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(en) Slovania, priama akcia: An example of a strike against climate change [machine translation]

Date Sun, 1 Dec 2019 17:06:20 +0200

In our opinion on the September climate strike, we considered production for profit as a cause of the current crisis and the challenge facing the workers' movement in relation to the fight against climate change. Before the November protest, we bring an interesting example of the mobilization of workers from Canada. Although we do not consider it to be a recipe for all situations and sectors, it can be an incentive to expand the imagination of existing possibilities. ---- As seven thousand workers in Quebec came out on a strike against climate change ---- Half a million protesters gathered in Montreal, Canada, as part of the Climate Action Week between 20 and 27 September, the highest participation worldwide. However, the protest was also remarkable for another reason.

Although labor legislation in the province forbids unions to strike when it comes to political issues, eleven core organizations representing 7,500 workers have officially voted to participate in a one-day strike.

In January, several ordinary teachers with experience from the environmental movement started to organize. François Geoffroy and Frédéric Legault had poor trade union experience, but when they received the call from the international Earth Strike climate strike network on September 27, they decided to do their utmost to organize a real climate strike.

They teamed up with a network of regular and union members of the Lutte Commune to establish contacts with people active in the unions and find out how.

They devised a strategy to achieve a mandate to call a strike through voting at the level of local trade unions. This mandate was to be 'conditional': it was only to be implemented if the necessary minimum number of people, ie at least 10 local organizations representing 5 000 workers, agreed. This would ensure that local organizations do not strike alone and avoid repression and marginalization. They would coordinate their activities without having to go through the official trade union channels, which are usually used for communication and policy-making.

Coordination outside the formal structures was important because trade unions, which the organizers thought might even enter the strike, fell under several federations. They did not expect most trade unions in any federation to join the strike, expecting the federations to reluctantly refuse their efforts or to reject it directly.


June, three organizations had united the strike, bringing together teachers from postgraduate schools and colleges of pre-university type known as CEGEP. Information on climate strike action spread rapidly among workers, and several local organizations planned to vote on joining the post-summer holiday period.

The intention was to put the CEGEP founders in an unpleasant situation with this vote. They did not want to act as "against the environment" and so did not rush into repression against the strike movement.

Many founders, under pressure, decided to cancel their lessons on 27 September. Instead, they announced a 'thematic day' to discuss climate change issues.

Many local trade union officials have therefore withdrawn the vote on the strike scheduled for early school year. They argued that since the teaching was canceled, the aim of allowing trade union members to participate in the march was also met.


six leading figures who were the driving force of the movement responded with a short leaflet entitled Eight Reasons to Vote on the Strike anyway. First of all, not all CEGEPs canceled teaching. At the same time, abolishing teaching did not necessarily mean that workers would be free and able to attend the march.

Most importantly, teachers started to mobilize. It was their movement, not a movement organized by the founders. They did not intend to march on the planet because their boss "allowed" them. Not to go to work was their decision.

This small group called people, contacted colleagues in other institutions, sent a leaflet to the facebook group for CEGEP teachers and discussed this topic on every possible occasion.

This convinced eight other local organizations to join the movement. The majority represented workers from CEGEP, but people from the ranks of office workers and university teaching and scientific assistants voted on the strike as well. Finally, eleven local organizations from three different trade union federations joined.


Around 20 September, the goal of having at least 10 local organizations representing 5,000 workers was met. Ordinary and union members quickly called a meeting of these organizations. The aim was to exchange information: How do the founders react? Have there been threats to strikes? What is the legal status of a strike if teaching is canceled? Does anyone need help with a strike?

After a broad discussion, it was clear that people were not afraid of fines for an "illegal strike". Legitimacy and scope of mobilization drove the bosses into the corner. Given that the founders agreed in many places to abandon teaching, it was not clear how they would legally 'prove' that teachers would not perform their usual work tasks.

In a sense, therefore, the vote on the strike was 'recognized' and entry into the political strike was to take place despite existing labor legislation.

On September 27, operations in a large part of the province were closed. Students at universities, colleges and universities voted to participate in the strike. 150 operations remained closed and workers could participate in the march. Thousands of workers have taken a day off.

And in this uproar, one group was striking in the true sense of the word. The 7,500 workers were proud to be able to get into a climate strike.

The author of the text is Alain Savard, a PhD student in political science and a combat unionist involved in the environmental group La Planète s'invite au Parlement.

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