In my recent research with Allen Hyde from Georgia Tech, we find that countries with highly unionized workforces have on average done a better job of addressing climate change than the U.S. and other countries with smaller labor movements. After controlling for a variety of social, economic and political factors, our statistical analyses find that unionization has a significant negative effect on greenhouse gas emissions. The effects are even greater when unions have a formal seat at the table by participating in management and policy decisions.
It should be no surprise that strong labor movements are associated with emissions reductions. Unions at their core are the organized political voice of a working class that has become increasingly concerned with climate change — despite the sporadic outbreak of particular “jobs vs. the environment” struggles. In a previous study I conducted with historian Jeremy Brecher, we found that unionized workers in the U.S. are more likely to hold pro-environmental views than the general population. We see a strong example of this in the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, which brings together labor leaders, environmentalists and faith-based leaders to promote worker-friendly solutions to the state’s climate crises.
Teachers, firefighters, construction workers, nurses, transportation workers, manufacturing workers and service workers alike have a stake in ensuring a livable climate for their children and grandchildren. We all do. We also have a stake in providing economic opportunities for ourselves and generations to come.