United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) is the second largest teacher’s union in the country. Their strike in January shows what Bargaining for the Common Good looks like in action. Photo credit: UTLA.

An article by four labor and climate activists recently published in the American Prospect calls for a “Bargaining for the Common Good” approach to the climate crisis.

Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) is an innovative way of building community-labor alignments, bringing unions and allies together, that go beyond the limits to traditional collective bargaining and jointly shape bargaining campaigns that advance the mutual interests of workers and communities alike. It developed over the last decade out of the struggles of teachers in St. Paul, Chicago, and Seattle; out of the fights of public employees in San Diego and Los Angeles; and in other settings where unions partnered with their community allies to advance a common agenda through direct-action protests—including strikes—and campaigns that targeted the power structures of their communities.

This year’s strike by members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles shows what BCG looks like in action. The teachers and drew up demands in collaboration with community, parent, and student groups won commitments from the district to reduce class sizes, increase investment in the schools, hire school nurses and full-time librarians, reduce standardized testing and random searches of students, provide more green spaces for students, and launch a dedicated hotline for immigrant families who need legal assistance.

The article calls for applying BCG to climate in three areas:

  • Climate change mitigation—reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a just transition for workers, in order to slow global warming;
  • Environmental equity—pursuing an equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens in order to eradicate the legacy of environmental racism; and
  • Just recoveries—putting the interests of communities and workers before private profits in the wake of climate disasters, such as extreme storms and wildfires, and economic disasters, such as mine and plant closures.

The article was written by Todd E. Vachon, fellow with the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization and on the faculty at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University; Gerry Hudson, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union; Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizers Alliance; and Saket Soni, the executive director of Resilience Force and the National Guestworker Alliance.