Drawing on American economic and labour policy during World War II, authors Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell and Joe Uehlein envision what climate policy could look like with labour in the lead, in an article in the September 2014 issue of New Labor Forum.
The authors acknowledge that unions are caught between the immediate interests of their members, many of whom work in industries vulnerable to new climate regulations, and long-term social, economic, and ecological wellbeing. As a result, labour has at times remained “aloof” to the climate movement, but the authors advocate that the labour movement should take the initiative to develop its own government-led climate plan – one that bridges the divide between work and environment, reverses austerity, raises wages, and offers full employment, job security, and transition training.
As during wartime, the authors contend, climate change demands ramped up production and expansion in innovative sectors. The government should take the lead in financing the low-carbon transition during its initial, more expensive stages, thereby encouraging private investment by creating stable green markets. Citizens should be supported during the transformation through the establishment of a welfare state that diverts carbon tax revenues to workers and the unemployed, provides education and training, and recruits and distributes workers to where they are most needed.
“If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change” in New Labor Forum (v.23, #3) is at: http://nlf.sagepub.com/content/23/3/40.full.pdf+html