UE and Unifor call for urgent action for workers and the planet

April 22, 2020

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Together with our Canadian ally Unifor, UE has issued the following statement calling for urgent action for workers and the planet.

As working people and representatives of trade unions, we join environmental activists in marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with alarm and concern for the future of our planet. The time to fight for immediate and bold climate action is now, but the needed economic transition will not take place without strong guarantees for worker rights and good jobs for all.

This year, we mark this date with solemn considerations for how humanity will also overcome a new threat, the COVID-19 virus. As an economic shutdown amid the pandemic has slashed greenhouse gas emissions around the world, workers have experienced massive job losses. This is not how we wanted to address our current climate crisis, but it may be that we can learn lessons from this healthcare crisis that can inform our path forward. What is certain is that the global reach of this pandemic underlines the absolute necessity of international solidarity and cooperation to solve problems in the era of globalization.

We acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and the warnings of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We understand that if we, as a society, do not find ways to meet and exceed UN global targets, global temperatures will be permanently altered, which will render many places on Earth uninhabitable.

Without a doubt, this will affect the lives of working people across the globe. While the wealthy can find their ways out of health, economic and environmental duress, we know that corporations will protect their profit margins, not  the lives and well-being of working class, migrant and indigenous communities across North America and all over the world.

Our unions will continue to support actions that address climate change, worker rights and the interrelated issues of runaway corporate power, deteriorating health and safety on the job, environmental racism, forced migration, the targeting of immigrants and the destruction and impoverishment of working class communities.

We do this to lift up solutions, like the Green New Deal, which facilitate a rapid transition from a carbon-based economy through public investments in guaranteeing all workers jobs with good pay and benefits and full union rights in new green industries. We demand the rebuilding of our communities, through the development of vital and sustainable sectors such as manufacturing, transit, construction of affordable housing and through public investment in other carbon neutral work, such as adding more teachers to our public schools, more healthcare providers to our hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, and more early childhood educators to provide child care services. We demand that workers’ pensions, retirement and social security systems be fully funded so that workers in carbon-intensive industries can retire with dignity when their work is phased out. To ensure that all jobs in our new economy provide dignity for all workers, we demand comprehensive medical, pharmaceutical, mental health, and dental care for all.

We believe that workers and future workers - the youth striking to call attention to our climate emergency- are essential to defining the next steps of our society’s history, and we take the opportunity on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, to commit to building a sustainable, equitable and fair future for all.

Jerry Dias, Unifor National President
Lana Payne, Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer
Renaud Gagné, Unifor Québec Director
Carl Rosen, UE General President
Andrew Dinkelaker, UE General Secretary-Treasurer
Gene Elk, UE Director of Organization

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