Roundtable

Contribution to GTI Roundtable Planetizing the Labor Movement
An exchange on the essay Workers of the World Unite (At Last)

Helen Beazley


I have read this wonderful piece about the possibilities of trade unionism after a week where I have been reminded that unionism, or, to be exact, a segment of the Australian union movement, is stymieing a key element of the great transition. Coal-rich Australia must move away from what has been one of our most lucrative exports, but union support for this transition is disappointing. In Australia, there is a massive groundswell of opposition to new coal mines, with much of the effort directed to stopping the opening up of a huge coal basin called the Galilee Basin in my home state of Queensland. The movement is known as “Stop Adani” as it is the India-based Adani Group that is behind the coal development. With great frustration, we find major unions failing to support a just transition away from coal and failing to champion justice for workers and communities who need government support and resources to move to a new economic base. Instead, rumor has it that one union is blackmailing the national Labor Party, threatening to campaign against them in the upcoming election if the party takes a position against the Galilee Basin project.

There are union activists in other areas that see the writing on the wall for coal and are helping workers start co-operatives in the green economy. Nevertheless, in Australia, a powerful part of the union movement lines up with climate-denying political and mining elite to delay one of the key areas of global transition we need, and who are misleading the workers that they represent into believing there is a future in coal. This is definitely not the whole story, but as part of the Stop Adani movement, I am a little despairing about union power. It is helpful, then, to be reminded that it is not the whole story and perhaps only a small part of a bigger, grander more hopeful story about the union movement.


Helen Beazley
Helen Beazley is a PhD student at the University of Queensland. Her research focuses on the contribution of community groups to a just, socio-ecological transition. She is a former board member of TEAR Australia, a medium-sized international development organization, and is an active member of the Waiters Union, a faith-based network in Brisbane committed to fostering a sense of local community, especially with the most marginalized residents.


Cite as Helen Beazley, contribution to GTI Roundtable "Planetizing the Labor Movement," Great Transition Initiative (April 2019), https://www.greattransition.org/roundtable/workers-world-helen-beazley.

As an initiative for collectively understanding and shaping the global future, GTI welcomes diverse ideas. Thus, the opinions expressed in our publications do not necessarily reflect the views of GTI or the Tellus Institute.


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