Updated: U.S. Labour views on climate strikes and the Green New Deal

Speakers, listed here, addressed the issues of Just Transition, the Green New Deal, public ownership of energy production, and an appropriate role for labour in climate activism at the New York Labor History Association Annual Spring Conference on May 11, under the banner  “Taking the Lead: Labor and Global Warming: Our History, Activism and Challenge”.  “New Calls for a General Strike in the Face of Coming Climate Catastrophe” appeared in the Labor Press (May 13) (re-posted to Portside on May 22) , summarizing some of the discussion, especially the statement by Bruce Hamilton, VP of the  Amalgamated Transit Union, that a general strike “should never be taken off the table”.  The article notes that “A general strike, however, requires a level of unity around the question of climate change and the Green New Deal that presently does not exist inside organized labor.”  On May 30, Portside published  a lengthly compilation of “Reader Responses”  , both pro and con, about using a general strike as a tactic.  (Note that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for  “a day of global action on climate change” on June 26 as part of their  Climate Proof our Work campaign   , and the Fridays for Future student strike movement has called for a worldwide general strike by adults and youth for September 20).

Union differences  around the Green New Deal have been noted before in the WCR:  in “Labor’s voice in support of the Green New Deal” (May 14) , and “AFL-CIO Energy Committee releases letter opposing the Green New Deal” (Mar 14). On May 22, “The Green New Deal is fracturing a critical base for Democrats: unions” appeared in Vox, providing  a broad overview of national and state-level examples.

Service Employees International Union endorses GND: On June 6, the Service Employees International Union issued a press release announcing that the International Executive Board had passed a resolution in support of the Green New Deal , which states in part: “the Green New Deal supports the right of all workers to have unions, no matter where they work; makes unions central to accomplishing the ambitious goal of an environmentally responsible and economically just society; and commits to providing universal healthcare and a good, union job with family-sustaining wages
and benefits for everyone who wants one.”   The Resolution affirms the goals of the GND, commits to political action, and to cooperation with other advocacy partners in environmental,  immigrant, health care,  and economic justice movements.

On the issue of transitions, it states:

4. “SEIU stands in solidarity with all in the labor movement who share our desire to create family-sustaining union jobs and a healthy and safe environment. Workers who have built and are dependent upon the fossil fuel industry must have:

  • a. Access to good union jobs, training and advancement if their current jobs cease to exist;
  • b. Guaranteed pensions and a bridge of wage support and healthcare until impacted workers find comparable employment or reach retirement;
  • c. Financial support for local community public services during a transition period

Green New Deal and Labour in California:  There is support for the Green New Deal  in polling the green new dealCalifornia – as evidenced by “Packed Bay Area Convergence on Climate Plans for Green New Deal” and other articles  in the Green New Deal compilation by the Labor Network for SustainabilityYet “Labor anger over Green New Deal greets 2020 contenders in California”  appeared in Politico, focusing on the opposition to the Los Angeles Green New Deal announced on April 29, chiefly by California’s building trades unions.  Those unions fear job loss and the costs members may face from higher gas taxes, as well as congestion pricing for tolls on freeways during rush hour. They have differed with environmentalists in the past over environmental justice and pollution regulation at the State level .  In “The Green New Deal- Be-labored?” in Resilience (May 11) and originally in Civil Notion, author Joel Stronberg describes the California divide in even greater detail and quotes a professor from Loyola Law School, who assesses that “the Green New Deal…divides the Democrats on a fault line, which is more of the elites against the working class Democrats who are concerned about losing their jobs.”  Stronberg also states that the Association of Flight Attendants is a second union which has endorsed the Green New Deal, and cites a recent survey by Data for Progress between March 30 and April 7, 2019 which measured union members’ (not leadership) attitudes. According to Stronberg, it shows 52 percent of current union members approve of the Green New Deal, 22 percent were opposed,  21 percent didn’t know about it, and five percent were neutral.

Canadian unions:  In Canada, unions have not yet been as vocal about the Green New Deal – although “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: The Canadian Connection” in The Tyee (June 3) describes the close ties between the U.S. GND and Canadians Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein of The Leap.    Some unions have endorsed the uniquely-Canadian Pact for a Green New Deal – and the United Steelworkers  have endorsed the New Democratic Party’s newly announced climate change platform  – Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs .

Canadian kids out in force for the global Fridays for Future climate strike on March 15

March 15 montreal

Montreal climate strike

The global movement that is the #Fridays for Future climate strike, inspired by Greta Thunberg, exceeded all expectations for the number of demonstrators and the number of locations on March 15.  In Canada, students marched in 55 cities, with the greatest showing in Montreal –   150,000 strikers  – a greater turnout than Paris, London, Sydney , or almost any of the hundreds of cities and towns which participated.  The Energy Mix highlights the global successes in   “1.4 million students in 128 countries make March 15 #schoolstrike a global phenomenon” (March 15) .

 

Here are some accounts of the strike in Canada:  From the National Observer: “Canadian children school adults about climate crisis” (March 15), which reports particularly on Montreal and Vancouver; “Quebec students join global marches to demand climate change action” (March 17) which reported that 150,000 students were on strike, representing 120 student associations.  This amazing number is widely confirmed – including  by an article in La Presse  (in French). Also,  “CCL Youth join March 15 youth strike for climate”  from the Citizens Climate Lobby;  “We know we are at a crossroads” in The Tyee (unique photos of the Vancouver strike); “Students in Canada prepare to strike for the climate” (March 14) in Rabble.ca  .

march 15 vancouver2CBC coverage consisted mainly of photos and brief interviews from across Canada, including: “Tens of thousands rally in Montreal”, and “Montreal students block schools ahead of climate protest”    (which prompted the school board to cancel classes). From  Halifax ;  New Brunswick ; Ottawa  ;Regina St. John’s Newfoundland ; Toronto; and Vancouver here   and here .  

 

Who are these young Canadian strikers?  Of the many youth organizers across Canada, two  have received special attention. Sophie Mathur of Sudbury, aged 11, was the first Canadian to take up the call of Greta Thunberg and has been profiled several times, even before the March 15 global strike. Early articles:  “Strike For Climate: Fridays For a Future” appeared in Below 2C on  October 31 2018  and “Young climate activist to strike Friday in Sudbury” in the Sudbury Star  on November  2, 2018 . Most recently, on March 8,  Sophie was one of five climate strikers interviewed by  Sierra Club International, for International Women’s Day.

Rebecca Hamilton of Vancouver, aged 16,  is a founding member of Sustainabiliteens  , which organized the school strike in Vancouver. She is profiled in a new Greenpeace Canada series “12 Questions with #YouthClimateStrike organizer Rebecca Hamilton”. Both Sophie Mathur and Rebecca Hamilton were interviewed by CBC Radio in “Ignoring climate change is like ‘putting off homework,’ says teen in School Strike for Climate” on The Current on March 15   (transcript and audio), and also on CBC radio Day 6 on February 2, along with Dominique Deveaux of  Fredericton, here  .

march 15 trudeau tweetPoliticians Reactions and support for student strikers:  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the strikers on Twitter, as did Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on her personal  Facebook account,  but there was no official reaction from the Canadian government. George Heyman, British Columbia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change also used  his Twitter account to express that he is “inspired by the concern and commitment of the students”. Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party, issued a statement of support  which lists Green Party candidates who are supporting strikes in their local ridings.

Reactions from Unions:  In Canada,  the B.C. Teachers Federation tweeted a thanks to the students from their  Annual Meeting , and at that AGM,  activist Seth Klein addressed March 15 seth kleinthe meeting  about the role of teachers in fighting climate change.  The international confederation of teachers’ unions, Education International, has also supported the student climate strikers, with this Statement of Support (Feb. 28, 2019) and this blog post of February 22.  A CBC report of March 1 also states that staff and faculty of Laurentian University in Sudbury have signed a letter of support for the strikers.

The International Trade Union Confederation issued a statement of support  which states that “Unions in Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, the UK and elsewhere are taking part and many others are active in mobilising their members” and “Taking inspiration from young people, union representatives in workplaces will, in the last week of June, invite employers to sit down with the workers in workplaces to discuss plans to reduce emissions and climate proof workplaces.”

canada may 3 climate strikeCanada’s next big student protest has been set for  May 3.  Updates will be posted on the Facebook Events page hereIn the meantime, 350.org has posted “5 ways you can support the school climate strikes”.

greta thunberg yellow

And last word goes to Nobel-nominee Greta Thunberg, from her Facebook post following the March 15 strikes:

Once you have done your homework, you realize that we need new politics. We need a new economics, where everything is based on our rapidly declining and extremely limited carbon budget.

But that is not enough. We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win. To get power. That must come to an end. We must stop competing with each other. We need to start cooperating and sharing the remaining resources of this planet in a fair way. We need to start living within the planetary boundaries, focus on equity and take a few steps back for the sake of all living species.
We are just passing on the words of the science. Our only demand is that you start listening to it. And then start acting.

So please stop asking your children for the answers to your own mess.

Greta Thunberg speaks truth to power at Davos, inspiring kids around the world to strike for climate

greta house on fireAs it does every year, the world’s business elite gathered in Davos Switzerland in January for the World Economic Forum,  and as it does every year, the WEF released its Global Risks Report , reflecting what business opinion leaders lose sleep about.  In 2019, the top long-term risks identified as the gravest threats to the world were extreme weather and climate-change policy failures. Blogs and reports were produced on the theme, including “How should corporate boards respond to climate change?”  , and “Infrastructure around the world is failing. Here’s how to make it more resilient” .  British celebrity David Attenborough addressed the group, telling them that “the Garden of Eden is  no more”  – but the real call to action came from 16-year old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish activist who has inspired world-wide climate strikes by teenagers.  Her appearance was reported in The Guardian, and re-posted at the National Observer as “Teenage activist takes School Strikes 4 Climate Action to Davos” (Jan. 25).   “The Climate Kids are Coming”  in The Nation (Jan. 28), describes Greta’s Davos appearance and links the climate strikes movement to the Green New Deal movement in the U.S.

Our House is on Fire:  The transcript and video of her speech, “Our house is on fire”, is now widely available – on Youtube , in another article in The Guardian (with a transcript) , and on her own Twitter feed, @GretaThunberg  .  The embodiment of speaking truth to power must be from Greta’s speech:  “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. ….. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”  And then: … “Here in Davos – just like everywhere else – everyone is talking about money. It seems money and growth are our only main concerns….We all have a choice. We can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations. Or we can continue with our business as usual and fail….. No other current challenge can match the importance of establishing a wide, public awareness and understanding of our rapidly disappearing carbon budget, that should and must become our new global currency and the very heart of our future and present economics……We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. ”

fridays for future canada logoIn Canada, there are now 12 cities in which kids have been inspired by Greta to stage climate strikes – the latest being Extinction Rebellion Alberta in Edmonton, which organized a climate strike at the provincial legislature on February 1.   TO Climate Strike  organized a  protest at Queen’s Park on February 1, organized deputations to the City Council Budget discussions, and is  organizing a networking  event on March 1 at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, to gather together the many climate activist groups in Toronto.   The Climate Pledge Collective  reports on Toronto student activism, and is currently organizing a political campaign to press Toronto to declare a climate emergency, as Vancouver has done , followed by the cities of Victoria and  Halifax.   The Montreal Gazette has reported that  Quebec post-secondary students will strike across the province on March 15 and September 27.  According to Sophia Mathur,  Sudbury’s next strike will be held on March 1 at Laurentian University, with “Canada’s next big strike”  being organized for May 3.  All the activity will be easier to follow when a new Canadian Twitter feed goes live on March 1: Fridays for Future Canada.

Around the World:  Every week, Greta Thunberg compiles and posts news of the school strikes that have happened anywhere in the world in the past week.  Her post on February 10 features photos from dozens of cities throughout the U.K. and Europe, and including New York, Seattle, and in Uganda, Nigeria, and the Faroe Islands! In the week of January 21, as reported by The Guardian , 30,000 students from 50 cities in Germany protested; 12,500 in Belgium, and more than 20,000 in Switzerland.  Previously, the largest  national student-led climate strike had been on November 30th in Australia , when estimated 15,000 students protested.

The first nationwide strike in the U.K. is planned for February 15 – The Guardian is anticipating the action here,with the National Association of Head Teachers  in support, according to a Daily Mail reportclimate strikes uk

This movement is growing and acting so fast that social  media is the best source of information : for example,  Global Climate Strike Facebook page; School Strikes 4 Climate Twitter feed;   The Kids are Alright blog ; @Fridays for Future on Twitter; and The Citizens Climate Lobby, which  maintains an interactive map of protests around the world.    climate strike global logo 

A global climate strike is planned for March 15.   

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian youth continue their climate strikes in frigid January weather

climate strike kitchenerChildren in Canada and around the world  continue to demand climate action from their nations’ policy leaders, following the example of the  now-famous Greta Thunberg.  In the first week of January 2019, according  Greta’s Twitter feed, climate strikes were held in “South Africa, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Czech Rep, Uganda, Nigeria, Faroe Islands, Italy and many more”.    As you would expect, social media plays a huge part in the campaigns, centred on the #Fridays for Future Facebook page  and @fridaysforfuture Twitter account.

In Canada, Twitter accounts to watch are from  @Sophia Mathur , (the 11-year old  Sudbury girl who was the first to join the international campaign – profiled here ); @Student Climate Activist , and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition , both from Winnipeg, Manitoba; Toronto Climate Future from Toronto and the GTHA , also with a Facebook page here .  The Citizens Climate Lobby is hosting an interactive map  to track climate strikes around the world, and The Climate Pledge Collective offers free resources to  help others organize FridaysforFuture events.

climate strike ottawaTraditional media have provided fairly limited coverage of the stoic students who  protested in Canadian cities on January 11: from the  Waterloo Record, “On a bitterly cold day in Waterloo, a new type of protest begins”   (Jan. 12) and “Children and youth strike against climate change in Waterloo Region” at KitchenerToday.com (Jan. 11); “Students, climate activists protest provincial climate plan at Queen’s Park” (Jan. 13) from The Varsity, the student newspaper of University of Toronto; and “I want to know the earth will be ok” from the Winnipeg Sun (Jan. 11).  CBC Vancouver reported the previous student climate strike on December 7 ; others are listed in the Work and Climate Change Report summary from December .

And another Canadian youth group to watch:  PowerShift: Young and Rising, who are gathering in Ottawa on February 14 – 18 .  From their announcement: “We will dig deep into discussions on topics including fracking, pipeline politics, Indigenous sovereignty, divestment, and green jobs. We will learn how to make lasting change through community organizing, direct action, art, storytelling, and using traditional and digital media. … PowerShift aims to ensure that once the convergence is over, the youth climate movement continues to grow through our networks, continued capacity building, and strategic action.”

 

 

Climate Strikes: Children are leading the way

Greta ThurnbergAlthough all eyes have been on the Juliana vs. United States legal action in the U.S ( given the go-ahead again on November 2, according to  Inside Climate News ), other young people are taking up the fight against climate change.  In September, after record heat and forest fires in Sweden, Greta Thurnberg began to skip school to demonstrate outside the Swedish Parliament buildings, and, using the  hashtag #Fridays for Future ,  is calling for people to demonstrate in solidarity at their own government’s buildings on Fridays  – read “The Swedish 15 year old who’s cutting class to fight the climate crisis”  in The Guardian for more.

Greta has become a Nordic celebrity, and her protest has spread.  Australian kids from 8 to 15 began their own campaign on November 7, with a call for  a nation-wide strike on November 30 – Updates and news are at  #School Strike 4 Climate   (the website is here)  .

Charlie Angus protest

NDP MP Charlie Angus supports Sudbury striker

In  Canada,  an 11-year old in Sudbury Ontario credits Greta for inspiration and began striking from school in November, as reported by the Sudbury Star in “Young climate activist to strike Friday in Sudbury” (Nov. 2) and “Activism runs in the blood for Sudbury student “ (Nov.8) .  The article quotes her as asking: “If adults don’t care about our future why should I? What is the point of going to school?”

Further inspiration also comes from (slightly older) young adults in Canada, in “Meet 2018’s Top 30 Under 30 in Sustainability” in Corporate Knights magazine (Nov. 6). It profiles  young adults from 16 – 29 who have rolled up their sleeves in a variety of green projects, organizations,  and businesses.