Unions Disregard Call for Large Scale Climate Action Strikes

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Students are leading the way with Global Climate Strikes across the country to persuade the government and leaders of the country to take impactful action to remedy the current climate emergency. Although the labor movement created the concept of striking, unions haven’t used this tactic to support the students, and this may render the strikes ultimately ineffective, Emily Leedham reported for Briarpatch, an independent Canadian news magazine, in September 2019.

Union workers have the power to send a strong message to governments and big industry when they choose to strike. This would bring a halt to production because, in the words of the Briarpatch report, “the strike is the working class’s most powerful weapon.”

Lacking this economic power, protesting students can only accomplish so much on their own. If the adult working class was to stand in solidarity with the students to protect their future, even if it meant striking illegally, greater policy change and climate action could be achieved, Leedham wrote, reinforcing her point by referencing the illegal teachers’ strikes that achieved “historic gains for public education in West Virginia, Arizona, and Los Angeles” in 2018 and 2019.

A search for coverage of the issue reveals that establishment media tend to take union pronouncements at face value, without looking more deeply into what actual actions are being taken—or not—to support students’ climate crisis protests. For example, in September 2019, the Guardian reported that the International Trade Union Confederation offered words of support on the launch of global climate strikes in 2019, but failed to note the obvious—that the ITUC stopped short of asking its 200 million members to down their tools. National unions such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have also expressed verbal support of the protests without committing to work stoppages. Reporting done on the student global climate strikes fails to reference what the student strikes require in order to influence large scale change by national governments.  What this article reveals, that others do not, is that work stoppage is an essential and crucial tactic needed to persuade government officials to act now to address the climate emergency.

Source: Emily Leedham, “Student Climate Strikes are Structure Tests,” Briarpatch, September 5,  2019 https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/student-climate-strikes-are-structure-tests.

Student Researcher: Michelle Lerat (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluator: Kehinde Olalafe (University of Regina)