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.




Fate of 3,500 coal-power workers, and more, at stake with new ‘just transition’ task force

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The task force will lay out a path to help Canada transition to the new, job-rich low carbon economy.


It has been a long time coming. The Trudeau government is poised to launch Canada’s first federal task force on a “just transition” for workers affected by policies intended to mitigate climate change. In this case, it’s the government’s plan to virtually eliminate traditional coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, which may put up to 3,500 coal miners and power workers out of work in several provinces.

The task force announcement comes more than a year after the government declared its intention to phase out coal in November 2016. Since then, coal-dependent communities have been left wondering if they had been forgotten by the federal government, and labour leaders have been calling for action by Ottawa.

Establishing the Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities is more than good policy— it’s good politics.

Policy-wise, the terms of reference released by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on Feb. 16 task the nine-member panel and two cochairs with providing knowledge, options, and recommendations to the minister on implementing a just transition for workers and communities directly affected by the accelerated phase-out of coalfired electricity in Canada. The federal budget included $35-million to support those efforts.

Politically, by acknowledging and acting on the need for a just transition for coal miners and power workers, the government is helping to ensure that it continues to generate the social licence required to combat climate change, and to move the country down the challenging path to a low-carbon economy.

Public opinion currently supports climate change-fighting efforts, but if working people are left with greater economic insecurity than before, a backlash could be generated—the same kind of backlash that generated millions of votes south of the border for Donald Trump and his anti-Paris Agreement stance. Nobody wants that.

In affirming this proactive approach, Ms. McKenna acknowledged in a statement that: “We know the environment and the economy go hand in hand, so we’re committed to making that transition a fair one for coal workers and communities.”

Members of the panel will have diverse backgrounds, including workforce development and sustainable development experts, a past executive from a major electricity company or utility, and a municipal representative appointed in consultation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The five remaining members will be drawn from labour, including the Canadian Labour Congress, a provincial federation of labour, and three from unions representing affected workers.

It makes sense that there be strong representation from labour.

Unions support the kind of action that links reducing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, with the growth of jobs that “green” work itself. Active workplace environment committees promote and practise conservation. Unions provide green education programs for their members, and have been on the front lines with allies in the environmental movement demanding positive change. Recently, Canadian and European Union unions have begun exchanging “climate bargaining” clauses when negotiating with employers.

Unions have also been working closely with Canada’s universities to research the best approaches to climate action in the workplace. The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) project based at York University brings together 56 individual researchers and 25 partner organizations and unions in seven countries, and its ground-breaking research on the idea of “just transition” has been recognized by the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The world of work is both a major cause of climate change and a potentially powerful actor in slowing global warming. Unions and professional associations are very well placed for adapting work itself in order to mitigate greenhouse gas production.

Despite generating only 11 per cent of Canada’s electricity supply, coal-fired electricity is responsible for 72 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, which is Canada’s third highest greenhouse gas-creating sector after oil and gas, and transportation.

This makes ending coal a good place to start. Achieving a just transition to a low-carbon economy on that scale calls for strategic creativity in repurposing coal communities so that new enterprises are enticed to set up shop in a former coal region, creating a need for new and retrained expertise.

Federal and provincial governments will need to contribute to every phase of these green transitions. It will take some years, but there are already models in Australia, Germany, and elsewhere, for transitioning not only fossilfuel workers but also formerly fossil-fuel communities.

That’s why this important first step will teach us a lot about how we can help workers and communities join the emerging renewable energy boon. The task force will hear from stakeholders from local communities, labour, industry, clean tech, finance, academics, and non-governmental organizations, and will make site visits to a representative number of facilities and communities that will be affected by the coal phase-out.

When the task force makes its recommendation in the fall, let’s be ready to ensure that there is the political support to turn these ideas into action.

Carla Lipsig-Mummé is a professor of work and labour studies at York University, and winner of the 2018 Sefton-Williams Award for Contributions to Labour Relations.
The Hill Times


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Environmental Racism: Adding African Canadians’ Voices to the Climate Change Debate

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By Mark Brown

A ground-breaking undertaking between The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Canadian Chapter (CBTU) and an organization known as Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) threatens to blow a hole through the climate change debate that rivals the current hole in the ozone layer.

With the inception of a ground breaking research initiative called “The Impact of Climate Change on Racialized Canadian Communities: An Environmental Justice Perspective” the two organizations have lunched a research initiative on Environmental Racism. The goal of the research project is to assess the effect of climate change on racialized communities within Canada. The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) is a partnership grant of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Photo of Carla Lipsig Mumme
Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé
Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW)

Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé is the Principal Researcher for Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW). When asked how did the CBTU/ACW partnership came about Dr. Mummé stated that the ACW is a 7-year grant funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). With 47 individual researchers and 24 partner organizations the ACW spans 4 countries. Included among the list of organizations were York University, (Lead Organization), the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Ontario Federation of Labour and more. Dr. Mummé went on to say that “CBTU was invited to become a partner organization given the organizations unique mandate to provide a voice for workers of African-descent along with CBTU’s engagement within the environmental justice movement.”

Dr. Mummé was then asked what the ACW expects to achieve by this project? “Climate literacy for every stage and age in the Canadian workforce,” she stated. “Community involvement and mobilization in the struggle to slow climate change; making resources and curriculum available for green training and education by unions for labour environmentalists and students; Youth—young workers and young students—taking leadership to reduce greenhouse gases in their schools and their workplaces; a larger role for young people who are passionate about the environment, in shaping union renewal. Linking greening work and youth union activism in union renewal. ACW hopes that Black Trade Unionists, and other racialized communities’ engagement in the fight to slow global warming will point the way to new pathways to green jobs. CBTU is very well placed to recognize pathways to new green jobs that are developing from responding to the threat of climate change, and to take steps so that this and the next generations of Black Trade Unionists are leaders in the shift to a green world of work. CBTU is very well placed to be a model for other communities as well.”

Photo of Chris Wilson
Chris Wilson, 1st Vice President and International Board Member of CBTU Canada

Chris Wilson is the Project Lead, 1st Vice President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Canada and an International Board Member. When asked why African-Canadian workers should be concerned about climate change? He responded by stating that, “The destructiveness and speed of climate change is a call to action. This project is designed to explore the impact of climate change upon racialized communities within Canada.”

Wilson went on to say that, “A significant amount of research has gone into exploring the impact of Climate change upon indigenous peoples with the Idle No More movement. This project intends to bring this vision of community mobilization around climate change to other racialized communities by drawing Black Trade Unionists and other racialized communities into the fight to slow climate change while linking this fight with the development of pathways to good green jobs for the aforementioned communities.”

Wilson further stated that, “The debate over climate change is already here and the consequences are real; CBTU and ACW want to ensure that the voices of Black Trade Unionists are included in this debate to ensure that as our economy evolves and adapts to climate change and the voices of racialized workers are heard.”

According to the ACW’s website the research project is expected to encompass multiple stages with a focus upon research and mobilization.

The first stage is described as a participatory research model which evolves the use of social media to engage anti-racist activists in the process of collecting written materials that have been composed about environmental racism.

The second stage of the project is comprised of a workshop/focus-group of Black Trade Unionists. The purpose of this stage is to accumulate research data on the participants’ experience surrounding climate change and environmental racism.

The third stage is expected to provide a workshop/community forum for community engagement. The themes of the workshops include:

  • What is to be understood by the words “environmental racism?”
  • How it is affecting communities and their environment?
  • Exploring case studies in Canada.
  • The present and future role of racialized communities in the “Green Economy” and Developing an Environmental Racism Charter

The fourth and final stage of the project will be a joint report and video. Both the video and report are expected to be housed on the ACW and CBTU Canada websites.

Whether one believes in the existence of climate change or believes that climate change is fiction what is evident is that the debate on climate change has been ongoing for some time. What is also apparent is that if the African Canadian voicesof this generation continue to be omitted from the debate the African Canadians faces of the next generation risk being omitted from the solution.

Picture of Mark Brown


Mark Brown is the Chair of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council’s Equity Committee, an Executive Board Member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist (CBTU), An Executive Board Member of the Labour Education Center and a member of the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Contact him on Facebook and Twitter @MarkAAABrown

ACW leads conference stream on climate change and labour


4-6 April 2017, Sheffield, UK

At the 35th International Labour Process Conference, held in Sheffield, UK, ACW ran a special stream titled “A Volatile Political Economy: Work, Climate Change and Labour: Labour Process Perspectives”. This was for the second year running, last year’s theme at the ILPC conference in Berlin being Labour, Work and Climate Change: a labour process perspective. The stream this year was led by Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé of York University, Toronto, Canada and Professor Linda Clarke of the University of Westminster, UK, together with Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress and Dr. Elaine Bernard, Director of Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School, US.

The stream addressed the problematic issue that, though work, worksites and production supply chains are major polluters, the new retreat into defensive nationalism adds to the difficulties of combatting at an international level the global danger we confront. It is vital to re-connect work and political economy, so that the transition to a low carbon economy becomes an international driver for transforming the labour process to the benefit of workers. Bringing workers and unions and work itself ‘in’ to the struggle to slow global warming entails rethinking the labour process through a green lens, and adapting key steps in the chain of production to mitigate greenhouse gases. It entails reconsidering the legal, political and economic contexts that hinder or facilitate workplace low-carbon adaptation, bringing labour and environment law together, criticising work design and current business models for their carbon excesses, and rediscovering the influential roles that workers, their unions and professional associations can play in adapting and improving the labour process. And, finally, it means understanding the ways in which political economies and responses to climate change affect not only the labour process, but union goals, alliances, modes of action, organisation of young workers, political strength and strategic creativity.

Within this framework, papers were presented in four separate sessions over two days by ACW researchers, academics from universities in the UK and further afield, and those from trade union organisations.

The contributions within each themed session included:

Just Transition
• Slow Greening: Climate Literacy and the Labour Movement: Carla Lipsig-Mummé, York University, Canada
• Just Transition in a Neoliberal Context: the contradictions of labour-market policy in post-petro-state Canada: Donald Lafleur and Chris Roberts, Canadian Labour Congress
• Contesting Just Transition: a sufficient challenge to capitalist labour processes? (Ewan Kerr, University of Glasgow)

Energy Provision
• Romance or Chimaera? Industry Policy and Job Quality in European Offshore Wind Turbine Manufacturing: Lisa Shulte, Middlesex University, UK
• Decarbonising the Electricity Grid: the implications for organised labour: Colin Patrick Gleeson, University of Westminster, UK

VET for low energy construction
• Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: evaluating one union’s efforts to overcome barriers to low carbon construction: John Calvert, Simon Fraser University, Canada
• The Role of Labour and VET in meeting Low Energy Construction Targets, Linda Clarke and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, University of Westminster

Green Employment
• More and Better Jobs in a Low Carbon Future: provocations and possibilities: Steven Shelley, University of Hertfordshire, UK
• Gamification as Employment Strategy for Greening the Labour Process: Dean Stroud and Claire Evans, Cardiff University, UK
• The Role of Trade Unions in the Transformation towards a Low Carbon Economy: Bela Galgoczi, European Trade Union Institute, Belgium

Lively discussions followed the presentations, highlighting the significance of agency and vision in influencing the nature of the response to climate change and the critical necessity of bringing a labour perspective to bear on green transition approaches and policies by government and non-government organisations and agencies. Presentations were also informative about regional green transition initiatives involving trade unions, with discussions focusing particularly on British Columbia, Canada, the Ruhr region in Germany and Yorkshire and Humberside in the UK. Insights into the practical implementation, consequences and implications of green transitions were given in discussions about work and employment conditions in wind turbine manufacturing, training and skill needs in construction, and energy efficiency regulations in energy-intensive industries.

On the third day, the stream concluded with a panel discussion on ‘Green labour in dark times’, facilitated by responses to an imaginary scenario from 2035, when two major forces co-exist, digitalisation and climate change: can they combine or are they on a collision course? With examples of green transition initiatives from across a number of countries and regions, the possibility and need to allow for different green transitions pathways also came to the fore in the final debate. Above all, the fundamental role trade unions play in representing the interests of labour in what is a hugely complex, uneven and long transition to a green economy was reinforced.

It is intended that some of the contributions given at Sheffield and at last year’s Berlin conference will, together with contributions from ACW and other international researchers be included in two books and a special journal.

Linda Clarke, Carla Lipsig-Mummé and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen
June 2017

ACW Members Discuss Alberta Wildfire, Approve New Research Projects at Steering Committee Meeting

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The tragedy of Fort McMurray and the devastation caused by the wildfire was top-of-mind when members of the Steering Committee of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond the Climate Change (ACW) project gathered at York University on May 28.

Members shared concern about the impact on the community, and sought ways that the project’s research might contribute to the rebuilding effort, especially ways that would support climate change mitigation and adaptation using low-carbon construction methods.

“Our research on the need for low-carbon buildings and well-trained construction workers could be essential to policy makers who are seeking way to rebuild Fort McMurray, while also advancing employment opportunities for displaced Albertans,” said Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé, Principal Investigator of the ACW project.

In addition to discussing the Alberta tragedy and receiving a briefing from Canadian Labour Congress Executive Vice-President Donald Lafleur, Steering Committee members received briefings about the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC) 2016 that took place in April where many members presented their research.

As well, members learned about the new ACW-W3 book to be published by Marjorie G. Cohen on climate, gender, policy and work in rich countries in paperback as well as hardcover, and considered new opportunities for collaboration between the ACW project and other organizations.

Several exciting events are being planned as well, including public panels in Ottawa and Toronto following the U.S. election in the Fall of 2016, and a major public event in Vancouver linking ACW’s work with the Green Jobs BC conference.

Steering Committee members also funded five new research projects that will be conducted in Canada, the U.K., the U.S., and the E.U by participating researchers and partner institutions. In addition, members endorsed the establishment of a network of Graduate Research Fellows of the ACW project.

Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Program–funded project, based at York University.