Global labour unions and just transition to a green economy
Questions of justice in the transition to a green economy have been raised by various social forces. Very few proposals, however, have been as focused and developed as the “just transition” strategy proposed by global labour unions. Yet, labour unions are remarkably absent from discussions of the transition towards a green economy. This is surprising as labour unions are arguably the largest organizations in the world fighting for basic rights and more just social relations. This paper tries to advance the potential contribution of labour unions in this arena by asking: what is the full scope of “just transition” today and how have labour unions developed and refined it over the years to render the move towards a green economy both environmentally and socially sustainable? The concept of just transition is hotly debated within labour unions and has different interpretations, and hence different strategies. The last section assesses these interpretations by means of a normative framework, which seeks to fuse political economy and political ecology. Empirically, we add to the growing literature on labour environmentalism, as well as transitions more generally. Analytically, our goal is to place the various approaches to a “just transition” within a heuristic framework of environmental justice that is explicit about power relations when demanding justice, two themes central to this special issue.
KeywordsLabour unions Labour environmentalism Environmental justice Global environmental politics
American Federation of Labor—Congress of Industrial Organizations
Canadian Labour Congress
Conference of the Parties
Commission on Sustainable Development (United Nations)
Energy and Chemical Workers Union (Canada)
European Trade Union Confederation
Global Union Federation
International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (now part of IndustriALL)
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
International Labour Organization
International Metalworkers’s Federation (now part of IndustriALL)
International Transport Workers’ Federation
International Trade Union Confederation
Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers’ Union (USA)
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (USA)
Trade Union Congress (UK)
Trade Union Advisory Committee of the OECD
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
United Steelworkers (USA)
- Albo, G. (2009). The crisis of neoliberalism and the impasse of the union movement. Development Dialogue, 51, 119–131.Google Scholar
- Bachrach, P., & Botwinick, A. (1992). Power and empowerment: A radical theory of participatory democracy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
- Bennett, D. (2007). Labour and the environment at the Canadian Labour Congress: The story of convergence. Just Labour: A Canadian Journal of Work and Society, 10, 1–7.Google Scholar
- Bernstein, S. (2001). The compromise of liberal environmentalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Bookchin, M. (2007). Social ecology and communalism. In E. Eiglad (Ed.), Social ecology and communalism. Oakland: AK Press.Google Scholar
- Burrows, M. (2001). Just transition. Alternatives Journal, 27(1), 29–32.Google Scholar
- Callicott, J. B. (2004 ). Environmental ethics: I. Overview. In S. G. Post (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 3rd edition (pp.757–769), vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference.Google Scholar
- Canadian Labour Congress (2000). Just transition for workers during environmental change. http://www.canadianlabour.ca/news-room/publications/just-transition-workers-during-environmental-change. Accessed 20 May 2010.
- Castree, N., Coe, N., Ward, K., & Samers, M. (2004). Spaces of work: Global capitalism and geographies of labour. London; Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
- Cosatu (2011). COSATU policy framework on climate change. http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=5679. Accessed 9 March 2013.
- Coutrot, T., & Gadrey, J. (2012). ‘Green growth’ is called into question. ETUI Policy Brief, 3, 1–6.Google Scholar
- Dreiling, M. (1998). From margin to center: Environmental justice and social unionism as sites of intermovement solidarity. Race, Gender & Class, 6(1), 51–69.Google Scholar
- Ehresman, T., & Okereke, C. (2015). Environmental justice and conceptions of the green economy. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. doi:10.1007/s10784-014-9265-2.
- Ehresman, T., & Stevis, D. (2011). International environmental justice. In G. Kütting (Ed.), Global environmental politics: Concepts, theories and case studies (pp. 87–104). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Esping-Andersen, G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Felli, R. (2014). An alternative socio-ecological strategy? International Trade Unions’ engagement with climate change. Review of International Political Economy, 21(2), 372–398.Google Scholar
- Foster, J. B. (2009). The ecological revolution: Making peace with the planet. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
- Fraser, N. (1995). From redistribution to recognition? Dilemmas of justice in a ‘Post-Socialist’ age. New Left Review, I(212), 68–93.Google Scholar
- Fraser, N. (2005). Reframing justice in a globalizing world. New Left Review, II(36), 69–88.Google Scholar
- Gorz, A. (1994). Capitalism, socialism, ecology. London; New York: Verso.Google Scholar
- Hampson, F., & Reppy, J. (Eds.). (1996). Earthly goods: Environmental change and social justice. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Harvey, D. (1996). Justice, nature, and the geography of difference. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- ICEM. (2001). Labour and climate change an ICEM position. Brussels: ICEM.Google Scholar
- ICEM. (2009). Sustainability: A role for Labour, a role for the ICEM. Geneva: ICEM.Google Scholar
- ICEM and IMF. (2010). Anticipating change and building a foundation for the future. http://www.imfmetal.org/files/10112914522566/AnticipatingChangeBuildingFoundation(EN).pdf. Accessed 24 May 2012.
- ILO. (2013). Sustainable development, decent work and green jobs. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
- ILO and UNEP. (2012). Working towards sustainable development: Opportunities for decent work and social inclusion in a green economy. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
- IMF (2010). Discussion document towards a climate change policy framework for Africa. http://www.imfmetal.org/index.cfm?c=22948&l=2. Accessed 24 May 2012.
- ITF, Climate Change Working Group in collaboration with Lara Skinner and Sean Sweeney, Cornell Global Labor Institute (Eds.). (2010). Transport workers and climate change: Towards sustainable, low-carbon mobility. London: International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).Google Scholar
- ITUC (2010a). Resolution on combating climate change through sustainable development and just transition. http://www.ituc-csi.org/resolution-on-combating-climate.html. Accessed 24 May 2012.
- ITUC (2010b). Trade Union recommendations for Cancun’s deliberations of the AWG-LCA 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16). http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/COP16_ITUC_Recommendations.pdf. Accessed 24 May 2012.
- ITUC (2014) Building Workers' Power: Congress Statement. http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/ituc-3co-e-5-congressstatement-en-210x297-01-140819.pdf. Accessed 29 Oct 2014.
- Kazis, R., & Grossman, R. (1991). Fear at work: Job blackmail, labor, and the environment. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.Google Scholar
- Leopold, L. (2007). The man who hated work but loved labor: The life and times of Tony Mazzocchi. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Low, N., & Gleeson, B. (1998). Justice, society and nature: An exploration of political ecology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Mazzochi, T. (1993). An answer to the jobs-environment conflict? Green Left (September 8). http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/5630. Accessed 2 June 2012.
- McKendry, C., & Janos, N. (2015). Greening the industrial city: Equity, environment and economic growth in Seattle and Chicago. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 15. doi:10.1007/s10784-014-9267-0.
- Miliband, R. (2004). ). Marxism and politics. London: The Merlin Press.Google Scholar
- Moody, K. (1988). An Injury to All: the decline of American unionism. London; New York: Verso.Google Scholar
- Moody, K. (2001). Workers in a lean world: Unions in the international economy. London; New York: Verso.Google Scholar
- Munck, R. (Ed.). (2002). Globalisation andLabour: The new “Great Transformation”. London; New York: Zed Books.Google Scholar
- Neale, J. (2010). One million climate jobs. Solving the economic and environmental crises. A report by the Campaign against Climate Change trade union group. http://www.climate-change-jobs.org/sites/default/files/1MillionClimateJobs_2010.PDF. Accessed 9 March 2013.
- OECD. (2011). Towards green growth: A summary for policy makers. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
- Olsen, L., & Kemter, D. (2013). The International Labour Organization and the environment: the way to a socially just transition for workers. In N. Räthzel & D. Uzzell (Eds.), Trade unions in the green economy: Working for the environment (pp. 41–57). London: Routledge/Earthscan.Google Scholar
- Polimeni, J., Mayumi, K., Giampietro, M., & Alcott, B. (2008). The Jevons Paradox and the Myth of Resource Efficiency Improvements. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
- Räthzel, N., & Uzzell, D. (Eds.). (2013). Trade unions in the green economy. Working for theeEnvironment. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
- Rosemberg, A. (2010). Building a Just Transition: The linkages between climate change and employment. International Journal of Labour Research, 2(2), 125–162.Google Scholar
- Ross, S. (2007). Varieties of social unionism: Towards a framework for comparison. Just Labour: A Canadian Journal of Work and Society, 11, 16–34.Google Scholar
- Sassoon, D. (1996). One hundred years of socialism. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
- Schrecker, T. (1994). Environmentalism and the politics of invisibility. Alternatives Journal, 20(2), 32–37.Google Scholar
- Snell, D., & Fairbrother, P. (2013). Just transition and labour environmentalism in Australia. In N. Räthzel & D. Uzzell (Eds.), Trade Unions in the Green Economy: Working for the Environment (pp. 146–161). London: Routledge/Earthscan.Google Scholar
- Stevis, D. (2013). Good Jobs? Green Jobs? Just Jobs? US labour unions confront climate change. In N. Räthzel & D. Uzzell (Eds.), TradeUunions in the Green Economy: Working for the Environment (pp. 196–213). London: Routledge/Earthscan.Google Scholar
- Stevis, D., & Boswell, T. (2008). Globalization and labor: Democratizing global governance. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
- Sweeney, S. (2012). Resist, reclaim, restructure: Unions and the struggle for energy democracy. Discussion document prepared for Global Union Roundtable, Energy Emergency: Developing Trade Union Strategies for a Global Transition (October 10–12, 2012). Ms in authors’ files.Google Scholar
- Swilling, M., & Annecke, E. (2012). Just transitions: Explorations of sustainability in an unfair world. Cape Town: UCT Press.Google Scholar
- Trist, E. (1981). The evolution of socio-technical systems: A conceptual framework and an action research program. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Labour/Ontario Quality of Working Life Centre.Google Scholar
- TUAC and ITUC (2009). A just transition: A fair pathway to protect the climate. Retrieved from http://www.ituc-csi.org/what-s-just-transition.html. Accessed 2 June 2012.
- TUC (2008). A green and fair future. For a just transition to a low carbon economy. Touchstone Pamphlet n°3. Trades Unions Congress: London.Google Scholar
- Uehlein, J. (2010). Earth day, labor, and me. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/ 04/19-7. Accessed 20 June 2010.
- UN (2012a). Outcome of the Conference: The Future We Want. Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. http://www.uncsd2012.org/content/documents/727The%20Future%20We%20Want%2019%20June%201230pm.pdf. Accessed 8 March 2013.
- UN (2012b). United Nations Secretary-General’s high-level panel on Global sustainability Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A future worth choosing. http://www.un.org/gsp/sites/default/files/attachments/GSP_Report_web_final.pdf. Accessed 9 March 2013.
- UNEP (2006). Report of the Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment on the work of its first meeting. UNEP/DPDL/TUALE/1. http://www.unep.org/labour_environment/PDFs/TUAreport.pdf. Accessed 23 May 2011.
- UNEP. (2008). Green jobs: Towards decent work in a sustainable, low-carbon world. Nairobi: UNEP/ILO/IOE/ITUC.Google Scholar
- UNEP (2011). Towards a green economy: Pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication: A synthesis for policy makers. http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/Portals/88/documents/ger/GER_synthesis_en.pdf. Accessed 20 May 2012.
- UNFCCC (2010) Decision 1/CP.16. The Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2010/cop16/eng/07a01.pdf. Accessed 15 June 2012.
- Waterman, P. (1993). Social-movement unionism: A new union model for a New World Order? Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 16(3), 245–278.Google Scholar
- Williams, R. (1989). Resources of hope. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Young, I. M. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar