Unions Confronting the Climate Crisis

Sean Sweeney of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy and Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability discuss the significant labor ferment around the climate crisis. Climate change changes everything: everything about how we organize society, how we conduct politics, and how we envision the role of an organized labor movement in society. Sean explains that the transition to an equitable, sustainable energy system can only occur if there is decisive shift in power towards workers, communities and the public. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is a global initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and responds to the attacks on workers’ rights and protections.

Jeremy, author of Unions backing historical Peoples Climate March, argues that a just transition is a matter of elementary justice—it is unfair that workers who through no fault of their own happen to work in jobs that need to be eliminated to achieve a social good should bear the burden of that change by losing their jobs. The environmental movement should have a jobs program of its own, and should not leave the jobs piece up to labor. Likewise, the labor movement should have a climate program of its own, rather than leaving climate protection up to the environmental movement. Both movements need to begin to internalize how their missions are intertwined. The September 21st Peoples Climate March is demanding a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.