I watched American Factory over the weekend. It is a documentary about an old General Motors factory in the US, taken over by a Chinese company. You might have heard about it because it is produced by the Obama’s production company. It covers the workers’ attempt to unionise, and ahead of Workers’ Day on the 1st of May, reminded me of the importance of unions for movement building, and the link between the labour movement and the climate movement.
Across the climate movement and many progressive movements, there has been a realisation that unless we work together, the issues that we work on will be much harder, if not impossible to address. This goes beyond a transaction of “we’ll support you, if you support us”. It is the understanding that the future we want to bring about does not only consist of one where we have halted the impact of climate change, but includes vibrant, connected communities, strong workers rights, decent work and working hours and gender equality to name just a few. Much of the organising work carried out by the climate movement is informed by, and leans on a long tradition of labour organising. Our struggles are interconnected at many levels.
As 350.org we have been and continue to work with organised labour and workers’ unions across the world. In South Africa, we have played a leading role in forming the Climate Justice Coalition, where we have been working with union federations, unions and organisations working on a range of social justice issues.
We are doing so to ensure that in fighting for climate justice, we don’t neglect these other important and interconnected issues, and that when we push for change, it is comprehensive, truly just and sustainable change.
There is a huge additional impetus for worker solidarity this Workers’ Day.
Covid-19 has meant that we have needed to depend more than ever on frontline workers across a range of sectors, from agriculture to health care. Our response to the pandemic has included calling for a Just Recovery. We hope you follow our work because you recognise the urgency of addressing the climate crisis.
We hope you’ll celebrate workers this Worker’s Day, because without strong labour movements advocating for their rights and welfare, our chances of responding to the climate crisis and other crises is greatly diminished.