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.”


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 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.