Working Together for Unity Among Unions, the Environmental Movements, and All People

Our goal is to broaden and strengthen both labor and environmental organizations in our efforts to ensure a sustainable future. 

As union activists we know that workers, labor leaders, and climate justice activists share common goals and face common obstacles to achieving them. We want to work together with climate justice activists to overcome the obstacles and understand and improve the connections between workers’ issues and stopping climate change. 

To build the broadest possible unity, the work on climate change must not exclude or be at the expense of workers in the impacted industries. We have to support and engage workers and communities whose income depends on the extraction of fossil fuels. A tactic used to divide our movements is to tell workers to “choose” between good jobs and a healthy environment. In reality we all need meaningful and life-supporting work as well as a sustainable planet for ourselves and future generations. 

Unions around the world are using the concept of “just transition” to organize, educate, and form alliances to create systemic change for a sustainable future. To make a “just transition,” workers will have to participate in all decisions that affect their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Many environmental groups are backing union efforts to support workers during the transition from fossil fuels. 

Divisions abound and can be difficult to overcome. Underlying them is a system of oppression that uses classism, racism, sexism, and many other forms of oppression to confuse people, including working people and social justice activists, and distract them from their true connection and power. Heads of governments are exacerbating the divisions as they pursue policies that increase inequality.

In Sustaining All Life/United to End Racism, we’ve learned that we can heal from how we’ve been hurt by oppression and that doing so strengthens our work. We know that we have to handle the internalized oppression—the negative messages about ourselves and other oppressed people that we sometimes believe and act out. By healing ourselves we can think better about how classism, racism, sexism, and other oppressions affect our movements and the broader society and can heal the divisions in our relationships, organizations, and movements. Healing from oppression is not a substitute for taking action against it, but it is a vital part of the work to end all forms of oppression. 

By releasing, in a supportive network, the distressed feelings caused by oppression, we can become more hopeful, flexible, and committed and better connected to all people. This will enable us to build mightier, more united movements that sustain all life and provide for everyone. 

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