The global climate strike this Friday has shown how trade unions can revive. The strikes have also put militant action and unofficial walkouts back on the agenda.
It is one of our biggest opportunities to rebuild the strength, organisation and confidence of working class people to fight for a better world.
The run-up to 20 September has seen union leaders catching up with a mood among workers wanting to do something about climate change.
Steve Turner, the Unite union deputy assistant general secretary, called on workers to “take whatever action we can” or “we’ll be seen as irrelevant”.
Such statements show how the school strikes and Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) direct actions have had an impact on the union movement.
Plenty of union members—and workers not in unions—will have taken part in XR or been inspired by the students.
After the call for 20 September was made, many wanted to do something themselves. NEU and Napo union leaders say they’ve been inundated with members asking what they are allowed to do on the day.
What better way to get workers to join unions than acting over climate change?
This doesn’t mean that union leaders are suddenly won over to unofficial action.
But it’s got people talking about a strike in a big way—and taking part in action will give people confidence.
Working class people are told we are too stupid to have a real say over political questions, whether it’s climate change or how the economy is run.
We have little control over our own lives at work, with managers telling us what to do. And students are at the bottom of the pecking order.
So when people strike or take to the streets in large numbers, they feel strong because they glimpse taking control.
There’s no better way to hit back against a bullying boss.
And when people take action, climate chaos no longer seems like an inevitability that ordinary people can’t do anything about.
The action on 20 September can’t be a one-off.
We need more workers to join the next climate strike—and we need more of them to take militant action over this issue and others such as austerity and racism.
Some socialists will have put the argument for an unofficial walkout this Friday and not won a majority for it.
But now people will have taken part in some sort of action or seen mass media coverage of the global climate strike.
More people will be won to the idea of a strike as a good way of fighting back.
The 20 September points to an alternative to many union leaders’ conservatism.
Seize on it.