Published: 14/05/2019

The role and responsibility of unions in agriculture, meat and dairy faced with global warming was the issue confronting participants from 18 countries in an IUF climate change workshop hosted by the North American UFCW in Omaha, Nebraska May 6-7. These industries are among the key drivers of climate change, and workers face major challenges to the foundations of production and to the future of employment.

Participants recognized that significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are needed to secure sustainable jobs in agriculture, meat and dairy production, and that unions must begin organizing to shape a transition to sustainable production which secures rights, livelihoods and sustainable communities. The focus of the workshop was on the contribution of intensive livestock production to climate change. Agriculture contributes up to 40% of all emissions and meat and dairy are the principle drivers within agriculture.

Intensive monoculture, subsidized overproduction, reliance on oil-based fertilizers and hazardous pesticides, and trade and investment deals which serve the interests of corporate agribusiness are the foundations of a system that deprives agricultural workers of their basic rights and consigns millions to poverty.  But this socially and environmentally destructive system delivers jobs to union members in meat and dairy processing.

Workshop participants agreed that negotiating for new jobs and changing methods of production is needed to secure the rights and interests of meat and dairy workers in the future. This requires the development of education and communication resources for affiliates and their members and collective bargaining demands for a fair transition to climate friendly jobs.

An IUF climate policy will be integrated with ongoing work on defending democracy, the right to food and fundamental rights at work. The IUF will identify allies in the fight for climate-friendly production and will strive to work with the growing movement of young people who are demanding a just and sustainable world.

Further work in other IUF sectors is planned with the objective of achieving a consistent and coherent climate policy and program.