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Labor group passes landmark resolution to protect blue-collar workers: 'Not only our jobs are at risk, our lives are, too'

"There are no jobs on a dead planet, period."

Canadian Labour Congress passes landmark resolution

Photo Credit: iStock

Canada's largest labor organization passed two resolutions at the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 2023 constitutional convention in Montreal to combat our changing climate. The policies focused on worker equity and expanding clean energy while creating union jobs. 

The conference brought together 2,200 voting delegates and 230 observers representing local, regional, and national unions gathered to set priorities for the organization — representing over three million workers in the country, reported Canada's National Observer. The policies will also guide the lobbying efforts for the CLC in the coming year. 

Tiffany Balducci, CUPE Ontario's second vice-president and chair of the union's climate justice committee, urged voters to consider the tangible environmental crises occurring in the country, including disruptions like floods and wildfires, and how they will impact the workers' pensions. 

"Not only our jobs are at risk, our lives are, too. We need a mass movement of working people rising to tackle the climate crisis and create a just and equitable future for all," she said per Canada's National Observer. "There's no jobs on a dead planet, period." 

Coal was a significant talking point at the conference. The resolution took aim at the expansion of coal export facilities in British Columbia and establishing new ones abroad. It also advocates for more "clean, affordable alternatives" to coal, Canada's National Observer reported

The lobbying goals focused on increasing the Canadian government's heat-trapping gas pollution goals and on increasing investment in an equitable, green economy. 

For some, the outcome of this conference suggests more opportunities for synergy between a just, green economic transition and job protections for union workers. 

Galen Crampsey, an electrical worker and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 353, noted that there needs to be a more "concrete and concise plan" to ensure that workers in the dirty energy industry have adequate wages, benefits — and above all, jobs. 

The discussions and organizing of labor unions may play a critical role in enacting climate policy and driving the country to a decarbonized, green economy. Nearly 30% of Canada's working population belongs to a union, which has tremendous potential in lobbying for relevant and intersectional issues around the climate.

Blue-collar workers have been historically under-represented in climate discussions, but the conference offers opportunities for unions to engage with a climate transition narrative that includes both them and their jobs. 

"We have to start utilizing our powers as the working class," Crampsey shared.

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