9 Oct. 2013

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy

For photos from this event, go to our Flickr page.

We face a global social and environmental crisis of unprecedented proportions, one that touches the lives of every worker regardless of where they live. At the same time, neoliberal policies are further undermining social protections and standard of living as well as environmental protection. Contrary to what we hear in the media, many unions have been seriously engaged in the effort to promote a just and green economic transition, one that generates decent work and respects and supports workers’ rights. Such a transition must be driven by an energy revolution.

The transition we need is not happening. Governments have failed to negotiate a global climate agreement. At the same time, national governments are blaming each other in order to avoid taking on the fossil fuel corporations and making serious policy changes. Meanwhile, the World Bank continues to promote fossil fuels and push for more privatization and liberalization. These policies make matters worse for workers, consumers, and the environment.

When it comes to the global energy system, trade unions recognize that business as usual is not sustainable. Union members are already feeling the impacts of climate change, whether as first responders to climate catastrophes or as members of the most impacted communities. There is a growing community of trade unionists working for energy democracy. They’re taking on the fossil fuel companies to fight for a just, sustainable, and democratic energy system.

In order to foster this community, from October 9-11 in Tarrytown, New York, RLS-NYC and Cornell’s Global Labor Institute convened a working retreat of trade union leaders from around the world to share their experiences struggling against privatization, extractionism, and corporate dominance; to develop practical alternatives; and to strategize about next steps in the movement for energy democracy.
This gathering was part of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, a global, multi-sector initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and the repression of workers’ rights and protections.

Participants included:
Ashim Roy – NTUI, India
Cedric Gina – NUMSA, South Africa
Ho-Dong Lee – KPTU, South Korea
Peter Burke – OWTU, Trinidad and Tobago
Daniel Angelim – TUCA, Brazil
Reinhard Klopfleisch – Ver.di, Germany
Lenore Fraendlander – 32BJ SEIU, United States
Donald Lafleur – CUPW, Canada
Fernando Losada – NNU, United States
John Duffy – UWUA, United States
Josua Mata – APL, Philippines
Maite Llanos – CTA, Argentina
Graham Cox – CUPE, Canada
Andrea Peart – Canadian Labour Congress
Sandra van Niekerk – PSIRU, South Africa
Patty Barrera – Unifor, Canada
Christopher Erikson – IBEW Local 3, United States
Humberto Restrepo – IBEW Local 3, United States
Diego Azzi – CUT/Sigtur, Brazil
Wol-san Liem – KPTU, South Korea
Dinga Sikwebu – NUMSA, South Africa
Terri Nilliasca – UAW, United States