The Just Transition Alliance
The Just Transition Alliance (JTA) embodies a process in which people of color, indigenous peoples, workers, and unions in polluting industries in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. work together to address environmental and economic justice issues. This alliance seeks to develop a process for the just transition of workers families and communities from an unsafe workplace and environment to healthy, viable communities with a sustainable economy. All groups involved in this initiative have signed on to a Statement of Cooperation agreeing to discuss our differences and seek common approaches.
Through educational workshops, mutual support, joint fundraising, local organizing partnerships, and policy development, JTA partners work together to prevent, stop, or reduce human and environmental exposure to toxins and to ensure sustainable livelihoods (economic security) for communities and workers.*
What does Just Transition mean?
Just Transition is both (1) the development and implementation of policy and (2) a process of public and worker participation for challenging globalization.
Many have suggested that our polluting and resource-depleting way of life cannot be sustained. But workers still need jobs and careers that their families and communities can rely on. “Just Transition” is a means for achieving sustainability. Sustainability integrates three components: social sustainability, economic sustainability, and environmental sustainability. We know that the social component is crucial. Solutions to environmental problems that involve plant closures, layoffs, and social devastation of communities force those with the fewest resources to bear the brunt of changes to protect the environment that benefit all in society. This is fundamentally unfair.
We need a JUST TRANSITION to sustainable development. Specifically, Just Transition addresses the economic and health needs of people working in and living near the current or potential site of toxic-related industries. Equity and global consciousness are essential factors in Just Transition practices.
Just Transition policy is concerned with preserving and expanding the community assets of jobs, income, and tax base presently being provided by those toxic-related facilities undergoing transformation. Unionization, job security, worker benefits, seniority, safety, living wage, affirmative action, training and education, and job equity are central features of a Just Transition policy.
Just Transition policy is equally concerned with improving the health and safety of people exposed to the toxins produced by industry. Just Transition policies seek to protect human and environmental health by eliminating, substituting, or reducing the chemicals used in production, changing to safer methods of production, and improving the systems of safety inside and outside of production facilities.
In instances when the only way to protect health is to eliminate the production of toxins altogether, the first concern is with guaranteeing the income of workers, offering them jobs with equivalent pay and equivalent career prospects, and creating alternative and sustainable economic development for the surrounding community.
A Just Transition must take into account the needs and wants of the affected workers, their families, and their communities. A Just Transition would go far beyond traditional, and inadequate, retraining and subsistence-level income support schemes. Choices that would in the past not be supported must be allowed in order to deal with the massive restructuring that at least some environmental issues imply. Creative means of supporting workers, families, communities, and their organizations must be found, or resistance will be our only option.
A Just Transition process insists on the democratic participation of all affected parties in decision making about economic, health, and safety concerns. Workers (both organized and unorganized) and community residents — regardless of race, gender, language, income, nationality/ sovereignty, and age — are welcome and active participants in determining what makes the most economic sense for themselves.
The Just Transition Alliance is a tri-national partnership (Mexico, U.S., and Canada) of mutual cooperation. The process also aims for local action with global strategies rather than narrow, localized solutions to the problems. The goal is to create alternatives to the neo-liberal version of globalization.
In local instances where a hazardous industrial event harms workers or a community, Just Transition embraces a process whereby both workers and community residents are involved — with the company — in investigating the event and in finding solutions. Similarly, the principles of Just Transition can be applied to production changes, staffing shifts, health and safety protections, and other policies such as plant closings, through like programs.
At the tri-national level, the Just Transition partners seek commonality across national and sovereign political borders, since global capital and its pollutants know no borders. In particular, Just Transition recognizes and supports the inherent sovereignty of all the Indigenous and Native peoples of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.
Just Transition is continually evolving and growing out of this collective dialogue and joint work.
For More Information:
Jenice View, Acting Executive Director
José Bravo, Field Coordinator
* Current partners are: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Canadian Communication, Energy, and Paperworkers (CEP), Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Labor Institute (LI), Paperworkers, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE), and Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ).