“We stand in solidarity with the young people at the forefront of demanding meaningful action on climate change” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (16 Sept. 2019) — This month, students around the world are organizing for a Global Climate Strike and they are calling on all of us to stand behind them. NUPGE’s National Executive Board is proud to formally endorse the student-led Global Climate Strike.
Student-initiated strikes will take place on September 20 and September 27 in cities worldwide, demanding that governments take the necessary steps to address the climate crisis. Bookending a United Nations climate summit in New York, these events make up a week of action that has the potential to make waves across the globe. As students prepare to walk out of their classrooms, it is important that unions stand behind them.
Growth of the student-led strikes
As climate scientists, for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have reported on our ever-narrowing window to act to prevent climate change impacts becoming catastrophic, young people have been at the forefront of demanding climate action.
The ongoing student-led climate strikes have been largely catalyzed by the work of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish activist, who began her own strike in August 2018 to protest her government’s inaction on climate change.
Her actions have spurred student strikes around the world, such as the Fridays for Future movement, wherein students regularly engage in walk-outs or other public demonstrations, often joined by allies. These young people are calling on their elected leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure they have a sustainable future to grow up and to thrive in.
Their message is one of urgency. In the words of Thunberg in her address to the 2019 World Economic Forum, “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is (The Guardian).”
Responses from organized labour
Around the world, labour organizations are standing in solidarity with these young people. Although this support is not universal, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy published statements or actions of support from unions in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US thus far.
At the international level, Public Services International (PSI), of which NUPGE is an affiliate, has come out in support of the strikes, urging unions to provide similar support, as reported by Common Dreams. PSI also encouraged its affiliates to take action to support the strikers, such as joining a local rally, talking to the media or to politicians about the strikes' importance, showing support on social media, or engaging with young members.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which NUPGE is also an affiliate, is an official international partner of the upcoming Global Climate Strike.
The National Union and its Components are working to identify ways to support the student strikers in Canada. “We stand in solidarity with the young people at the forefront of demanding meaningful action on climate change,” says NUPGE President Larry Brown. “We echo their call to governments to urgently take the steps to ensure a just and sustainable future for generations to come.”
While we acknowledge that most workers cannot themselves walk out alongside these students, we encourage Canadians, where possible, to show their support in other ways, such as sharing messages of solidarity, joining a local action on their lunch hour, helping to raise awareness about the strikes, or talking to their elected officials about the importance of action on climate change. Those who do join the strike efforts should speak to their union or consult legislation to ensure they are fully informed of the implications of their actions.
The labour movement, alongside its allies, has an important role to play in advancing climate action.
According to PSI, “we can show [the students] and the world that trade unions are on the right side of history, that we will join with popular movements to restore democracy. The fight for climate action is a fight to put people over profit. There is no Planet B, and there is no time left.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE