Contribution to a Roundtable: Planetizing the Labor Movement

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 a Roundtable: Planetizing the Labor Movement," Great Transition Initiative (April 2019),

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Planetizing the Labor Movement

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