Historical Union and Strike Wins

Minneapolis Janitors Win US’ “First Union Climate Strike”

Janitor Strike for wages and the climate

In 2020, a coalition of Minneapolis janitors working and youth and climate groups went on what Labor Notes calls “the First Union Climate Strike in the U.S”. They won not just increased wages and benefits, but funding for an initiative to reduce carbon emissions, waste, and toxic chemicals at buildings where they work, to be developed jointly with the janitors themselves.

Los Angeles Teachers Save Public Schools, Build Green Space

La teacher strike for wages and green space

United Teachers Los Angeles joined with parents and teachers, striking to fight off a privatization effort whose corporate-backing funded the most expensive Board of Ed Elections in US history. While media focused on wages, the union also won major demands like a green space program for students, an immigrant protection fund, and improved student:teacher ratios.

West Virginia Teachers Beat Privatization So Bad,

They Got Other Workers a Raise

West Virginia teachers not only prevented an all-out privatization effort, but defeated a Republican trifecta state to win 5% raises for every public employee in the state. While not as directly climate-related, this protected and improved low carbon education jobs, and preserved public school resources for students, both critical in a state whose environment was decimated by the coal industry, and whose economy was decimated by its decline.

Energy Workers Win Critical New Environmental Protections with

Strike Power

In 1970, Members of Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW), seeing the environmental damage up close, were a key force in pushing President Nixon to pass the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). In 1980, OCAW was also key in winning the federal Superfund law (which mandates corporations pay to clean up their own environmental contamination), and strengthening the law in 1986 with the “right-to-know” amendment, mandating companies disclose which toxic chemicals they use to communities. Pro-worker, pro-environment victories won under Nixon and Reagan.

The New Deal

The original New Deal was won in a climate where workers built enough power to shut down entire cities with general strikes for days or even months, as they did in San Francisco and Minneapolis. That’s the level of worker power it took to win programs like Social Security, the Works Progress Administration, the Rural Electrification Act, and change the economic and energy landscape of the country forever.