Labour and Nature: Breadth, Depth and Worker Agency
Integrative session of RC02 Economy and Society, RC24 Environment and Society, RC44 Labour Movements
Environmental degradation on a global scale presents unions and workers with multiple challenges and opportunities. Across the world trade unions are developing broad environmental policies, aiming to protect the environment while ensuring meaningful employment. However, these policies are not uncontested, neither by environmentalists and other social forces nor within unions themselves.
One challenge stems from the differential positions of workers and unions depending on geography and sector. How will environmental politics affect unions in the global north and the global south?
Another challenge is the preparation of workers for green transitions in terms of skills and agency. How does the character of work need to change, and with it workers’ capabilities and positions at the workplace, in order to reconcile work and nature?
While some unions aim towards a green capitalism others see capitalism as the main culprit and argue that environmental policies must challenge their neoliberal turn. Is it possible for unions across sectors and geopolitical economy to converge around just green transition policies that create synergies rather than competition? Can just green transitions also offer broader political opportunities as various social agents, from the local to the transnational, need to and aim to engage in such transitions, thus opening up space for new and broad coalitions across countries and social actors (i.e. industrial workers, farm workers, indigenous movements, communities, environmentalists). Can unions become environmental innovators and promote changes that reconcile nature and work?