Workers’ Environmental Rights in Canada

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) , with the support of Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces in Canada (ACW), released a report that explores the presence of, and potential for, workers’ environmental rights in Canada.

The report looks at the issue from the perspective of occupational health and safety (OHS) rights and laws in Canada, and in the context of  a growing movement  which increasingly recognizes the right to a healthy environment.  In Canada,  the patchwork of environmental protection legislation across the country does not sufficiently consider the rights of workers and their role as stewards with responsibilities to promote environmental justice for the communities affected by their work activities. This paper proposes a framework for workers’ environmental rights, and in identifying these and other opportunities for getting these rights recognized, we hope to start a conversation with allies about how to advance workers’ environmental rights in Canada.

We also hope that the framework for workers’ environmental rights serves as a tool for action on climate change and for a just transition to a sustainable economy.

The report, Workers’ Environmental Rights in Canada, is here.  An Executive Summary and a Legislative Chart accompanies the full report.

ACW mourns the passing of Karen Hawley, July 2021

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The ACW community is saddened to announce the death of Karen Hawley who passed away on July 8, 2021 in Ottawa at the young age of 58, having faced the dual challenges of Covid-19 and cancer.  She is remembered by her ACW colleagues as a researcher with contagious enthusiasm, positive energy, and considerable intelligence, which she brought to many projects in both the Work in a Warming World, and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change grants.  We extend our deep  condolences to her family.

Principal Investigator Carla Lipsig-Mummé has written:

“Karen has been on the margins of our grants since 2013 or even earlier – I remember that in 2013 and earlier Karen researched and wrote for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)  “ How much do our unions, including their work and their buildings—do what we  say we do?”.  Karen’s work in this influenced Phillip Jennings of the UNI Global Union to pay more attention to mobilise union climate activism. Karen’s research with CUPW for W3’s global conference in 2013 led to Karen producing the analysis of union engagement in 105 unions, across the globe. She also took up specific projects with NUPGE over the years. For this quiet woman, whose generosity reached out to others, these last months have been hard.  Karen sent me her most recent project a few months ago. It focuses on the health sector.”

In addition to her work on the postal sector, Karen was involved as a researcher in other projects and publications, notably, the Green Collective Agreements database, and with John Mummé in the 2017 ACW Working Paper, The Training of Canadian Architects for the Challenges of Climate Change .

Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act

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A path to a clean and inclusive economy

Canada has committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Among other implications, “decarbonizing” the Canadian economy will require the winding down of coal, oil and natural gas projects across the country with potentially harmful effects for the hundreds of thousands of workers and dozens of regional economies currently dependent on fossil fuel production.

In recognition and anticipation of the socioeconomic impacts of its climate policies, Canada’s federal government committed in 2019 to introducing a Just Transition Act to “support the future and livelihood of workers and their communities in the transition to a low-carbon global economy.” Although it has yet to be tabled, the promise of “just transition” legislation has strong support from labour unions, environmental groups and social justice movements that have long called for stronger federal leadership in this area.

Taking the federal government’s commitment as its starting point, this report explores the potential for a Just Transition Act to achieve a managed transition to a lower-carbon economy that minimizes the potential harms and maximizes the potential benefits for workers and their communities.

CBTU calls upon Unions to take and implement anti-racist pandemic recovery plans in this moving and militant Labour Day message in Our Times Magazine. Yolanda K. McClean vows, “We will keep walking along the long road to Justice. We will not rest, we will not stop, we will not concede until our demands are met.” Happy Labour Day
#BLM #COVID19 #workersrights #socialjustice #LabourDay2020



Webinar: What can Unions do to stop Environmental Racism

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What Can Unions Do to Stop Environmental Racism?

ACW, CBTU, and ACLA are hosting a webinar and inviting union and community activists to take action against environmental racism.

In this moment of tremendous social change unions are asking themselves: how best can we act to stop racism in all its forms and ensure that the transition to a “new normal” does not reproduce the inequities of the old normal.

What are we seeing in this moment?

COVID-19 has exposed the deep economic and environmental inequalities experienced by Racialized and Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Racialized and Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, suffering from higher rates of exposure, transmission, and deaths. This is due, in part, to the environmental conditions that our communities live and work within. Racialized and Indigenous workers on the front lines have faced layoffs, job losses, or been deemed essential but not provided adequate protection.

We continue to witness a rise in anti-asian racism and police brutality which has produced an unprecedented global protest movement led by Black and Indigenous and Racialized communities.

What is Environmental Racism?:

The concept of Environmental Racism has been around for the last 40 years; however, examples of Environmental Racism date back centuries. The term originally coined by Dr. Benjamin Chavez in 1981 referred to weak environmental protections in racialized and indigenous communities. Since the original conception the term has expanded to include “toxins in the workplace, climate migration (climigration), gentrification, and the absence of basic necessities like food and water; all of which unequally impact Indigenous and racialized people.” (

Across the world greenhouse gas emissions have reduced as a result of economic contraction. However, these temporarily lower emissions mask the deep racial inequalities that have been exposed through the pandemic.

Who we are:

Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) seeks to look at how can Canadian work, workers and workplaces can help slow global warming and now works with six countries. This is a 11-year research and action project led by labour unions, the Canadian Labour Congress, labour federations, labour councils, and universities, who have united to work to slow global warming.

ACW recognizes the disproportionate impact of climate change on Racialized and Indigenous communities globally. In this moment of global climate threat and social upheaval ACW will not be silent and calls upon our partner organizations to take action. (

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), has actively given voice to Black workers within the labour movement and community for over 50 years in the United States and 20 years in Canada ( CBTU has launched the “green is Not White” environmental racism project and taken a strong stand in support of the call to defund the police. (

The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) is a grassroots collective of community and labour activists established in 2000 to give voice to pan-Asian trade union and community activists, Asian-Canadian workers, and the Asian-Canadian community at large. (


The BC Insulator Union’s Campaign to Promote Climate Literacy in Construction (Salamander Report)

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The role of the labour movement in contributing to Canada’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use has not been the subject of scholarly attention in much of the climate change literature in recent years. Unions have largely been ignored as the academic literature and popular media have focused on the role of climate scientists, environmental NGOs, governments, industry, and professionals in addressing Canada’s climate challenges. To the extent that union actions have been acknowledged, too often it has been in the context of construction unions supporting further fossil fuel developments or forestry unions clashing with the environmental movement – narratives that fit well with the neoliberal attack on the legitimacy and rights of the labour movement. However, there are good examples of unions exercising significant climate leadership in the industries employing their members. These merit much more attention than they have so far received and point to the potential of the labour movement to exercise leadership on this vital issue.

The focus of this research paper is to document the efforts of a small British Columbia (BC) based union, the BC Insulators, to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in the work performed by its members while attempting to foster climate literacy in the broader construction industry. The union’s campaign has targeted its own members and apprentices, other construction trades, contractors, engineers, architects and industry professionals, developers, environmental NGOs, building owners and various levels of government. It has systematically expanded the focus of its campaign over the past decade, identifying new ways to promote its climate agenda and new target audiences, both in its home province of BC, nationally, and in the US insulation industry. The current paper builds on two previous studies, produced as part of the ‘Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change’ research program funded by the Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada. (Calvert and Tallon 2016; Tallon and Calvert 2017). 

“Download the full report”

Salamander Report

Environmental Racism Workshop in Hamilton

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists partnered with the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion Leadership Program to deliver “Unionism 101: Let’s Talk About Unions” to young civic leaders engaged in social justice activism on campuses and workplaces. The discussion explored the relevance of the the Labour Movement to young workers including the struggle to stop environmental racism.

For more information go to


Le racisme environnemental et les droits de la personne/ Environmental Racism – A Human Rights Perspective


UFCW Human Rights Committee Meeting


Le racisme environnemental et les droits de la personne

Les membres du Comité des droits de la personne du Syndicat des travailleurs et travailleuses unis de l’alimentation et du commerce (TUAC) d’un bout à l’autre du pays se sont réunis pour participer à l’atelier Green is not White Environmental Racism. Les discussions ont été très constructives et ont permis d’entendre des points de vue variés provenant de toutes les régions du pays. Nous avons également eu la chance d’entendre une personne déléguée du Québec, le frère Othman Benlemoudden, représentant syndical, TUAC 501, qui a apporté un point de vue éclairé (et bilingue) à la séance.

L’atelier s’est terminé par une question posée par Emmanuelle Lopez-Bastos, représentant des TUAC pour l’équité et les droits de la personne : « Quelles mesures les membres des TUAC peuvent-ils prendre pour mettre fin au racisme environnemental? » Denise Hampden (CBTU et AFPC) et Christopher Wilson (CBTU et AFPC) ont indiqué, qu’en s’appuyant sur les principes de l’éducation populaire, il fallait créer un espace pour permettre aux membres de s’exprimer sur cette question tout en étant confiants qu’ils et elles ont les connaissances pour y répondre. Comme Paulo Freire et Myles Horton nous l’ont enseigné : « C’est en marchant que nous construisons notre chemin ».

Dans la semaine qui a suivi la présentation de cet atelier, nous avons appris que les documents de l’atelier de deux heures, les notes d’animation et les documents d’appoint sont maintenant disponibles en français grâce à l’excellent travail des traductrices de l’Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada. Vous pourrez trouver cette documentation ici:


Télécharger la présentation en français (PDF) Télécharger les notes d’animation en français (PDF)


Environmental Racism – A Human Rights Perspective

Human Rights Committee members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) came together from across Canada to engage in the Green Is Not White Environmental Racism workshop. Discussions were participatory with varied perspectives offered from regions across the country. We also had the chance to hear from a delegate from Quebec, Brother Othman Benlemoudden, UFCW 501 Union Representative, who brought thoughtful (and bilingual) insight to the session.

The workshop concluded with a question from Emmanuelle Lopez-Bastos, the Equity and Human Rights rep from UFCW. She asked: “What actions can UFCW members take to stop environmental racism?” Building upon the principles of popular education, Denise Hampden (CBTU and PSAC) and Christopher Wilson (CBTU and PSAC) responded: create spaces to ask your members that very question and trust the knowledge will be in the room. As Paulo Freire and Myles Horton teach us: “We Make the Road by Walking”

Within a week of delivering this session we received word that, the materials for the 2 hour workshop, both facilitation notes and handouts are now available in French thanks to the great work of translators at the Public Service Alliance of Canada. They can be found here:


Download the Presentation - French (PDF) Download the Facilitator Notes - French (PDF)




It takes a community to build Racial Justice

How can we stop environmental racism within our workplaces, Unions and communities?

“Many labour educators want to address racism through our work with members”, says Barb Thomas (Co-Author: Education for Changing Unions). But spaces for conversations around racism and white supremacy within the movement are disparate and often face resistance.

In March of 2018 twenty Labour educators from across Unions and community organizations came together in a meeting hosted by United Steelworkers to share their approaches and tools for talking about racism and every-day white supremacy with workers.



The session was so invigorating, another meeting was scheduled, this time in the offices of another union. The group has grown and continues to meet every three months, each time with a different organizing group, and a different aspect of racism to focus on.  At one session, people mapped where, in their organizations, discussions of racism are happening and not happening.

Members of the group are learning from each other, taking courage from initiatives in each other’s organizations, and sharing resources between sessions. This network calls itself Talking with Workers about Everyday White Supremacy. The word “everyday” refers not to the Ku Klux Klan style racism, but the everyday ways that white people benefit from their privilege, how privilege is harmful to people in equity-seeking groups, how racism is used to divide workers and how it is perpetuated.

The objective of this network is to Build a community and a collaborative space for reflection, experimentation and Action.

Building upon this community, Labour educators came together on September 4, 2019 to participate in and reflect upon the Environmental Racism project as part of a larger discussion of decolonizing Turtle Island. Workshops included: The Trouble with Land Acknowledgements, Environmental Racism – Green is Not White, the Game of life on Turtle island (part of unionism on Turtle Island) and an important discussion about what we need to start doing, what we need to keep doing and what we should stop doing to promote decolonization within our social movements.

The meeting was not an end but part of an ongoing process of design, participatory learning and support for more action.

When asked the question: “How do we stop environmental racism?” Sister Thomas replied by quoting Myles Horton and Paulo Freire “We make the road by walking.”


Who is included in a Just Transition?

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Who is included in a Just Transition?
Considering social equity in Canada’s shift to a zero-carbon economy

By Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Zaee Deshpande


This report investigates whether the emerging policy consensus on just transition is consistent with the principles of social justice and equity more broadly. Rather than discuss the necessity of a just transition to a zero-carbon economy in Canada, this report is specifically concerned with the question of whether a just transition, as it is currently being pursued at the policy level, truly achieves justice for all workers by redressing inequities or, at a minimum, by not exacerbating them. In this sense, we expand the scope of the just transition discourse beyond the current mainstream understanding of the term. The report concludes that a truly just transition should address and incorporate social equity from the outset.



This study was co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program (ACW), a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Grant project based at York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies


Download the Full Report (PDF)


United to stop environmental racism


‘In Unity, Strength’ is the foundational belief of the labour movement, but what does unity look like? – Christopher Wilson, CBTU

Over 150 Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) delegates from across Canada and the United States came together to stop environmental racism by participating In the Green Is Not White workshop designed to expose the disproportionate impact of climate change upon racialized and Indigenous communities.

Christopher Wilson’s recent article in Our Times magazine takes the reader inside the room: “ ‘In Unity, Strength’ is the foundational belief of the labour movement, but what does unity look like?” Wilson is 1st Vice-President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Ontario, Canada Chapter; and project lead with the ACW’s (Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change) Environmental Racism Research Project. He is also the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Ontario Region coordinator.


Read the article on


The workshop, delivered at the CBTU Region 1 Conference, opened with a Territorial Acknowledgement that drew linkages to the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples both north and south of the border with a call to action to Trade Unionists to engage in a process of decolonization across Turtle Island.


Read Territory Acknowledgement – Environmental Racism (PDF)


Credit to Denise Hampden, Regional Education Officer Public Service Alliance of Canada



Our Times magazine’s union exchange on “Green is not white”

Green is not white: Environmental Justice for all
by Shanice Regis

The Green is Not White workshop brings cases of environmental racism closer to home by providing local examples and giving participants the tools to identify environmental injustices in their own homes, communities, and workplaces.

The workshop explored the problem of environmental racism, analyzing it within the scope of pressing environmental and climate change issues.

Anishinaabe guest speaker Danielle Boissoneau, of Garden River First Nation, spoke about the resilience of Indigenous peoples in the face of environmental genocide perpetuated by Canadian governments — from the poisoning of their land and water to the forcible removal of Indigenous peoples from their homes. She also discussed her role in helping to organize the Hamilton Harbour Water Walk, which brings awareness to the environmental issues happening in the harbour.




Heating Up, Backing Down: Evaluating recent climate policy progress in Canada

by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
Senior Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)

June 13, 2019


As Canadians from coast to coast to coast grapple with record-breaking wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events, a new report finds that many Canadian governments—at both the federal and provincial level—are moving in the wrong direction on climate policy.

The study, co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program (ACW), assesses the climate policy progress of Canadian governments over the past two years with respect to long-term greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“Overall, Canada’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate are less comprehensive and less ambitious than even two years ago,” says report author and CCPA senior researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. “Many governments have failed to follow through on earlier promises and some have backtracked on climate policies already put in place.”

Among its findings, the report identifies two growing threats to climate policy progress in Canada:

  • A narrow public debate over carbon pricing is eroding political will for a more comprehensive climate policy approach. There are many other policies that are less controversial and can be just as effective at reducing emissions.
  • Canadian governments have been unwilling to introduce supply-side energy policies designed to restrict the production of fossil fuels, even though keeping much of our oil and gas in the ground is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global climate breakdown.

The report concludes that positive progress in provinces like British Columbia and Quebec over the past few years is outweighed by backsliding in other provinces. The new governments in Alberta and Ontario—Canada’s two biggest carbon polluters—have reversed the climate policies of previous governments, which puts Canada’s already-unlikely national targets even further at risk.


Download the Full Report (PDF)

Steelworkers Union Tackles Climate Change in Workshop Guide


Climate Change and Just Transition: What Will Workers Need?

United Steelworkers National Health, Safety Environment and Human Rights Conference 2017


The United Steelworkers Union (USW) in Canada has produced a new workshop guide to educate workers about the impact of climate change on jobs, and to better prepare them to ensure that government policies promoting a just transition are put in place. The workshop and guide were piloted at the United Steelworkers National Health, Safety, Environment and Human Rights Conference that was held in Vancouver in 2017.

The workshop guide leads union members through discussion topics and activities, such as asking participants to answer the question, “What can your workplace do to combat climate change?”

Topics covered include:

  • How Climate Change Connects Us
  • How Climate Change Contributes to the World of Work
    • Employment
    • Forestry
    • Mining
    • Transportation
  • Just Transition
  • What Does a Green Job Mean in Relation to the Environment?
    • Collective Agreements
    • Political Lobbying
    • Green Procurement
    • Training
    • Employment Insurance
  • National Concern for the Economic Growth of Canada


A main focus of the workshop is the need for a just transition to a greener economy.

Workers and trade unions should be concerned with the lack of policies in place protecting the rights of all workers who will be affected because of a direct or indirect loss of their jobs as a result of climate policies. Some sectors of our economy are already or will soon be targeted by these measures. We as workers, employers, and labour unions need a better understanding of the impacts these measures will have on employment, not with a view to blocking them, but to ensure that the most vulnerable will be prepared to face the necessary changes and not pushed even further into exclusion. – Climate Change and Just Transition: What Will Workers Need?


The workshop and guide were produced in partnership with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective,” (ACW) a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Program-funded project, based at York University, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.


Download the Guide (PDF)



UK’s Greener Jobs Alliance Heralds Committee on Climate Change Report

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The UK’s Green Jobs Alliance, a close counterpart of ACW, is extolling the independent Committee on Climate Change’s recent publication, noting, “This [CCC] report will change your life…”

In a statement, the Greener Jobs Alliance said,


The UK must end its contribution to global warming with a new target of net zero emissions by 2050, the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) told the government on 2 May And for the first time ever in an official report, the government is told to deliver a Just Transition for workers and their communities.


The 2050 target date for zero emissions will disappoint many demonstrating across the UK. But the committee’s call for a Just Transition across many sectors of the economy looks very much like a new industrial strategy for a Zero Carbon Britain. It should now reinforce this message by setting up a Just Transition Advisory Group, with union representation from the industrial, energy, public and voluntary sectors.




ACW Mourns Passing of Green Built Environment Expert, Prof. Colin Patrick Gleeson

Prof. Colin Gleeson, University of Westminter (U.K.)


The ACW community is mourning the loss of one of its most important collaborators, Prof. Colin Patrick Gleeson, who passed away March 7 in London, U.K., after a lengthy illness.

Colin Gleeson was a Reader at the University of Westminster’s School of Architecture and the Built Environment, an academic staff member of the ProBE Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment, and a valued member of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Response to Climate Change (ACW): Canada in International Perspective research project, based at York University, where he participated in both the Built Environment and International Policy working groups.


ACW’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé, Professor of Work and Labour Studies, said, “Colin Gleeson has been with us from the beginning: a brilliant researcher, pioneering analyst, gifted writer, and essential to our project. He has been with us from the first days and his work is increasingly used internationally. On another level, Colin is a vivid friend, filled with energy and a hunger to delve deep and deeper on the widest ranging topics. Two images stay with me: I can see Colin standing inside the door of the London Review of Books bookstore after coffee for 5 at a table for 2, talking animatedly with my husband, an architect and an engineer, their backs against the outdoor sunlight, Colin’s hands raised and flailing to make his point. And another time, we are all, the ACW group, at a staid conference on labour process. Colin’s presentation needs a big screen, and there he is, running to leap at the screen to point out the high parts, twirling and returning to the screen from another angle. Vivid, warm, a lifelong friend to his friends… I will miss him.”


Long-time colleague at the University of Westminster, Professor Linda Clarke, added, “I will always picture Colin, rushing into my room, sitting himself down, and enthusiastically explaining a new idea, sharing a discovery or asking for thoughts on something or other, which often involved opening his laptop and going into detail. He loved being involved in the ACW programme. When we went on research trips, including to Denmark, Glasgow, Yorkshire, Devon, Colin would endlessly quiz, question and discuss with whoever we were visiting, always curious, eager to learn, and interested. On our many long journeys together whether to Brussels, Copenhagen or Canada, we had a constant banter going, back and forth, enjoying each other’s company. He was the life and soul of our Research Centre, ProBE (Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment), the expert on low energy construction, stalking up and down waving his arms as he gave a presentation. And in the union, he would be relied on to attend meetings and the first on the picket line, holding a placard high in the air. We are all going to miss him.”


Associate Professor John Calvert, Simon Fraser University, said, “Colin was unique in many ways because he combined his professional training as a building science engineer with a commitment to applying his knowledge in the social sciences and, particularly, the areas of workplace organization and labour relations. He was an incredibly curious person who was always asking questions about how and why we did things the way we did. He was also dedicated to making workplaces more democratic and more responsive to the needs of the people who actually carried out work on the job site. He had a profound commitment to using his skills and knowledge for the benefit of working people, a task which he fulfilled to a remarkable degree, both in his research and in his teaching.”


Dr. Colin Gleeson conducting research for his ACW Green Transitions in the Built Environment project.


Colin Gleeson originally worked in all types of construction ranging from housing to hospitals, offices and factories, which involved an eclectic mix of design, installation, consultancies and academia. He started in academia by teaching a women’s plumbing course and then guest lectured at the Hogeschool in Amsterdam and University College London. He presented his research to the European Commission, the European Social Fund, the European Construction Social Partners, the European Trade Union Institute, the British Council, as well as at low energy and vocational education conferences. Colin Gleeson completed his PhD at the University College London in 2014 and he had a BA in environmental engineering.


The details of Colin Gleeson’s funeral are as follows:

Friday, 5 April 2019, 2:00 PM
West Norwood Cemetery & Crematorium
and afterwards at The Rosendale pub, 65 Rosendale Rd, London SE21 8EZ


Wishes of the family:

Because of Colin’s passion for energy conservation we are asking people not to buy flowers. Instead if you would like to, please send donations to St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, SE26 6DZ. Direct link:


The European Social Fund produced an interview with Colin Gleeson about his work in 2012, which can be viewed at


His work for ACW may be viewed on the website at

Colin’s last two projects, in addition to the ACW work, were:

  • Analysis of data from heat pumps installed via the Renewable Heat Premium Payment Scheme (RHPP) to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) A major contract with research consortium from UCL, BSRIA, SP Technical Sweden for UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), 2014-2017.
  • EU Progress Fund:  European Retrofit Network: The European Retrofit Network provided a methodology for retrofitting social housing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions with an analysis of their VET requirements for an EU-wide retrofitting industry. The Westminster package focused on retrofit interventions to quantify emissions savings for different housing typologies. The research entailed emissions reduction modeling and interviews with stakeholders, including social housing providers, architects, project managers and building contractors.


Just Transition and Beyond Just Transition: Canada in Action

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Roundtable Summary Report
August 27, 2018, Ottawa

Prepared by C.M. Flynn


Just Transition is an elusive concept. First developed by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) at the turn of the 21st century, it has suffered from neglect for much of the last 20 years. Workshops, symposia and half-day conferences proliferated in the EU and other countries, but the meetings have duplicated each other’s work, and to date there had been no common definition or sharing of information about what works and what has not worked in just transition experiences.

With this in mind, and mindful of Canada’s historic leadership, the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change project (ACW) brought together 6 groups active in the field to form an organizing committee. The committee invited the broadest range of Canadian groups involved in Just Transition to a daylong roundtable with three main goals:

1. Share experiences among Canadian groups about the work each is doing to transition to a low carbon economy: what has worked, what has failed, and why?
2. Think forward about how we can broaden Just Transition beyond its current focus.
3. Share next steps that each group will be taking.


Download the Full Report (PDF)


Labour Leader to Urge Students to Combat Climate Change in the Workplace

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Donald Lafleur


He has been an organic farmer, postal worker and union leader, and was named Labour Environmentalist of the Year. Before the Canadian unions became leaders in the struggle to slow climate change, Donald Lafleur, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress, was training unionists about climate bargaining and green plans, and working with postal sorting stations, factories and offices to adapt the way they work in order to slow the climate warming that is threatening life as we know it.

Lafleur’s linking of work with climate change is opening a whole new path of study and research. He will speak to students enrolled in Social Sciences 1510, “The Future of Work,” taught by David Langille on Friday, March 15 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., in Room 102 Accolade East Building, (Price Family Theatre) at the Keele Campus. The lecture is open to the public.




Deep Cleavages Amongst US Labour Unions with Respect to Climate Change, Finds Report


Labour Unions and Green Transitions in the USA: Contestations and Explanations
By Dimitris Stevis, Professor, Colorado State University


From the author:
“In broad terms there are now two camps amongst US labour unions with respect to climate change and renewables (the two not always related). On one side, are those unions that believe that something needs to be done about climate change and that renewables are a good strategy. On the other side are those that are opposed to meaningful climate policy –even as they claim that climate change is a problem.”

This report outlines the deep cleavages with respect to climate policy but also argues that the views of unions are more complex and contradictory than the opposition-support dichotomy. Additionally, it seeks to understand what explains the variability in union responses to climate change and policy. What can account for the contradictions evident amongst and within unions?


Download the Full Report (PDF)


Green Transitions in the Built Environment: Europe


Presentation by Linda Clarke, Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, Colin Gleeson, ProBE (Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment), University of Westminster, at ACW All-Team Meeting’s Researcher Presentations.

November 2018


View the Presentation (PDF)


California Labour Council Supports Green New Deal

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San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Resolution in Support of a Green New Deal with Strong Labor Provisions


The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, ALF-CIO “will advocate for a Green New Deal with strong labor provisions in concert with our environmental and community partners” as a result of the resolution that was adopted on January 23, 2019.

The Labor Network for Sustainability, an ACW partner organisation, is in support of the Green New Deal and is mentioned in the resolution as having “passed resolutions and/or supported bold policies to address the climate crisis and other pressing environmental issues” along with other labour organisations.

The adopted resolution includes support and advocacy for stronger labour provisions. These labour provisions include a Green New Deal that:

  • “…includes a fair and equitable Just Transition for workers impacted by a transitioning economy including a fund to provide severance packages, lifetime income, free education and family healthcare;”
  • “…expands collective bargaining and ensures the creation of union jobs through card check neutrality agreements, prevailing wages, project labor agreements, enacting the provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act and requiring direct partnerships with joint labor-management apprenticeship programs;”
  • “…[prioritizes] projects, union career opportunities and investments in working-class, low-income and communities of color historically and disproportionality impacted by pollution, high unemployment, poverty and environmental injustice;”
  • “…includes Buy America provisions.”

The resolution reinforces that the labour movement needs to be involved in climate action to ensure the protection of workers: “…if climate action is to address inequality, the labor movement must be at the center of shaping climate policies to include just transition for workers, expand collective bargaining rights and create green union careers, particularly in disadvantaged communities.”


Download the Resolution (PDF)


Environmental Racism: Shannon Holness Speaking Out Against Forced Family Relocations in Jane-Finch


Gentification is Environmental Racism
In recognition of #MLK day, CBTU is launching the 7th video in our video series on Environmental Racism with a profile of Shannon Holness speaking out against forced family relocations in Jane-Finch along with her work with the Toronto Community Benefits Network


Coalition of Black Trade Unionists: “Gentrification is Environmental Racism” from Potential Films on Vimeo.


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EU’s Green Building Strategy has Major Implications for Construction Workers, Report Finds


Green Transitions in the Built Environment: Europe
The role of trade unions in the transition to low carbon construction: examples from Denmark, Germany, Italy and UK/Scotland

By Linda Clarke, Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, Colin Gleeson, Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), University of Westminster, UK

Despite the variation in actual progress and the divergent approaches of Member States, the EU’s green transition strategy for the built environment is in the process of implementation and has major implications for the sector and for construction workers. This transition to green construction in the EU is a long and challenging process and, as shown in this report, varies between countries, driven by strategies formulated, interpreted and implemented in very different ways.

This report presents findings from an investigation into the role of trade unions in the transition to low energy construction (LEC) in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Scotland/UK. The study addresses the aims of the Built Environment Working Group, leading the construction strand of the ACW research programme. The key objective is to research the role of workers in the transition to low carbon construction by identifying and examining trade union involvement, whether this takes the form of policies, proposals or practical action. This report concerns the European part of the investigation.


Download the Full Report (PDF)


Unions Make City Building (Glasgow) a Model of Sustainable Construction and Employment


City Building (Glasgow): an inspirational model of low energy social housing and public building production

By Linda Clarke and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), University of Westminster, UK


City Building is a not-for profit building organization with an in-house training centre, a large apprenticeship scheme, and a highly unionized, directly employed workforce.

In the last ten years, City Building has developed as a successful social enterprise with sustainable and high standard employment and construction practices. As well as continuing to be responsible for maintaining all Glasgow City Council’s building stock and for managing its new construction projects, it competes for work in the open market, developing expertise in low-energy construction and building on its history of social housing production.

What sets City Building apart from any other construction company are the strong social ethos and good employment practices that guide its ‘business model’. Another unique feature is the involvement of the trade unions that played, historically, a significant role in shaping the ethos that underpins City Building’s operations. The Joint Trade Union Council includes representatives from each trade union and is actively engaged with the management of City Building at the highest level, in what is described as ‘a great relationship’.


Download the Full Report (PDF)


ILO Briefing Highlights Work of ACW and Union Partnerships for COP24

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Just Transition Towards Environmentally Sustainable Economies and Societies for All

by Béla Galgóczi

October 2018


ILO ACTRAV Policy Brief
International Labour Organization
Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV)


European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) Senior Researcher Béla Galgóczi, who is also a Co-Investigator with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) research project, has prepared a new policy brief for the International Labour Organization (ILO) which addresses the main challenges affecting how just transition can work in practice and what trade unions and workers’ organizations can do.

The briefing paper highlights the work of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) research project, noting that the project “provides a vast platform for trade unions in sharing good practices” through its Green Collective Agreements data base, which contains 196 collective agreements with green clauses.

From the author:

The intensity of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, both compared to past achievements and current pledges, must be stepped up, with consequently harsher social and employment impacts than those experienced so far. This will lead to major changes, adjustments, costs and opportunities and will considerably affect jobs, livelihoods, working conditions, skills and job prospects. Just transition will be critical in managing this process and the labour movement needs to be at the forefront to make green transition a success.

This policy brief will address the main challenges in fulfilling these goals, how just transition can work in practice and what trade unions and workers’ organizations can do. In doing so, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all (ILO 2015) provide the basic framework with a view to implementing the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

A number of brief case studies – each corresponding to a specific challenge – will illustrate concrete examples that could help to formulate trade union strategies. Both positive and negative experiences are taken into account, followed by recommendations.


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“Climate Stability and Worker Stability: Are they Compatible?” Asks New Report

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Climate stability, worker stability: Are they compatible?
by Dr. Louise Comeau, Research Associate, University of New Brunswick and Devin Luke, University of New Brunswick
December 3, 2018

It appears we face a low-carbon transition dilemma. On the one hand, climate change solutions, like greenhouse gas regulation and carbon pricing, raise concerns about potential job displacement for workers in traditional energy sectors like oil and gas production and fossil-fuel generated electricity. Hence the calls for just transition. Our research, however, suggests that this blame may be at least partially misplaced. Energy workforce changes are currently affected by broader societal changes relating to fuel-cost differentials (i.e., natural gas cheaper than coal), automation, and the societal transition to non-unionized, unstable and lower-paying work. Greenhouse gas regulations and carbon pricing are certainly not the only driver of workforce change, and likely not, at least currently, not the primary driver.

Should proponents of renewable energy, energy efficiency and the low-carbon transition address these broader societal trends? If so, how? Is the solution to focus on collective responses such as energy cooperatives, public sector ownership of renewable energy supply, utility-scale and managed energy efficiency programs, rather than market-based, privatized solutions? These questions are worth answering. Our goal with this study was to better understand the training needs associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency job projections. There appears, however, to be a greater need to better integrate climate change and low-carbon economy discussions into a broader discourse on the nature of work.


Download the Full Report (PDF)


Book Launch: The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied

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Friday, November 9th 2018,
5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.
Refreshments and no-host bar

The Garage, Centre for Social Innovation – CSI Annex
720 Bathurst St. | Map
Toronto, ON M5S 2R4
Bathurst TTC Station



“The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied” with author Bruce Campbell

“Much more than a research report, the book is a dramatic read, with no letup in the action from start to finish.” – Harry Gow, President Emeritus of Transport Action Canada and Chair of the Board of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre

The July 6, 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster is a tragedy unparalleled in Canadian history. It resulted in major loss of life, massive environmental destruction and the evisceration of a small Quebec town. Blame landed squarely on the shoulders of three front-line employees of the Montreal, Maine, and Atlantic Railway Company. But a jury acquitted them.

Lac-Mégantic is the story of a rail industry writing its own rules, a booming US oil industry based on fracking, fighting any obstacles to selling their dangerous product, and a rogue US railway operator cutting corners to make his fortune. At another level the story is about a federal government blinded by its own free market ideology, fixated on making Canada an energy superpower, and compliant bureaucrats failing to protect the public interest.

At the heart of it all is a small, tight-knit community torn apart and struggling to recover. There is unimaginable loss, broken lives and families, and individual and collective trauma. But there is also healing, solidarity, commemoration, remembrance, and the determination to rebuild and transcend.

This book uncovers the truth about Lac-Mégantic. It includes first person interviews with many of the key players, analysis of the corporate executives and the companies involved, an examination of the complex world of transport safety regulation in Canada, and an account of the trials of the three accused.


BRUCE CAMPBELL is a former Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, one of Canada’s leading independent think tanks. For his work on Lac-Mégantic, Bruce was awarded a Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship and spent 2016 as a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. Bruce is currently Adjunct Professor, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies, and co-investigator with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research project, based at York University. He lives in Ottawa.


Carla Lipsig-Mummé Named 2018 Winner of SSHRC Impact Partnership Award

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The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) announced today that Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé is the winner of the 2018 Impact Partnership Award for her pioneering work in the area of labour, workplaces and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Carla Lipsig-Mummé is a Professor of Work and Labour Studies at York University, and the Principal Investigator of the seven-year SSHRC grant titled “Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective.”

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General, will present Professor Lipsig-Mummé and recipients of the 2018 SSHRC Impact Awards with their prizes at a ceremony at Rideau Hall this evening. The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, minister of Science and Sport, will join the Governor General for the event.

Professor Lipsig-Mummé said, “The SSHRC Impact Award that I’ve won today encapsulates the ways in which SSHRC opens doors for research and makes it possible for young researchers to broaden and deepen their work and their goals. This way of working—use the unsolved questions arising in a finishing project to define and shape the next project—was made possible by SSHRC and has shaped my work through my long career.”

In a statement, Ted Hewitt, President of SSHRC, said, “The five Impact Award recipients are innovators who have demonstrated a strong commitment to making their research known and accessible by embracing multisector, multidisciplinary, and multi-institutional collaboration. Their work contributes to making Canada a leader in social sciences and humanities research and research training.”

Professor Lipsig-Mummé is an expert in work and labour studies and leads the Work and Climate Change (WCC) international, community-university network partnership, which has grown from five partners and eight researchers to 52 partners over the past two decades. The WCC addresses the intersection of climate change and the working world. The WCC plans on promoting “just transition,” a term that refers to the global goal of balancing the transition to low-carbon economies while protecting and bettering jobs and work for all workers, as well as providing for those workers who lose their jobs in the process.

See also:


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Environmental Racism-ACW Workshop Companion Guide and Facilitator’s Notes

Environmental Racism & Work in a Warming World:
Workshop Companion Guide and Facilitator’s Notes

Green is not White
Art by Favianna Rodriguez

Research Partnership: ACW & CBTU

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) was invited to become a partner organization with Adapting Canadian and Workplaces (ACW) given the organizations unique mandate to provide a voice for workers of African-descent along with CBTU’s engagement within the environmental justice movement. The research uses an approach (participatory action research) to research in communities that emphasizes participation and action. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection.

The workshop was based on this research partnership.


As the pressure of global warming upends jobs, education, health and our communities, the impact of environmental racism exposes the destructive suppression of Racialized and Indigenous dreams and aspirations for economy equality. At the same time, Climate Change can serve as a social catalyst through the creation of new economic opportunities for Canada’s Racialized and Indigenous communities but if we are not active the transition to a green economy will not be just and we will again be on the margins.

The workshop explores the following research framework themes:

1. The impact of environmental racism exposes the destructive suppression of Racialized and Indigenous dreams and aspirations for economy equality.
2. At the same time, Climate Change can serve as a social catalyst through the creation of new economic opportunities for Canada’s Racialized and Indigenous communities. It presents us with an opportunity to change.
3. If Canada’s Racialized and Indigenous communities are not engaged in the struggle, the transition to a green economy will not be just. There can be no change without a struggle.

This workshop companion guide:

• Contains all participant materials
• Provides information about workshop origins and research framework
• Provides more in-depth information and resources of issues and concepts addressed in the workshop
• Lists relevant research
• Lists community, environmental, and labour organizations
• Lists ways for participants to take action


Download Companion Guide (PDF)


Environmental Racism and Work in a Warming World Workshop

By The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists & Adapting Canadian Work & Workplaces


Download Facilitator's Notes (PDF)


Workshop asks “What kind of Green and Just Transition?”




DATE: Thursday 12 July 2018, 12 noon-18.00pm

VENUE: Room CG28, University of Westminster Marylebone Campus, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS (opposite Madame Tussaud and diagonal from Baker Street tube station)

There is much discussion as well as divergent approaches to the question of a just transition to a low carbon economy, revolving around what is achievable by the market or by ecological modernisation and whether instead a much more radical transformation is necessary. This workshop addresses this debate and is concerned in particular with the active role of workers and the trade unions in this transition, including examples from the built environment of successful intervention.

Many researchers who are part of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) research project will be participating in the workshop.

Speakers include:

  • Dr Peter Bonfield (tbc), Vice-Chancellor University of Westminster
  • Linda Clarke, ProBE/University of Westminster, ACW Associate Director
  • Béla Galgóczi, European Trade Union Institute, ACW Co-Investigator
  • Colin Gleeson, ProBE/University of Westminster, ACW Co-Investigator
  • Professor Malcolm Kirkup (tbc), Dean, Westminster Business School
  • Mercedes Landolfi (Fillea CGIL, Italy)
  • Carla Lipsig-Mummé, York University, ACW Principal Investigator
  • Sam Mason, Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union
  • Philip Pearson (GJA)
  • Vivian Price (US)
  • Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, ProBE/University of Westminster
  • Lisa Schulte, Middlesex University
  • Dimitris Stevis, Colorado State University, ACW Co-Investigator
  • Fred Steward, University of Westminster, ACW Co-Investigator

and others.

A complete agenda, speakers, and biographies are available here.

To reserve a place and for further information, contact, Melahat Sahin-Dikmen at or Linda Clarke at

ILO Draws on ACW Research to Promote Worker Engagement in Addressing Climate Change

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International Labour Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Report 2018 draws on York Partnership Programme ACW to promote worker engagement in addressing climate change


World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with jobs
World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with jobs

In its flagship report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs, released in Geneva this month, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) says that action to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will result in sufficient job creation to more than offset job losses of 6 million elsewhere. In fact, twenty-four million new jobs will be created globally by 2030 if the right policies to promote a greener economy are put in place.

The ILO’s report devotes a key section to the importance of workers organizations, such as unions, in reducing the harmful impact of climate change, stating that “… the participation of workers’ and employers’ organizations must be integrated in mitigation and adaptation policies.”

The UN agency notes that environmental clauses negotiated into collective agreements can have a positive impact, and draws upon data contained in the unique Green Collective Agreements Database compiled by York University’s Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) research project.

“Through collective agreements, employers and trade unions have worked together to identify areas, including GHG emissions, where a reduction in environmental impact could be achieved without losses in jobs, pay and working conditions,” it states. The ILO report includes a detailed table of 19 green clauses from collective agreements, grouped into five categories including green procurement, green travel, cutting waste and saving resources, the right to refuse work, and whistle-blower protection.

“I am delighted that our research on worker agency in reducing climate change is being taken up by such a prestigious and influential body as the United Nations International Labour Organization,” said Principal Investigator Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé of York University’s Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

York University’s ACW research project is winning increased recognition by international and Canadian institutions. The ILO report is the second time a UN agency has used research produced by the ACW, following the citation of ACW’s work by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) secretariat in 2016.

As well, Dr. Lipsig-Mummé was named finalist for prestigious Impact Award by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2017, and she was the 2018 winner of the Sefton-Williams Award for Contributions to Labour Relations by the University of Toronto’s Woodsworth College and the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources.

The only tripartite U.N. agency, since 1919 the International Labour Organization (ILO) brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) research project is a SSHRC-funded partnership grant which brings together 56 individual researchers and 25 partner organizations from seven countries, and is based at York University.

World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs, published by the ILO, is available from the ILO website at:–en/index.htm


Download the full report (PDF)


Our Times Cover Story: A Green Economy for All

The cover story of latest issue of Our Times, Canada’s independent labour magazine, features the Environmental Racism project of Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW). Journalist Hanseena Manek takes us inside the workings of this exciting initiative which is a partnership between ACW and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Photos for the article were provided by Rose Ha of Photography for Social Good.

“We want to ensure that the new green economy is inclusive of racialized people,” says Christopher Wilson, a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), and Ontario regional coordinator for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). “Climate change is at the forefront of a number of policy discussions, and we want to be part of that process. If we’re not, the transition to a new green economy is not going to be just, and we’re going be left on the margins.”

Wilson, along with PSAC Ontario union negotiator Jawara Gairey, is leading a ground-breaking research project called Environmental Racism: The Impact of Climate Change on Racialized Canadian Communities: An Environmental Justice Perspective. The initiative was launched in 2017 by York University’s ACW project, in collaboration with CBTU. Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) itself grew out of the university’s Work in a Warming World research program, founded and headed by professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé.