If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change

TitleIf Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBrecher, Jeremy, Blackwell, Ron, and Uehlein, Joe
JournalNew Labor Forum
Pagination40 - 47
Date Published2014///
Keywordsclimate change, climate-safe economy, income inequality, jobs

This article argues to labor unions for the goal for a transition to a “climate-safe” economy and looks to U.S. experience in World War II mobilization to argue that it can be done. It also argues that to be generally accepted as fair, the transition to a climate-safe economy will require an incomes policy, as was provided during World War II by the War Labor Board. A Nordic-style welfare state system, providing a high level of income for the unemployed combined with strong support for retraining and new jobs, will be necessary to answer fears that change will lead to disaster for workers. Public planning, investment, and incentives for new employment opportunities in affected regions, industries, and occupations can play a similar role. As in World War II, the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employers will be essential to ensure popular participation in the mobilization and protect workers from abuse. In World War II, unions gave up the right to strike but millions of workers struck anyway; this time unions should demand that the right to strike be ensured. Full employment will bolster workers' bargaining power, restore the relationship of wage and productivity growth, and reduce the obscene level of income and wealth inequality.