Socialist Worker

We need workers’ strikes - not just solidarity - to fight climate change

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2661

School students on strike over the climate in London last month

School students on strike over the climate in London last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)


How far are we willing to go to prevent climate catastrophe?

That’s the question every worker, socialist and activist should be asking in the face of an existential threat to our survival.

Action on 20 September, the planned date for a global climate strike, could change the entire debate around climate change.

Catastrophic events are sweeping the world—such as record-breaking heatwaves, fatal droughts and deadly storms.

Guadalajara in western Mexico suffered a freak summer hailstorm this week coating the city in 1.5 metres of ice.

Around 200 homes were damaged and dozens of cars swept away. Yet before the hailstorm, temperature there had been at around 30 degrees.

State governor Enrique Alfaro said, “Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomena.”

But this is nothing compared to what is on the horizon.

The planet’s temperature is set to increase, causing rising sea levels. This could engulf large parts of Bangladesh and Vietnam, and completely submerge many small island states as well as coastal towns and cities.

Extinctions

Animal extinctions will continue to soar, threatening the majority of food production. Entire populations of major cities will be forced to migrate due to food scarcity, rising sea levels or other climate chaos.

The IPCC—the United Nations climate scientists’ body—says temperatures can only rise one more degree before triggering the worst-case scenario.

It predicts a 5 degree rise by 2100.

And the IPCC has warned that a predicted two metre rise in global sea levels “could result in land loss of 1.79 million square kilometres, including critical regions of food production, and potential displacement of 187 million people”.

Action is urgently needed. It won’t come from governments—it has to come from ordinary people.

The past year has seen an inspirational movement blossom from the despair created by climate chaos. More than a million teenagers

worldwide took part in a school climate strike in March to demand a future.

And insurgent actions by Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists highlight the ever-present threat.

But this is not enough—we are facing an emergency.

That’s why it’s welcome that school climate strikers are calling on workers to join them—not just in solidarity, but in coordinated action.

Friday 20 September could see millions of workers and students walk out together.

Workplace action has the potential to turn off the source of the corporations’ profits.

Boardrooms

And only a genuinely mass movement with workers striking can begin to take on those who sit in boardrooms and in cabinet meetings.

A good example of how workers can organise came from furniture company Wayfair in the US last week.

Some 500 workers walked out after learning the company was supplying goods to furnish children’s prison cells in the border migrant concentration camps.

Maddie Howard, who organised the walkout, said she was “blown away” by the response from workers.

She said that activists “had to do one-on-ones with the workers” to explain the issues.

But she added, “When something hits a flashpoint, you need to be ready to have each other’s backs.

“And then strike when the iron is hot.”

This type of spirit can transform confidence over how to fight back for the planet.

It’s not enough to show “solidarity” with students. Workers have to match their conviction, organisation and courage.

There are over 30 million workers in Britain—and around 6.3 million are members of trade unions.

If a percentage of these walked out on 20 September it would boost workers’ confidence to organise against the rich.

Activists in every workplace should start the process of discussing taking action to protect the planet and everyone who lives on it.


Anger after anti-fracking activists convicted

Three anti-fracking campaigners were found guilty of contempt of court last week.

It was a blow for the right to protest.

Katrina Lawrie, Christopher Wilson and Lee Walsh breached an injunction from fracking firm Cuadrilla in July 2018.

They staged a lock-on protest at Preston New Road in Lancashire, blocking access to the site.

It’s the first time anyone has been convicted of breaching an injunction from an oil and gas company in Britain.

They are set to be sentenced in September, and could receive a fine and a suspended prison sentence.


The time to act is now

Thousands of campaigners gathered in central London to declare the “Time is Now” to act on climate change on Wednesday of last week.

Organised by a coalition of environmental NGOs, activists met their MPs outside parliament.


A heatwave hits Europe

A heatwave has broken out across much of Europe—with France recording its highest ever temperature on Friday last week.

Riot cops in Paris attacked Extinction Rebellion activists during a sit-in. Police used pepper spray to clear the 200 activists.

In the Spanish state, strong winds and high temperatures caused major forest fires to tear through Catalonia.

Hundreds of firefighters spent days fighting the blaze.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.