On 20 September, date of the next global school student climate strike, workers at a school in Lewisham will do a photo-shoot with their union group after school, and supporters of Solidarity will then try to persuade as many of them as possible to join a local demo.
Cambridge UCU activists and Solidarity readers are organising a mass lunchtime photo-shoot. There will have been school student walk outs and rallies that morning, and another rally that evening. In the same city, some schools are having early “Power-downs” that afternoon – initiated by staff.
Stevenage looks set to see their first yet student walk-outs, as school students are getting more organised.
Lambeth council workers will be walking out at 12:30 for the whole afternoon, planning to take many of them to join wider demonstrations. One of the workers expects perhaps 100 to join central London demonstrations.
Concrete plans in particular workplaces are indispensable for building working-class environmental activism. National vague commitments or even more specified stated days of action are important and useful, but don’t directly translate into the necessary action and pressure.
Bringing environmental politics into all of our workplaces can.
The origin of the use of “green” to mean “environmental” was the “green bans” in Australia. The New South Wales (NSW) Builders Labourers Federation became increasingly militant and radical as a union, and exercised the power they had built in the workplace to environmental ends. On the request of residents or campaigning groups, the union would impose a “green ban” on a proposed construction project.
This stopped many environmentally – and in other ways – destructive projects by going ahead, as workers would refuse to work on it. Where necessary to prevent strikebreakers from being used to undermine these bans they would threaten strikes across the companies.
Striking over “political” issues as this would be illegal under current UK law; campaigns such as Free Our Unions are vital for this reason.
But to attribute the lack of trade union climate action to this would be to let the low level of activity, confidence, combativity and ideas of the labour movement off the hook. The issue in political.
The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, that it is human-driven, and that it will bring severe consequences is now past 99%.
Public concern in the UK about climate change is at an all-time high – a large majority of people. The technological means to halt further contributions, to move rapidly to net zero emissions, exists.
Yet, as the danger is increasingly laid bare, and the tools to combat it advance, climate change is not combatted.
And more. The drivers of climate change are being stoked ever harder, plunging us ever faster towards greater and greater climate chaos, just when everything rational points in the opposite direction. The absurdity of this situation is a stark indictment of the irrationality of capitalism.
It’s even senseless by the logic and vanguard of capitalists themselves. As this paper goes to press a report finds global preparation for climate change “gravely insufficient”, warns of “climate apartheid” and a lack of “political leadership”. Its calculated “costs” of inaction, measured in trillions of dollars, outweigh calculated costs of action. Climate action gives, if you like, good returns on investment.
The report does not come from radicals or outliers. It comes from the “Global Commission on Adaptation”, an organisation led by the former UN General Secretary; by Bill Gates, the world’s second richest person; and by the CEO of the World Bank.
Yet the ludicrous acceleration into climate catastrophe quickens yet more.
20 September’s global climate strike will take a firm stand against climate change and the irrationality of inaction. In particular, workers’ collective organising can be a weighty force in the fight for environmental sustainability.
Lambeth workers walkout against climate change: https://www.facebook.com/events/480512346058556/
Lewisham demo: https://www.facebook.com/events/398010590830907/
Cambridge: School student walk outs and staff ″power downs″. Rally https://www.facebook.com/events/546698159402378/
Sheffield SU are organising ... https://www.facebook.com/events/578975379302647/
Workers need right to strike on climate
This is a joint statement between the UK Student Climate Network and the Free Our Unions campaign.
In 2019, school students’ strikes internationally have shifted the debate about the climate crisis. Now more and more school student activists recognise that they alone cannot tackle the crisis and win a fundamental transformation of society.
A just transition to a new economic system run in the interests of people and planet, not profit, must have workers at its core.
For more than thirty years, workers in the UK have been fenced in by laws which make quick and effective strike action difficult, and action over political issues like climate change more difficult still. Workers do take radical action despite the law; but over the years the anti-union laws have helped weaken the culture of workplace organisation and workers’ direct action.
The urgency of the climate crisis demands both bending and defiance of these laws – as groups of workers will undertake on 20 September – and a renewed campaign for them to be scrapped completely.
In the context of climate chaos, workers urgently need freedom to take quick and effective industrial action to defend themselves against dangerous and unstable working conditions. They urgently need freedom to take solidarity action to support other workers in their communities, across the UK and – crucially in an interconnected world where the global poor are on the frontline – in other countries.
And they urgently need freedom to take industrial action for political issues, most importantly a just solution to the climate crisis.
We therefore call on all organisations who seriously want to fight climate change to call for the abolition of all anti-union laws and their replacement with strong legal rights for workers and unions, including the right to strike quickly and effectively, in solidarity with others and for political demands. We congratulate the Greens for taking a strong stand on these issues.
We call on Labour to carry out the policy passed by its conference in 2017 and 2015. We welcome the motion to the TUC Congress submitted by the Fire Brigades Union.