New B.C. forest policy fails to defuse protests and journalists fight RCMP for access to Fairy Creek site

On June 1, the government of British Columbia released  Modernizing Forest Policy in British Columbia, an “Intentions Paper” which  attempts to address the intense protests in the province over logging of old growth forests.  The government press release includes several backgrounders, including highlights of how the policy addresses the Old Growth issue,  but environmentalists are not satisfied.  “Five ways B.C.’s new forestry plan sets the stage for more old-growth conflict” in The Narwhal explains. Stand.earth reacted with an immediate call for deferral of logging for all at-risk old growth forests, and on June 4, after company bulldozers breached protest blockades, Stand.earth repeated their call, in order to “to reduce tensions and the threat of violence or injury in Fairy Creek and keep old growth forests standing — while the province undertakes a paradigm shift for forestry rooted in Indigenous rights and consent, ecological values, and community stability.”

Protests and unions

Protests began in Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island in August 2020, explained in “The Fairy Creek blockaders: inside the complicated fight for B.C.’s last ancient forests”  (The Narwhal, March 2020) . Since then, protests have grown in size and intensity, with five people arrested on May 17, and 137 arrested by June 1.  “Three days in the theatre of Fairy Creek” in The Tyee offers a lengthly personal front line account, as does “Three weeks on the front line: The battle for Old Growth in B.C.” in Ricochet , filled with photos. The forestry workers tell their side of the bitter story, as reported by CBC, “Forestry workers and supporters from across Vancouver Island rally to denounce Fairy Creek blockades” on May 30.

 “BC’s Cynical Attack on Old-Growth Forests” in The Tyee (May 19) blames NDP Premier John Horgan for the prolonged dispute, and states that “John Horgan’s alliance with corporate and union logging interests is stalling protection for remaining ancient trees.”  The criticism stems from “A Strategy for B.C. Forests That Benefits All British Columbians”,  an article written jointly in April by Jeff Bromley, Chair of the  United Steelworkers’ Wood Council, and Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of the BC Council of Forest Industries, defending the government’s  position. In contrast, in March 2021, co-authors Andrea Inness (a campaigner at the Ancient Forest Alliance) and Gary Fiege ( president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada, formerly the Pulp and Paper Workers of Canada) wrote a Vancouver Sun Opinion piece , calling on the government to live up to their promise to implement the recommendations of their own Strategic Review , and stating “We can protect old growth forests and forestry jobs at the same time”. 

Protests and freedom

Amidst the heated protests, RCMP have been criticized for blocking journalists from covering the protests.  In a May 26  press release, the Canadian Association of Journalists and a coalition of news organizations released a statement, demanding  that the RCMP immediately stop applying “exclusion zones” to journalists,  so that the media can freely access protest sites, and get  close enough to record video and sound, conduct interviews and take photographs. The statement continues: “Journalists must be allowed to move freely on site, as long as they do not interfere with the execution of RCMP activities. This means that journalists should not be corralled or forced to move as a group or with a police escort;  The equipment of journalists must not be seized or otherwise interfered with, and journalists should not be arrested or detained while trying to document protest events.”

Members of the journalists’ coalition are: the Canadian Association of Journalists, Ricochet Media, The Narwhal, Capital Daily, Canada’s National Observer, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, The Discourse and IndigiNews. The Narwhal explanation appears in  “Enough is enough: Canadian news organizations file legal action for press freedom at Fairy Creek” ; “The Other Fight at Fairy Creek: Press Freedom” appeared in The Tyee (May 27); and “We’re taking the RCMP to Court” appeared in Ricochet.

Sierra Club green recovery plan calls for “ironclad labor and equity standards”

The Sierra Club U.S. report How to Build Back Better: A 10-year Plan for Economic Renewal  is a blueprint for economic renewal – in which the environmental advocacy group continues to demonstrate clear support for the needs of workers.  Released in March, this report includes a call for public investments which “must come with ironclad labor and equity standards to curb racial, economic, and gender inequity instead of reinforcing the unjust status quo.”  To support the job quality theme, the Sierra Club also released a 1-pager titled Cross-cutting environmental, labor and equity standards and  a 3-page summary titled Why Standards Matter, an overview of job quality issues .


Briefly, the Sierra Club recommends a pandemic recovery plan which would create over 15 million good jobs, based on public investment of $1 trillion per year for ten years. Investments would go to many sectors including infrastructure and clean manufacturing, but also the care sector and the public sector. In addition to job creation, the plan addresses systemic racism, supports public health, and cuts climate pollution nearly in half by 2030. The economic renewal plan is based on the THRIVE Agenda, which is itself based on job projections and modelling by academics at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), led by Robert Pollin. Their latest analysis was published by PERI as Employment Impacts of Proposed U.S. Economic Stimulus Programs (March 2021).  Sierra Club released a  3-page summary of  job projections; an interactive Jobs Calculator ; and Fact Sheets for each of the sectors considered: regenerative agriculture, clean energy, care and public sector, transportation, manufacturing, buildings, and clean water for all, and pollution-free communities. All these accompanying documents, along with the full report, are available here.

THRIVE stands for “Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy” and is summarized in the Sierra Club press release of  March 25. The coalition has grown out of the Green New Deal Network, itself a coalition of 15 U.S. organizations that are focused on combating social inequity and environmental destruction through political action. 

Positive examples of climate action needed to bring unionists into the climate fight, says veteran activist

“The Climate Movement Doesn’t Know How to Talk with Union Members About Green Jobs” appeared in The Intercept on March 9, transcribing an interview with Jane McAlevey,  a veteran labour activist in the U.S. and now a senior policy fellow at the University of California Berkeley’s Labor Center.  One interview  question: “What do you think organizers should be doing right now to make sure a climate-friendly platform can win in a presidential race where Trump will argue that ending fossil fuel investment means lost jobs?” In response, McAlevey urges activists to allay workers’ fears about the future with examples of positive changes – citing as one of the best examples  the “New York wind deal”  when,  “unions won a far-reaching climate agreement to shift half of New York State ’s total energy needs to wind power by 2035. They did it by moving billions of subsidies away from fossil fuels and into a union jobs guarantee known as a project labor agreement.”   (A previous WCR post  summarizes the campaign which culminated in the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in the summer of 2019).  Ultimately, McAlevey calls for “spade work” which educates workers about the climate crisis and reassures them by providing positive solutions. Citing the deeply integrated nature of the climate and economic crises, she concludes: “We have to build a movement that has enough power to win on any one of these issues that matter to us….. We’re relying on the people that already agree with us and trying to get them out in the streets. We can’t get there with these numbers.”

McAveley CollectiveBargain-book-cover-329x500The Intercept interview is one of many since Jane McAlevey’s published her third book  in January 2020.   A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy  discusses the climate crisis, but is a much broader call to arms for  the U.S. labour movement.  A very informative review of the book by Sam Gindin appears in The Jacobin, here .

U.K. makes progress on a Green New Deal amid the chaos of Brexit

Understandably, the Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom are preoccupied with the chaos of the Brexit crisis – which in itself, has huge implications for environmental policy in the country.  “How Brexit will impact the UK’s environmental policy”  provides a good summary of the specifics, and an active website publishes analysis by “a network of impartial academic experts analysing the implications of Brexit for UK and EU environmental policy and governance” . Greener UK, a network of 14 environmental NGOs, is also focused on Brexit “in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. ”

Lucas UK screenshot gnd billProgress on a Green New Deal  amidst the chaos:  But while Brexit rages, and  the country awaits the May 2 publication of recommendations on long term net zero emission targets by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC),  the Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill  was tabled in the House of Commons by two members of Parliament – Green Party member Caroline Lucas  and Labour Party member Clive Lewis .  Although the bill doesn’t use the term “Green New Deal”,  Caroline Lucas  does in her Opinion piece in The Guardian, “The answer to climate breakdown and austerity? A green new deal” (March 27).  She states: “Our bill would introduce a “green new deal” – an unprecedented mobilisation of resources invested to prevent climate breakdown, reverse inequality, and heal our communities. It demands major structural changes in our approach to the ecosystem, coupled with a radical transformation of the finance sector and the economy, to deliver both social justice and a livable planet… This is purposely radical territory. We must push the boundaries of what is seen as politically possible. Because climate justice and social justice go hand in hand.”  The official summary  of the Bill appears on page 7 of the parliamentary Order Paper for March 26 including a 10-year time line with reporting requirements, and a stated goal for  community and employee-led transition from high-carbon to low and zero-carbon industry, and the eradication of inequality.

UK Green New Deal coverGreen Party MP Caroline Lucas has a long history with the concept of “green new deal”, as part of the Green New Deal Group which was founded in the U.K. in 2007  and published its first policy statement :  A Green New Deal Joined-up policies to solve the triple crunch of the credit crisis, climate change and high oil prices  in 2008.

The Labour Party has also been in the news recently for its new grassroots initiative, the Labour Green New Deal.  For example,  “Labour scrambles to develop a Green New Deal” in Climate Change News (Feb. 14);  “Labour members launch Green New Deal inspired by US activists” in The Guardian (March 22) ; and “Our new movement aims to propel Labour into a radical Green New Deal”  (March 22) in The Guardian,  an Opinion piece by  Angus Satow, co-founder of the coalition, who states that the party’s  Green Transformation Environmental policy statement, is a starting point, but “ a GND means a new settlement for Britain. It would give local communities the funding and power to control their future, while democratising industry and the economy. Communities with control of utilities will have great power over their lives, while tackling fuel poverty, as the profits go to ordinary people, not shareholders.” “Labour for a Green New Deal – because climate change is a class issue” by Chris Saltmarsh at Labourlist(March 22) lays out the role of unions in the initiative, with specific and detailed plans: “A Green New Deal in the UK is therefore nothing without participation and leadership from our unions. Rank-and-file trade unionists across the country are ready to organise for this from below. We’ll work with them to build support, host events, pass motions from branches to policy conferences, and develop regional plans for a Green New Deal that put workers first.”

TUC Report calls for a Just Transition with “Skilled work at its heart”

GreenCollarNationThe Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Greenpeace released a joint report on October 19, Green Collar Nation: A Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy. Acknowledging that the TUC and the environment movement have had their differences in the past, this report looks to a future which identifies “the shared agenda of managing the costs and reaping the benefits of the move towards a cleaner and stronger economy”. The report cites several U.K. economic studies of the potential of clean energy and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, discusses the differences between TUC and Greenpeace policies re the aviation industry, and makes practical recommendations  for energy and climate policy. The spirit of the paper lies in a concluding statement: “Drawing on the key pillars proposed by the International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) for a just transition, we have argued in this paper for a transition that puts skilled work at its heart. Achieving this transition cannot rely on a political narrative of guilt, debt and punishment, either at an individual or national level. Instead it should build on the politics of the common good, seeking active co-operation in solving a shared problem, developed through strong relationships, robust institutions and the harnessing of technological innovation and optimism wherever it can”.

U.S. Labour as a Force for Climate Protection

A recent article in The Nation online describes dozens of examples of cooperative actions by labour and environmental justice groups in the U.S. since the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014. Author Jeremy Brecher, one of the founders of the Labor Network for Sustainability, highlights the work of LNS, which is “working to pull together a “convergence” gathering of trade unionists who want to make the labor movement a climate-protection movement” … “ Fortunately for labor-climate activists, there is no element of American society that will gain as much from such a program as the labor movement, and no force as crucial for bringing it about.” Read How Climate Protection Has Become Today’s Labor Solidarity here. Read another article by Jeremy Brecher , The Paris Climate Summit and the Power of the People here  , and see his details of his newly-released book, Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival here  (Paradigm/Routledge 2015).

ILO Statisticians Adopt New Guidelines to Measure the Greening Economy

At the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) in Geneva in early October, labour statisticians discussed and adopted new guidelines for the statistical definition of employment in the environmental sector. The guidelines define the environmental sector as consisting of “all economic units producing, designing and manufacturing goods and services for the purposes of environmental protection and resource management”. The discussion identified as two distinct concepts: 1) employment in production of environmental output, and 2) environmental processes. While both are aspects of greening of employment, the report states that they are different targets for policy-making, and should be measured separately using different methods.

LINK:

Green jobs: Draft guidelines for the Statistical Definition and Measurement of Employment in Environmental Sector is available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—stat/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_223914.pdf

Unifor Founding Convention Hears a Call for a Green Labour Revolution

Canada’s newest and biggest private sector union, Unifor, held its founding convention on August 31 and September 1, making official the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union (CEP). These two unions together represent approximately 300,000 workers, in almost all sectors of the economy, including auto and aerospace manufacturing, rail, energy, communications, forestry, fisheries, and mining – sectors which are on the front lines of climate change.

In her speech to the convention, Naomi Klein stated that the labour movement is needed to take the lead in the fight against climate change – environmentalists and political parties cannot do it alone. In outlining her own “genuine climate action plan”, she called for a democratically-controlled energy system and massive investment in public infrastructure. “I am not suggesting some half-assed token ‘green jobs’ program. This is a green labour revolution I’m talking about. An epic vision of healing our country from the ravages of the last 30 years of neoliberalism and healing the planet in the process.”… “Climate change – when its full economic and moral implications are understood – is the most powerful weapon progressives have ever had in the fight for equality and social justice.”

Environmental goals figure in some of the important official documents of the new union. Note Article 2.10 of the new Unifor Consitution: “Our goal is transformative. To reassert common interest over private interest. Our goal is to change our workplaces and our world. Our vision is compelling. It is to fundamentally change the economy, with equality and social justice, restore and strengthen our democracy and achieve an environmentally sustainable future. This is the basis of social unionism -a strong and progressive union culture and a commitment to work in common cause with other progressives in Canada and around the world.”

The Unifor Vision and Plan document strikes a more pragmatic note. The union promises to oppose the export of raw bitumen and the construction of massive pipelines, advocating for more “made in Canada” inputs and processing. It pledges to work with environmental allies to advocate for a Canadian energy policy which reduces GHG emissions, ensures a sustainable development of the oil sands and promotes value-added jobs in upgrading and refining petroleum products.

LINKS

Why Unions Need to Join the Climate Fight, Naomi Klein’s speech is at her website at: http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2013/09/why-unions-need-join-climate-fight

Unifor website is at: http://www.unifor.org/en (English) and http://www.unifor.org/fr (French), including the Constitution at:http://www.unifor.org/en/about-unifor/constitution  (English version) and http://www.unifor.org/fr/a-propos-unifor/statuts (French version).

A New Union for a Challenging World: Unifor’s Vision and Plan is available at: the convention website at: http://www.newunionconvention.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/682-New-Union-Vision-web-ENG.pdf (English version) and http://www.nouveausyndicatendirect.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/682-New-Union-Vision-FR-web.pdf (French version).