Unions Are Key to a Just and Carbon-Free Future


July 4, 2015 - Newly established WORKERS 4 THE PLANET (W4P) believes workers and our organizations—especially unions—must play a major role in stopping climate change, fighting for climate justice, and creating the necessary transition to a post-fossil-fuel economy.

We are therefore working to get B.C. workers, union members, and unions more involved in the climate justice movement. W4P currently includes members of Unifor, BCTF, BCGEU, CUPE, BCNU, TSSU, ETEA and CEP. Scientists tell us that the climate-warming energy fueling our economy is creating a terrible future for our children.

To escape this we must immediately start to wind down and replace oil, gas, and coal production with sustainable energy alternatives. So, tar sands, coal mines, fracking, pipelines, supertankers, and other related industries must be slowing down, not continuing to speed up.

Like Brother Jerry Dias, head of the union representing thousands of energy workers, we don’t believe it’s a choice between good jobs and a safe environment. We need both. And we know a few, high-paid, temporary energy jobs cannot support a healthy economy, as shown by recent mass lay-offs due to an international slump in oil prices.

Like the International Monetary Fund we believe Ottawa’s $34 billion annual subsidy to fossil fuels (tax breaks, taxpayers footing the bill for spills and pollution, outright grants) should shift to green jobs.

Labour’s strength is needed to counter the power of fossil fuel giants and their government backers, to force them to put a clean, safe environment for the 99% ahead of obscene profits for the 1%.

Workers and unions are already key to fighting for social justice in our society. This need is growing as superstorms, droughts, floods, extreme weather of all kinds and their resulting economic damages hit people unfairly. Poor nations and poor people in rich nations will more and more take the brunt of suffering caused by climate change.

Our current economic system robs workers and simultaneously devastates the environment. Energy industry billionaires are among the strongest backers of weakening unions, cutting wages and benefits, slashing government jobs and the public services they provide in health, education, child protection, elder care, and emergency services—like rescuing victims of eco-disasters or containing and cleaning up spills from pipelines, tankers, and burning trains.

Energy profiteers and other corporate “leaders” are also the quickest to push for attacks on our shrinking democracy. They cheer on Tory omnibus bills that hide from the public massive government retreats on environmental protection. They back laws like Bill C-51, preferring a growing police state to growing protests against fossil fuel projects.

Workers will also need to play central roles in the absolutely necessary transition away from fossil fuels. We are at the heart of all environmental/political issues today, because we possess needed knowledge and skills. We work daily in the offices, factories, mines, schools, oilfields, hospitals, trucks-trains-ships, farmlands...we work everywhere. So, as we shift away from a carbon-based energy economy—the sooner the better—we will be the ones who know from experience a lot of the things that will work or won’t work, a lot of the ways we can cooperate to get needed changes made more quickly and smoothly.

If we use our power and organization, we can not only deal with the eco-emergency facing us, we can also make a more just society.

W4P invites all workers, unionized or not, who see the importance of getting unions more visibly involved in the climate change movement, to join with us in pursuing this strategic political goal.

Contact us at workers4theplanet@gmail.com  and visit our website at unifor950.com/workers4theplanet.

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