MAC: Mines and Communities

Economic justice and environmental sustainability connected, says Task Force report (March 2007)

Published by MAC on 2007-03-15

Economic justice and environmental sustainability connected, says Task Force report (March 2007)

Securing Our Children's World is the long-awaited USW follow-up to the 1990 environmental policy statement adopted at the first and (so far) only International Convention held in Canada.

The new report, the result of a task force led by co-chairs Dave Foster, District 3 Director Steve Hunt and others, has been adopted by the USW International Executive Board. It is more action-oriented than the 1990 statement and outlines the changes that have taken place in the environment and the economy over the last decade and a half.

"In the era of modern globalization, we will be unsuccessful in solving critical environmental challenges without also solving the challenges of global poverty and the political and social instability that accompanies it," says the report. "In a fundamental sense, the connection between economic justice and environmental sustainability on a global basis has linked the labour and environmental movements in every country.

"Without the two movements acting in concert, neither movement can succeed."

The report draws four conclusions:

The greatest threat to our children's future is the destruction of their environment. Some of the worst consequences of environmental damage, which were once thought to not occur in our lifetime, are upon us now and, if we continue on our current course, the results of global warming and the death of the oceans, will devastate the world of our children;

We cannot expect companies or the government to defend our interests. Protecting our children's future and our own jobs requires collective bargaining and political action. We must push our employers improve, not only as a way of protecting the environment, but as a way of preserving jobs as well. The only answer is to link environmental reform with economic justice.

Cleaning up the environment and improving public health should never be accomplished on the backs of workers.

We cannot serve our members by ignoring environmental issues. We cannot protect them by resisting change. Our mission is to adapt to change and to channel it for the long-term benefit of our members and all working people;

We cannot serve our members by ignoring what is happening internationally. On a global scale, it is useless to work for a clean environment without also working for economic justice and human rights.

The 39-page report also provides tips on what local unions can do to make the environment a labour-management issue:

"The environment and/or health and safety committee should research their company's environmental record. Are their sources of raw materials threatened? Where does their waste go? What are they dumping into the air and water? Are their products harmful? Are they in violation of any environmental laws or regulations?

"Armed with information, the local union could, where necessary, work to negotiate a cleanup, or a switch to safer products. Back in 1982, for example, at the Noranda copper refinery in Montreal, Local 6887 helped the company negotiate a temporary variance from new water pollution regulations, in return for a commitment to install state-of-the-art controls assuring the plant's long-term compliance."

The full report is available on the USW website,


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