“So when we’re thinking about just transition, then we really are talking about not just jobs, we’re really talking about changing the face of society and I think that the three of you have posed that to the audience this evening and I want to thank you all very, very much for doing it.”
What is a Just Transition?
More and more people are worried about climate change. They want a world where the climate on which we all depend is not threatened by the greenhouse gas pollution that is threatening it today. But many also worry: If we stop burning fossil fuels and make the other changes that are necessary for a climate-safe economy, what will happen to the workers who currently work in the fossil fuel economy? If my job depends on fossil fuels, what will happen to me?
The transition to clean, climate-safe energy will produce millions of new jobs. But we need to make sure that every worker affected by change in the fossil fuel industries is guaranteed a good job or a good retirement. And we need to make sure that all the jobs created by climate protection are good jobs that support our families and strengthen our unions.
For the past decade the Labor Network for Sustainability has been working to develop plans for a worker-friendly transition to a climate-safe economy — and to spread the word about examples where this is already happening.
The Just Transition Listening Project
The Coronavirus pandemic resulted in millions being forced out of work. It was an important barometer of whether and how we are prepared socially, politically and economically for massive changes to our economy. The shift to the green economy we need in order to confront the climate crisis will require economic shifts on a similar scale. The need for a large-scale Just Transition for workers and communities has never been more urgent.
In 2020, the Labor Network for Sustainability and partners launched the Just Transition Listening Project. Over the course of four months, we gathered stories of workers and community members as they experienced extreme changes in their local economy—the impact of plant closures, jobs lost to automation, company downsizing and market changes, industries impacted by climate change. We learned what was in place and what was lacking in government, private sector and community support. We also learned how people adjusted or are adjusting to the changes in their life and work, aspirations for their community, and their vision for the local and global economy.
The stories are summarized in this report:
WORKERS AND COMMUNITIES IN TRANSITION:
REPORT OF THE JUST TRANSITION LISTENING PROJECT
After nearly a year of interviewing more than 100 workers, Indigenous and community leaders affected by workplace closings, climate change and major shifts in local and regional economies, the Labor Network for Sustainability and partners released its report “Workers and Communities in Transition.”
Compiled and written by J. Mijin Cha, Vivian Price, Dimitris Stevis, and Todd E. Vachon with Maria Brescia-Weiler, this report underscores a critical point in the shift to much needed climate policies: Workers and their communities must not be left behind in the transition to a green economy and in fact, their role in the process of developing a just transition is critical to making it work fairly.
We also held a series of webinars addressing different questions related to Just Transition, including perspectives from workers, the environmental justice movement, indigenous peoples and international movements.
Watch Our JTLP Webinars
Black Workers and Just Transition
Love It, Hate It. You’ve Heard the Term, Now Hear the Story
Young Workers and Just Transition
Young Workers and Just Transition
The links below provide background and examples of how we can promote a Just Transition.
- No Workers Left Behind in the Just Transition to a Climate-Safe World
- Union Locals Build Support for the Green New Deal’s ‘Just Transition’
- Spanish Coal Miners Win a Just Transition
- A Superfund for Workers: How to Promote a Just Transition and Break Out of the Jobs vs. Environment Trap by Jeremy Brecher
- Beyond a Band-aid: A Discussion Paper on Protecting Workers and Communities in the Great Energy Transition By Arjun Makhijani, Ph.DA
- The Huntley Experiment
- Diablo Canyon Shutdown Protects Workers and Communities
- “We Knew Big Changes Were Coming to our Industry”
- 18 strategies for a Green New Deal
- A Green Growth Program for Coloradoby: Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, Tyler Hansen
“Workers and Communities in Transition” In The Media
- Why Medicare for All Must Be Part of the Green New Deal, Dharna Noor, Gizmodo
- “Just” Transitions Are Possible, But They Require State Investment, Leanna First-Arai, Truthout
- “This Is What the Beginning of a Climate-Labor Alliance Looks Like,” Kate Aronoff, The New Republic
Share the report on social media:
Just Transition Listening Project Organizing Committee
- Lisa Abbott, Deputy Organizing Director for Just Transition, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
- Monica Atkins, Southeast Regional, Just Transition Organizer, Climate Justice Alliance
- J. Mijin Cha, Assistant professor of Urban and Environmental Policy, Occidental College
- Jeff Johnson, Retired President, Washington State Labor Council
- Betony Jones, Principal, Inclusive Economics
- Ananda Lee Tan, Board of Directors, Labor Network for Sustainability
- Paolo Mutia, Sustainable Food and Agriculture Campaign Associate, Friends of the Earth USA
- Vivian Price, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, California State University Dominguez Hills
- Basav Sen, Project Director, Climate Policy, Institute for Policy Studies
- Dimitris Stevis, Professor of Political Science and Center for Environmental Justice, Colorado State University
- Todd Vachon, Postdoctoral Associate, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations
- Anthony Rogers-Wright, Green New Deal Policy Lead, Climate Justice Alliance
Just Transition Listening Project Advisors
- Harriet Applegate, Executive Secretary, North Shore Labor Federation (Cleveland)
- Maria Castaneda, Secretary Treasurer, 1199 SEIU, Hospital and Healthcare Workers Union East
- Sarita Gupta, Director, Future of Work and Workers Program, Ford Foundation
- Richard Lipsitz, President, Western New York Area Labor Council
- Cynthia Phinney, President, Maine AFL-CIO