Following are specific statements and actions from unions around the world in support of the calls for a “Global Climate Strike” in September 2018. For background, please see TUED Bulletin 88 and this follow-up mailing. If you are aware of union statements and / or actions that are not listed here, please send details to email@example.com.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) came out in support of the “Fridays for Future” protests in March 2019. In the words of Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary:
“The students are taking responsibility where leaders have failed. We have to thank them for their bravery in confronting the climate crisis. Their courage deserves our support.”
The ITUC is also listed as an official “international partner” for the upcoming September events.
Education International (EI) also issued a strong statement of support in March for the ongoing student actions, which read in part as follows:
Education International welcomes the energy and engagement shown by students across the globe in their fight for climate justice. Their determination and commitment are exactly what we need at this crucial moment. Students are showing the leadership that too many politicians are lacking….
Education unions stand with the students. We urge governments to make the necessary structural changes for a just transition towards a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy. Climate change is not combatted through the “good behaviour” of consumers. Coordinated and sustained participation of students and workers and their representatives may be the first step towards climate justice. We stand by students in the demand for urgent climate action and a just economic transition.
Public Services International (PSI)
In March, PSI published a strong statement of support for the Spring protests, “Our last chance on climate?” which reads in part:
History shows that we can only achieve a peaceful, democratic shift to a more just and safe economic system using our collective strength, including strikes. In 1968, workers and unions in many countries supported calls from students to take to the streets to challenge injustice and the unwillingness of the political establishment to act.
Now, once again students are taking action for change. They have asked ‘adults’ to join them. They say they won’t back down until governments take the actions needed. We can show them and the world that trade unions are on the right side of history, that we will join with popular movements to restore democracy. The fight for climate action is a fight to put people over profit. There is no Planet B, and there is no time left.
The statement also encouraged PSI affiliates to take a range of actions:
- Join with the student activists organising the strike in your area
- Pass a union or workplace motion in support of the strike
- Talk with your young workers
- Talk to the media about why your union/members support the students
- Use your social media profiles to support the action by hash-tagging #FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrike #schoolstrike4climate
- Contact your political leaders, telling them why public action on climate is crucial
European Public Services Union (EPSU)
Also in March, the European Public Services Union (EPSU) issued a statement of support, and an EPSU group joined the March 15 demonstration in Brussels on the “global day of action”:
We walked with school and college students and others, along with a large union block under the slogan “Workers for Climate”. Many other actions took place across the world and the EPSU Executive Committee on 12 March declared its support. Just after the Executive Committee we came together as part of a broad alliance to seek practical solutions to the market-based approaches to climate change and assert that forms of public and community ownership of our energy system are possible.
(Additional endorsements and ongoing updates for Australia can be found at this link).
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF)
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has issued a bold statement in support of the youth-led strikes for climate, titled, “Why nurses, midwives and carers should support climate strikes.” ANMF offers the following recommendations and resources:
- Support the global Global Climate Strike on 20 September. We endorse members attending if you are not working.
- Sign up for the ANMF (Vic Branch) one-day Nursing for the Environment intensive course taking place on 4 October.
- Join the ANMF’s Green Nurses & Midwives Facebook group
Australian Education Union Victorian Branch
On August 1, 2019, AEU Victoria Branch passed a motion expressing support for the climate strike call, and encouraging members to “show solidarity with the strike by organising a workplace action on Sept 20, taking leave to attend and passing sub-branch resolutions.”
Australian Services Union (ASU)
In late July, the National Executive of the Australian Services Union released a statement of support for the school strikers’ call for a global climate strike on September 20. The statement reads in part:
The school strikers are everything that young Australians should be – passionate, active and caring. For them climate change isn’t a problem for another day, it’s something that will directly impact the rest of their lives. And these students aren’t just dreaming of changing the world, they’re going out and doing it. We’ve always had the back of those fighting for a better future and always will.
That’s why the ASU is calling on members and workers to support the school strikers’ Global #ClimateStrike by taking a day of leave to attend a #ClimateStrike rally on 20 September, organising a workplace solidarity selfie, or passing a workplace resolution in support of these young activists.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU)—Bureau of Meteorology
In August, the CPSU at the Bureau of Meteorology, which represents climate scientists, weather forecasters, researchers, engineers and others, passed a motion in support of the climate strike call, which also makes a similar set of demands to those in the ASU ACT Subdivision motion, expressing solidarity with “workers in fossil fuel industries and their communities facing insecure work and an uncertain future,” while calling for a “clear job guarantee from the government for all of these workers as the economy decarbonises.” The motion also reiterates solidarity with indigenous people “in struggles to protect their lands and waters from impending expansion of fossil fuel projects,” while demanding “all necessary rights and resources are provided for Indigenous people to live and work on their land and help it to heal.”
Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney Branch
In early July, the MUA Sydney Branch issued a strong statement of support for the student climate strikers, welcoming the call “for workers to join their next global strike,” pledging to “build for the widest possible stoppage of work to join demonstrations on September 20,” and calling on the MUA national body “to support this action and campaign for stoppages across the global union movement.” The statement makes a demand for public investment, public ownership, and “clear job guarantees, training, and direct transition measures put in place by government for fossil fuel workers.” The statement also makes an explicit call for public ownership of new renewable energy assets:
We call for further commitment of union resources and materials to involve MUA members in an expansion of the campaign, including pressuring all levels of government to rapidly expand an offshore wind industry under public ownership.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and National Union of Students (NUS)
Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and National Union of Students (NUS) issued a joint statement supporting a planned August 9 student walkout across Australia. In the words of NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes, “NTEU members strongly support the stand that students are taking. The federal government is still treating climate change as an inconvenience, rather than the most important issue facing humanity today. It needs to be at the centre of any decisions about future mining and our energy needs.”
Victorian Trades Hall
On August 9, Victorian Trades Hall, the peak body for unions in the Australian State of Victoria, unanimously passed a motion endorsing the September 20 global climate actions, committing to organize its members to participate “as much as possible.” The motion also authorized the Victorian Trades Hall Council to “help organise unions and unionists to participate in the September 20 Climate Strike” and endorsed the “the calling of an all unions meeting in early September, to build engagement with the 20 September Climate Strike.”
General Federation of Belgian Labour (FGTB)
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF)
The BCTF recently passed motions to support the climate strikes on the next world wide day of action, to write an open letter of support for the School Strike for Climate movement, and to encourage local teachers’ unions in the province to participate in their actions. To support teachers, the BCTF has produced a document (pdf) outlining ways to help their students engage in these events by raising awareness of the climate emergency, developing action plans, and facilitating students’ participation in the climate strikes. That and other resources are available on the BCTF Environmental Justice webpages.
Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association (local of the BCTF)
The GVTA will be holding a “Rally & Teach-in for Climate Justice” on September 23, in solidarity with the student strikes. The union is “encouraging all teachers to attend as part of their professional development” since the day is a “professional development day,” paid but with no classes scheduled.
According to Tara Ehrcke, action committee chairperson of GVTA Local 61, the union also worked with students and parents to lobby the School Board to declare a climate emergency and prepare a climate action plan (which they did in late June). “We believe this was the first School Board to declare a climate emergency that we know of,” says Ehrcke. “Following our lead, several other School Boards in British Columbia will be considering similar motions this fall, including Nanaimo and Vancouver.”
Toronto and York Region Labour Council
At its latest General Delegates Meeting, held August 1, 2019, Canada’s Toronto and York Region Labour Council endorsed the call to action on climate change with respect to the upcoming global action on climate change. TYRLC is Canada’s largest labour council, representing about 200,000 workers from all sectors of the economy. The statement called on the council to:
- Reach out to engage every affiliate on labour’s role in the fight for climate justice, including winning contract language on climate, establishing joint workplace environment committees and asking employers to climate-proof their work
- Urge every affiliate to mobilize their members to defeat the federal Conservatives and oppose the destructive climate policies of Conservative provincial governments
- Mobilize a network of activists to take the issue of climate justice to every union convention in the next two years
- Call on Labour Councils across the country to be involved in local and national efforts on climate action including actions on September 27th
- Partner with racial justice organizations to help deepen the analysis around equity and Just Transition within discussions on climate action
- Produce popular material for circulation on the theme of “We’ll pay much more later”
- Support the efforts of students and youth who are highlighting the need to address the climate emergency
On September 10, 2019, Unifor National President, Jerry Dias, sent a letter to the union’s members, conveying the message that delegates at the union’s Constitutional Convention in August had “unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the Global Climate Week of Action taking place from September 20 to 27, 2019,” and encouraging them to to “take part in these important events.”
With more than 310,000 members—with members in resources, manufacturing, services, communications and transportation—Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector.
In the letter, Dias asked local unions to “step up their fight for collective action on climate change,” and made several specific recommendations:
- Check the Global Climate Strike website for events near you. Participate and encourage Unifor members and activists to join in.
- Attend Unifor’s Just Transition Conference that will gather activists from across the country interested in taking climate action while prioritizing workers and building a program for good jobs in Canada.
- Organize a community action and let your union know what you’re planning during the global week of action from September 20 to 27 by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sign up to receive Unifor updates on health & safety and the environment, and stay tuned for updates on other climate actions.
In late July, Phillipe Martinez, Secretary General of the French Confédération générale du travail (CGT), announced that the union would support the September week of climate action:
“We are working for a day of action in September which could also be part of two very important days, 20 and 27 September, around the climate emergency. For us, social emergency and climate emergency are unavoidable. The CGT will work with youth organizations for there to be several initiatives this week from 20 to 27 September.”
(Note: Special thanks to Mark Bergfeld for support in compiling information on the positions of German unions. Mark has also authored a longer essay titled “German Unions Are Waking up to the Climate Disaster” in Jacobin Magazine.)
Verdi (United Services Trade Union)
The General Secretary of Germany’s Frank Bsirske has called (German) or Verdi members to join the climate strike on September 20. The unions has also stated that members should collectively claim a holiday to support the strike or organize an active lunch break. On Verdi’s Twitter account, Bsirske is reported as saying, “Whoever can should clock out and go out on the streets. I will definitely go.”
IG Bau (Construction and Property Services Union)
IG Bau, Germany’s largest construction and property services union, has called (German) on its members on construction sites and in properties to join the climate strike. The union has also called on employers to give employees the opportunity to participate in the Fridays for Future demonstrations. The union is also demanding that Germany reduce its CO2 emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.
GEW (Education and Science Workers’ Union)
The German education and science workers’ union GEW has been supportive of the “Fridays for Future” protests. Since many GEW members are civil servants without a legal right to strike, Hoffmann has stated, “As a union, you have to think very carefully about which actions you call your members for, and the goals must be very clear and concrete.” Still, executive member for schools Ilka Hoffmann argues (German) that climate protection must be seen as “part of a larger context” and expresses a concern that “media hype” around climate protection may lead to broader social and ecological issues being drowned out.
EVG (Railway and Transport Workers’ Union)
Railway and transport workers’ union EVG supports the goals of the movement, and is reported (German) to be in “close contact” with “Fridays for Future” organizers; its members have already participated in Friday demonstrations, and the union will participate in demonstrations on September 20: “We are pursuing the same goals: In our opinion, more climate protection requires a stronger rail network and significantly more investment in rail infrastructure.”
In June, Germany’s largest union, the IG Metall, organized a demonstration (German) demanding a fair and ecological transition. More than 10 trains and 800 buses were chartered to fill the streets of Germany’s capital city Berlin with tens of thousands metal workers. At time of writing, IG Metall is still debating internally whether to support the September climate strike.
CGIL (Italian General Confederation of Labour)
In July 2019, a CGIL delegation led by General Secretary Maurizio Landini met with representatives of the #FridaysForFuture movement, affirming the shared commitment to the struggle for climate justice. More recently, CGIL has declared support (Italian) for the Global Climate Strike, and is planning a series of activities including an event to be held on 21 September as part of the 2019 “Days of Labor” in the city of Lecce. On September 27, workplace assemblies will be convened to discuss the climatic emergency and the struggle for climate justice. The union notes that these will be opportunities to raise awareness among workers on the issue of climate change, the dramatic consequences for our planet, the need to act quickly and in a radical way to guarantee human rights, social justice and full employment, at all levels.
(Note: In New Zealand, the focus of mobilizing efforts is the “General Strike” on September 27, and the call is to “Move New Zealand beyond fossil fuels and get the job done of moving us to 100% renewable energy for all!”)
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU)
In March, 2019, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) issued a statement expressing support for the student-led climate strikes then taking place. Then in July, the council issued a new statement of support specifically for the planned September actions, encouraging members to participate in actions ranging “from small short actions right through to organised workplace meetings”:
The Council of Trade Unions is standing in support with the students campaigning for climate action…. The Council of Trade Unions will be encouraging people in union to show up and support the collective voice of young people on September 27.
New Zealand Public Services Association (NZPSA)
New Zealand’s PSA—the country’s largest union—has supported the ongoing youth climate strike mobilizations since at least the March 15 “School Strike 4 Climate.” In the words of PSA’s Eco Network organiser Susannah Bailey:
We recognise our role as a union in pushing for faster action on climate change. Climate change impacts our members’ work and workplaces, and we know that work practices also impact the climate. We are one of a number of unions in Aotearoa NZ who support a just transition for workers to a low emission economy.
NZPSA has previously called for “a reiteration of the importance of public ownership and control of essential services.”
In March 2019, New Zealand’s FIRST Union came out in support of the youth-led protests. According to the union’s Just Transition Spokesperson, Justin Wallace:
The adults who today are blown away by the action from young people need to support them as they show that they want to be a voice heard in this global movement. They are the future workers who need to be assured that there will be work in the new era of Just Transition.
TUED has heard from organizers for New Zealand’s Unite Union that they are organizing “stop work” meetings of union members nationwide to coincide with the strikes on September 27, so that members can attend the rallies.
South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)
In South Africa, SAFTU’s Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi, speaking at the end of the federation’s latest National Executive Committee, called on SAFTU’s own members, but also members of all trade unions in South Africa and throughout the world, to “support the global climate strikes by joining and initiating marches and demonstrations to demand action from our government and corporate sectors.” Video of Vavi’s remarks is available at this link.
Trades Union Congress (TUC)
At its 2019 Congress in Brighton, the UK’s Trades Union Congress voted unanimously to support the youth climate strikers. As reported by the University and College Union (UCU), which put forward the motion (see below):
The motion also called on workers to back the 20 September global walkouts and lend 30 minutes of their day to show support for school children taking part in the action. The TUC has said it also wanted to see unions playing a key role in a “just transition” to a low-carbon greener economy.
Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
In early 2019, BFAWU issued an especially strong statement in support of the student strikes. Under the heading “Support the Climate Strike!” the statement reads in part:
The BFAWU urges its members to get involved, if you want a planet fit for your children and Grandchildren we need to take action now.
The last few months and weeks have been amazing. The global movement of school climate strikes and the inspiring actions of Extinction Rebellion have shifted the debate on climate change injecting a new urgency.
The first success of this growing movement has been to force the UK parliament to declare a Climate Emergency. Now we need the action to match the words.
Greta Thunberg has called for a general strike urging others join student striking for climate action. Many trade unionists across the trade union movement have been inspired by the action taken in the last few months by young people determined to defend their future. Now, as trade unionists, let’s stand in solidarity and add our voice to the call for climate action.
Let’s mobilise across the whole of the trade union movement- to put a million climate jobs and a national climate service to deliver a Green New Deal at the heart of the urgent action we need to tackle the climate emergency.
Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
On August 23, PCS announced its support for the climate strikers taking action on 20 September, and called on its branches to show solidarity with them on the day:
All PCS workplaces are encouraged to support the day of action in whichever they feel appropriate without risk to members. We fully support the global student strikes but the UK’s repressive trade union laws mean we cannot call on our members to take strike action. Instead we are asking members to:
- Ask their employer for time off work to join local rallies – see the UKSCN website for details – but don’t take time off without agreement.
- Link up with other unions in your local area, such as through your trades councils.
- Organise something in the lunch break outside your workplace – be visible and take photos.
- Organise around PCS pickets on the day.
- Start discussions with members on climate change and why it’s an issue for workers.
- Use this as an opportunity to highlight and call for the repeal of the anti-trade union laws.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT)
Drawing on the TUC’s passage of a motion supporting the climate strikers at its 2019 Congress (see above), the RMT’s General Secretary, Mick Cash, has written to its branches urging them to “organise an RMT presence at a local demonstration on 20 September,” and to convey this request to their members.
The RMT has more than 83,000 members from almost every sector in the transport industry: from mainline and underground railways, shipping and offshore, buses and road freight.
UNISON—the UK’s largest trade union, with nearly 1.4 million members—is organizing through its branches a week of activities in support of the youth climate strikers, to call for urgent action to tackle climate change:
Green UNISON Week gives UNISON members the chance to show support for the school climate strikers ahead of their campaign to raise awareness and the school climate strike on 20 September.
Anti-trade union laws mean that UNISON branches cannot take strike action but there are many ways you can show your support for the school campaigners:
- Find out if your UNISON branch has an environment rep? If not, encourage your branch and any interested members to get involved and become green reps!
- Find out what your employer is doing to reduce their environmental impact. Ask your employer to share this information with UNISON.
- Hold a UNISON green event. You could run a lunchtime stall in the canteen, a film show, or a talk. Why not invite a school student climate striker or a speaker from a nearby environmental campaigning organisation to come along?
- Run a green survey. Ask your friends and colleagues for ideas on how to ‘green up’ your workplace. Get people involved and offer a prize or raffle.
- Run a green workplace training activity. Talk to your UNISON learning rep and look into running a lunchtime activity session for green reps and members who’d like to learn more.
Confirming UNISON Scotland’s support for the student-led climate actions, General Secretary Dave Prentis not only described the climate crisis as “the greatest single threat humanity faces,” but also emphasized the call for nationalising energy suppliers, referred to the escalating demands for urgent climate action, and highlighted recent protests by Extinction Rebellion and the school student climate strikers, and more.
University and College Union (UCU)
Also in the UK, the University and College Union (UCU) has put forward a resolution to the upcoming congress of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which will be held 8-11 September 2019 in Brighton. The resolution notes “the tremendous impact of the school students strikes in shifting government complacency over climate change” and calls for “a 30-minute workday solidarity stoppage to coincide with the global school student strike on 20 September.”
Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB)
In June, the WGGB passed a motion at its AGM to support the young people’s climate strike on 20 September. The AGM resolved, “to stand in support of the young people who have called for adults to join them in a general strike on the 20th September. They have called this strike to bring attention to the climate crisis and the UN’s climate emergency summit, which takes place on the 23rd September. This AGM will hear the young people’s call for action and we will support their strike.”
Alameda Labor Council (ALC)—California
On August 5, 2019, the Alameda Labor Council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the climate strike call. Co-sponsored by UPTE-CWA Local 9119, the resolution states that the council:
- supports the youth in the fight for their future by supporting and publicizing the September 20th Youth-Led Climate Action;
- urges its affiliated unions to stand in unity with the youth by also supporting, encouraging participation and other appropriate forms of solidarity; and,
- will work with Youth VS. Apocalypse and other environmental organizations to help others understand the impact of climate change on our environment, economy, social welfare, health, security and the future of our children and generations that follow, and encourage their participation in the movement to meet the climate challenge by creating a rapid just transition to an equitable and sustainable energy society.
Contra Costa Labor Council (CCLC)—California
At its August 21 meeting, the Contra Costa Labor Council passed a resolution—co-sponsored by AFSCME Local 3299, UAW Local 2865 and UAW Local 5810—essentially identical to the resolution adopted by the Alameda Labour Council two weeks earlier (see above).
San Francisco Central Labor Council (SFCLC)—California
On September 3, 2019, the San Francisco Central Labor Council passed a motion supporting the climate strike calls. The motion reads in part:
We call for a youth-led climate strike march, going to different targets that are contributing to climate breakdown, leaving our mark to let these places know what we are fighting for. (While this is a youth-led event, adults are also welcome to come to support the youth!)
We will again start at the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and will connect targets in government, finance, and energy. For those that can’t join in person, we will be asking people to post on social media and tag our targets.
United Educators of San Francisco—California
On August 21, 2019, the Executive Board COPE Committee of United Educators of San Francisco endorsed the youth-led climate strike call, resolving that the union “supports youth in the fight for their future” by “supporting and publicizing the September 20-27 actions” and “supporting participation in upcoming actions and other appropriate forms of solidarity.”
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If you are aware of union statements and / or actions that are not listed here, please send details to email@example.com.