A Statement from Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan
Climate change is the single most pressing issue we face. Students across the globe are taking inspiration from Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s one-person protest, and are taking action with the Global Climate Strike. They are asking unions to stand in solidarity with them.
The Alberta Federation of Labour stands in support of this call to action. I encourage all unions and working people to join in the Global Day of Action this Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Workers need to show up and demonstrate that we won’t be divided in meeting the challenge of climate change.
Canada won’t have successful climate policies if workers aren’t on board. If working people don’t realize the importance of climate policies, they will vote down governments who support taking action on climate change – which we have already seen happening here in Canada.
The Alberta labour movement has long called for action on climate change which includes a strong focus on justice; a just transition that places the interests of affected workers, their families and communities as its highest priority in developing climate policy.
Alberta’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) has gone up 1.3% since last year, yet for the first time this decade Alberta’s minimum wage workers won’t see an increase.
“Having a minimum wage is about helping people afford basic needs based on cost of living and fairly compensating work,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “Minimum wage workers would have needed a 20 cent raise this year just to keep up with inflation, yet instead, we see a government who has abandoned the goal of achieving a living wage for everyone who works in our province.”
This freeze follows the government’s roll back of the minimum wage for students to $13 an hour earlier this year. At the time Kenney was quoted as saying, “Look — 13 bucks an hour — that’s a heck of a lot more than zero bucks an hour.”
“One of Jason Kenney’s first acts as premier was to roll back the minimum wage for young people,” said McGowan, “and since then he has appointed a so-called expert panel stacked with industry lobbyists and employers, laying the groundwork for a further attack on wages for the lowest paid Albertans.”
A week after mass mobilizations across the globe the climate strike is coming to Canada. Major actions are set to take place right across the country. In Montreal, 300,000 are expected for the main rally. Eleven unions are participating and the city is offering free public transit for the day. This massive show of force by people across the globe has given renewed energy to the climate movement.
This new climate movement is infused with a sense of urgency and is unwilling to accept the status quo. As the young climate activist Greta Thurnberg stated in her speech to the United Nations this week,
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
It is becoming increasingly clear that we require a radical transformation of the economy to address the climate crisis. The good news is the wholesale economic transformation needed to tackle the climate crisis is also the type of change that it takes for workers to win real economic security. A strong social safety net, a reduction of the working day, robust and free public services, mass transit, public housing and local democratic control over the economy are part of the solution to addressing the climate crisis, and to making the lives of working people better.
An economy that benefits only the rich and destroys the planet means workers ultimately have a material interest remaking the economy. The corporations and the right-wing try to split workers from the environmental movement by arguing that environmental policies will kill jobs like pipeline construction. But the opposite is true: radically transforming our cities and our economy will actually provide more jobs and more security for workers in their day-to-day lives.
Currently the world spends over US$100bn per year on nuclear weapons, and there are signs that at least some of the nuclear weapons states are modifying their arsenals.
“The weakening of multilateralism is having profound and negative impacts on the fight against global warming, on the world economy and in other areas where only joint solutions can work. It is also weakening arms control and disarmament measures, with potentially devastating results. The collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty portends a new nuclear arms race, while the 23-year-old Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has still not come into force – more than 2,000 nuclear weapons tests have taken place since 1945, with devastating human and environmental impacts. While these agreements, and the 191-country Non-Proliferation Treaty are crucially important, it is time for the world to stop producing nuclear weapons altogether and decommission those that exist. The alternative to total, multilateral and verified nuclear disarmament may be too terrible to contemplate. It would be a morally repugnant legacy to leave for future generations to clean up,” said Burrow.