federal government’s Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, titled Canada Post and Environmental Leadership , which made proposals for a Green Plan for Canada Post, drawing on many of the CUPW themes. Canada Post Corporation’s latest Sustainability Report (2016) reports on existing environmental performance re fleet performance, GHG emissions, landfill waste diversion, paper consumption, and building operations and real estate.
A new, optimistic initiative called Mothers of Invention was launched in July, led by Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland and a well-known climate justice campaigner. Maeve Higgins, an Irish-born comedian is her “sidekick” in a series of podcasts designed to celebrate “ amazing women doing remarkable things in pursuit of climate justice.” Through lighthearted, informal conversations, the podcasts educate and inspire with stories of local climate activists – initially focusing on women only, but eventually planned to include men as well. The clear purpose is to motivate individuals with positive examples, rather than a climate change “doom and gloom” message.
Episode 1, All Rise , explores the issue of global climate litigation through interviews with Tessa Khan, Co-Founder of the Global Climate Litigation network ; Marjan Minnesma, Director of the Urgenda Foundation which launched the world’s first climate liability lawsuit in the Netherlands; and Kelsey Juliana, Victoria Barrett & Ridhima Pandey – young plaintiffs from the U.S. and India who are supported in lawsuits against their own governments by the Our Children’s Foundation. Each episode consists of the podcast interviews and discussion, with links for more information, more involvement, and a chance to donate.
The line up of future “Mothers” includes activists from around the world who have focused on land protection, zero waste, fossil fuel divestment, energy poverty, plastic pollution, and environmental racism. The initiative is profiled in The Guardian in “Mary Robinson launches new feminist fight against climate change” (July 24).
“Higher temperatures increase suicide rates in the United States and Mexico” was published in Nature Climate Change online on July 23, warning that up to 26,000 more people could die by suicide in the United States by 2050 if humans don’t reduce emissions of greenhouse gas pollution. The study has been widely reported and summarized: for example, in The Atlantic (July 23). The authors used new statistical techniques, including analysis which correlates social media posts about depression with temperature conditions. Part of this social media analysis is based on the work of Patrick Baylis of the University of British Columbia, whose academic paper “Temperature and Temperament: Evidence from a Billion Tweets” was published by the Energy Institute at Haas, University of California at Berkeley, in November 2015.
A second article published in July 2018 is “Associations between high ambient temperatures and heat waves with mental health outcomes: a systematic review” appeared in the British journal Public Health. It reports on a literature review of 35 studies, and the authors conclude that: “High ambient temperatures have a range of mental health effects. The strongest evidence was found for increased suicide risk. Limited evidence was found for an increase in heat-related morbidity and mortality among people with known mental health problems. …. Mental health impacts should be incorporated into plans for the public health response to high temperatures, and as evidence evolves, psychological morbidity and mortality temperature thresholds should be incorporated into hot weather–warning systems.”
A 2014 article examined weekly suicide death totals and anomalies in Toronto between 1986–2009 and Jackson, Mississippi, from 1980–2006. The authors found that for both cities, warmer weeks had an increased likelihood of being associated with high-end suicide totals. “Association of Weekly Suicide Rates with Temperature Anomalies in Two Different Climate Types” from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is here .
The growing literature about the impacts of climate change on mental health has been summarized in an article in Forbes magazine, “Weather And The Warm Season Are Among Factors Associated With Suicide” (June 2018) and in the April 2018 issue of Corporate Knights magazine. The Corporate Knights article, “Deep Impact” is by Professor Helen Berry , the inaugural Professor of Climate Change and Mental Health at the University of Sydney, in Australia. Although her brief overview emphasizes mental health impacts of climate-change related disasters such as floods, it also provides links to recent articles linking mental health with chronic climate conditions such as heat waves and drought. Some examples of Professor Berry’s research: “The importance of humidity in the relationship between heat and population mental health: Evidence from Australia” in PLoS One (2016) ; “The Effect of Extreme Heat on Mental Health – Evidence from Australia” from the International Journal of Epidemiology (restricted access) (2015); and “Morbidity and mortality during heatwaves in Metropolitan Adelaide” in the Medical Journal of Australia (2007).
Professor Berry and co-author Dominic Peel provoked public discussion in 2015 with an article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, “Worrying about climate change: is it responsible to promote public debate?”
In June, the National Environment program of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/SCFP) shared online the materials for a workshop on How to lead a workplace discussion on Climate Change . The materials consist of a 28-slide PowerPoint presentation, Speaking notes and Tips for facilitators, in English and French versions. It provides labour-focused information and interactive discussion tools on “how climate change is affecting our planet, our communities and our economy”, and although the content is specific to CUPE – presenting examples from CUPE jobs and CUPE policy statements, it offers an excellent model for other unions.
CUPE has a long history of climate change related educational materials, including: Healthy, Clean & GREEN: A Workers’ Action Guide to a Greener Workplace (2015), which encourages workplace behaviours such as waste reduction, environmental committees and environmental audits; How to form a workplace environment Committee ; and an online, interactive Eco-audit tool to workers score their workplace behaviours related to energy conservation, recycling, water use, cleaning products, transportation, and workplace meetings. A very early document was the CUPE Green Bargaining Guide , published in 2008 and which provided examples of collective agreement language on many issues, including conservation, commuting, and establishing an environment committee . Most of these examples have also been incorporated in the ACW Green Collective Agreements database, here.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/SCFP) is Canada’s largest union, with over 650,000 members in every province, representing workers in health care, emergency services, education, early learning and child care, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation, airlines and more. All CUPE materials are available in English or French.