WFTU: Environmental crisis is a workers’ issue

The struggle for workers’ rights – fair wages, better working conditions and universal social security – cannot be separated from the struggle for a healthy planet. This was the message from the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) on June 5, the United Nations World Environment Day.

The WFTU, which represents more than 105 million workers in 133 countries, has a long history of fighting for social progress and better standards of life. This includes fighting for workers’ rights as well as against social injustice and war. Recognizing that this must include a world free from environmental devastation, the WFTU extends its fight to include the preservation of the environment.

“We are living in a time when our planet is facing unprecedented environmental challenges,” says the June 5 statement. “From climate change to deforestation, from air pollution to water scarcity, these environmental issues pose a significant threat to the livelihoods of workers around the world.”

The global labour body observes that 99 percent of children around the world are affected by at least one climate or environmental hazards including heatwaves, cyclones, riverine and coastal flooding, pollution, water scarcity and vector-borne diseases. According to UNICEF, hundreds of millions of children are affected by up to five consequences of the environmental crisis.

The International Labour Organization has stated that the poorest and least developed countries are more likely to face the worst effects of environmental devastation. The WFTU observes that this means that the countries least responsible for creating the problem – which is rooted in capitalist expansion – are the ones most affected. It also notes that this contradiction does not exist only between countries, but within them.

“Workers and the people objectively have no material incentive or interest in the infamous exploitation of nature and the deterioration of the social and working environment, [while] on the other hand, workers, peasants, and the people are the ones who are exposed and unprotected to the various negative consequences in the environment caused by the unregulated capitalist production. The common people of every country are the ones who are poisoned and die due to polluted air, buried in garbage, drowned in floods and hurricanes, burned in fires and heatwaves, faced with social exclusion, poverty, and miserable living and working conditions.

“The contradiction between the owners of the means of production and the workers, as well as the unregulated and uneven development of capitalism, especially monopoly capitalism, deepens all the timeless inequalities and contradictions, while new ones appear and swell. The unregulated capitalist economy, especially since the industrial revolution, has caused deterioration in the living and working environment of workers at all levels (labour, social, physical and technological). Most ecosystems have been overexploited and polluted, often irreversibly, due to the indiscriminate use of natural resources and the exploitation of labour power, with the main objective of profit and the main result being the accumulation of capital in the hands of the few.”

The WFTU insists that any and all measures to limit climate change within capitalism must be undertaken. But at the same time, the organization warns of the need to tackle the root problem of capitalism itself.

“The solution is not a new capitalist development on ‘green’ terms but the liberation from the voracious model of capitalist development and the building of a society free from the profit motive in the production and exploitation of people and nature.”

Support socialist media!

If you found this article useful, please consider donating to People’s Voice or purchasing a subscription so that you get every issue of Canada’s leading socialist publication delivered to your door or inbox!

For over 100 years, we have been 100% reader-supported, with no corporate or government funding.

Sign up for regular updates from People's Voice!

You will receive email notifications with our latest headlines.