Some people may be wondering: Why is Climate Justice London taking a position on the transit strike in London? What does this have to do with climate change?
First, we are a climate justice group. That means, in part, that we don’t just think about issues of sustainability, in isolation from everything else. Rather, we view ecological questions as integrally linked to issues of social and economic justice. One of the three key goals adopted by Climate Justice London reads, in part, as follows: “to promote and strengthen the rights and voices of… [among others] …workers in energy-intensive industries, in climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.” That is, we view the rights of working people — including the right to union representation, fair compensation, and adequate benefits — as a matter that environmentalists have to take seriously, to ensure that the changes needed to address climate change (including the change toward a sustainable transportation system, much more reliant on public transportation than on single-occupant cars) do not come at the expense of working people, poor people, Indigenous people and other groups.
Because we have this perspective on environmental justice, when we talk about promoting “green jobs,” we do not simply mean any job that has a low “carbon footprint,” or something like that. For us, sustainability is not the only relevant consideration. Specifically, we view “green jobs” as (in the ideal kind of case) unionized, well-paying, and secure jobs, serving the public interest, which also have a low carbon footprint and a minimally negative environmental impact generally. In other words, we think of green jobs not just as sustainable jobs, but as what are sometimes called “high road” sustainable jobs: jobs that are well-paid, which offer benefits, with union representation, and which make a positive contribution to the community. (For more on this “high-road” conception of green jobs, click here.)
That is why we view defence of the union’s position in this strike as part and parcel of our kind of environmental justice advocacy. As the union pointed out on their web site on November 10, the employer, in this case, is trying to impose ‘austerity’ cuts by appealing to “the current economy” (i.e., the recession) as a pretext for getting them to accept wage increases below the likely rate of inflation (hence a phased-in pay cut over three years), in spite of the million dollar operating surplus and the increase of almost 7% in the operating budget, as approved by city hall. In the same post, the union makes it clear that part of their struggle is to ensure that the LTC is “adequately staffed” and “adequately maintained.” In this sense, they are struggling not only for fairness on the job — important as that is — but also to ensure that a neo-liberal cost-cutting agenda is not allowed to override the public interest in maintaining and extending the quality and safety of public transportation in London.
So, to sum up, we see this strike as, in part, a strike about protecting “high-road” green jobs, and partly also as a strike about defending the public interest (in quality and safety of service) against a cost-reduction agenda associated with a neo-liberal project of “trimming the fat” and cutting wages and benefits.
For these reasons, we urge everyone to support the demands of A.T.U. and to encourage the employer to address these demands and bring this strike to a rapid conclusion.
– Steve D, for Climate Justice London.