Fossil Free UW (FFUW) is pleased to announce our unanimous endorsement of the CUPE-supported graduate student workers unionization effort, OrganizeUW. OrganizeUW has been campaigning since mid-March, and their union drive went public over the summer. We are the second campus organization to endorse the drive, alongside the Graduate Student Association (GSA). We encourage our student members to learn more about the drive and inform themselves about how best to support these efforts.
FFUW is acutely aware of the intensifying nature of the climate crisis, and the critical role the University can play in preventing this global catastrophe through the dramatic reduction in fossil fuel investment and production. To that end, FFUW has facilitated learning, discussion and decision-making efforts to make UWaterloo a climate justice leader. Currently, we are petitioning the Board of Governors to commit to divest its fossil fuel holdings, and to choose a carbon neutral investment strategy.
CUPE’s national environment policy – entitled Working Harmoniously on the Earth – was adopted in March 2013 at CUPE’s National Executive Board. The policy was developed following the passage of Resolution #94 at the 2011 CUPE National Convention in Vancouver. Working Harmoniously on the Earth describes how working people can help cut greenhouse gases and the role of their union in supporting that work. Also front and centre in the policy are issues such as water, energy, waste, environmental toxins, green jobs, and actions to green CUPE workplaces.
CUPE officially recommends that its members set up either an independent student/worker environment committee or a joint worker/employer environment committee that focuses on climate issues to ensure that workplace environmental issues are front and centre. CUPE has national staff dedicated full-time to environmental issues, and support their members in their climate activism and putting climate change on the agenda for working people during elections.
International coordination is essential in the fight against climate change and CUPE works with other trade unions through Public Services International and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy in advancing progressive climate policies. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, which CUPE helped found, is a global, multi-sector initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and responds to the attacks on workers’ rights and protections.
CUPE also represents over 40,000 workers in the electrical energy sector in Canada and has been on the forefront of advancing a just transition for workers and communities in the shift from carbon-emitting energy sources to renewable and green energy. CUPE members also maintain and run many public transit systems like the TTC and support the green electrification of public transit.
The opportunities presented by a CUPE-supported grad student union at UWaterloo is very exciting for FFUW because it means that the union could bargain for legally binding environmental standards and protocols at UWaterloo, including specifying language and a political position on fossil fuel divestment. Driven by a democratic mandate of the local members, the collective bargaining process can put investment in the upgrade and retrofitting of existing campus infrastructure to green the campus while also supporting campaigns to build consensus on these issues.
CUPE academic locals already engaging in this important work include those at York University, University of Toronto, and the University of Victoria. CUPE locals have put climate issues on the bargaining table, directly supported campaigns on divestment, bargained climate/green language into their collective agreements, put local food at the heart of food services, bargained resourced committees to examine environmental issues, and supported renewal through greening of campus infrastructure.
FFUW and OrganizeUW will host an informational webinar in the new year to discuss the myriad opportunities for collaboration between labour and environmental movements broadly, and the implications for UWaterloo campus specifically.
FFUW highly encourages your involvement and support in the OrganizeUW union drive. Check out their volunteer page, read up on the FAQs, or join the organizers during their weekly Tuesday 1:30pm drop-in calls (at this link) to discuss your concerns or questions.