Take the plant, save the planet: Workers and communities in the struggle for economic conversion
- Francesca Hannan, an active member of We Are Oshawa, Green Jobs Oshawa, and the Durham Food Policy Council. She has been involved in climate justice activism with Toronto-based groups, and her professional background is in environmental policy and law.
- Stephen Buhler, an organizer with Climate Justice Edmonton and a full-time journeyman machinist currently working in the oil and gas sector.
- Simon Black, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Labour Studies at Brock University and an organizer with Labour Against the Arms Trade.
The current pandemic crisis has dramatically exposed the need for a massive shift of new resources into the caring sector and the production of medical equipment to meet social needs. But even before the fallout for workers in many sectors from the ecological disruptions already being felt from global warming had already indicated the need for a comprehensive approach to industrial conversion. Several sectors immediately stand out in demanding an approach that goes well beyond a ‘just transition’ in moving workers from one job to another. There is a need for a more radical reworking of these sectors – transportation, military arms and fossil fuels, with the factories, facilities and workers steadily re-deployed to alternate socially responsible production.
Ecological strategies focusing on conversion will be particularly promising in terms of their potential to actively engage working people by offering them a response to economic restructuring that emphasizes retaining our productive capacity. We need to think through the way unions, labour councils and communities can take the lead in campaigns for forming workplace conversion committees and regional technology and environmental hubs. We need to insist, as workers and as communities, that productive assets should not be abandoned at the will of the corporations, or simply accept what is being produced now no matter how destructive the good being produced.
Video recorded on 28 February 2021, and edited by Tanner Mirrlees. Hosted by Socialist Project and the Centre for Social Justice.