This article was first published on Bright Green. It was written by Paul Valentine, a non-portfolio officer of the Green Party Trade Union Group.
Trade unions, Green Party. Green Party, Trade unions. Four words I have batted around between Green and union activists alike. I have often observed an uncomfortable relationship between the two groups in the past. Green activists cite big unions with ‘too much power’ or workers who ‘are working in polluting industries – how can we defend that?’. Union activists trade similar comments in the opposite direction. ‘The Greens, they care about the planet but not about me’, ‘I’d love to care about the planet, but I’ve got food to put on the table’.
However, the tides are turning, and increasingly the Green movement and the trade union movement are realising how mutually beneficial they are to each other, and how they complement each other in reaching shared goals. At Green Party of England and Wales Spring Conference, I was pleased to throw my name behind ‘Winning Over Workers Is Critical To Climate Change’ – a motion that seeks to continue to build links between unions and the Green Party as a whole.
Again, I appreciate how Greens often feel uncomfortable with this link-up. “The Unions are all Labour aren’t they?” comes the cry. I gently remind them that a great many unions aren’t affiliated to the Labour Party and even if they are, it is only a small percentage of their money that goes into their political funds, and individual members can opt out. My own; Equity (who are non-party political), a union of more than 47,000 performers and creative practitioners, have recently launched ‘Equity for a Green New Deal’. We are not the only ones, and with a quick scan on Twitter, you will find Green interest in virtually every union, from GMB through to PCS. Workers are interested in saving the planet. Yes, they’ve got to put food on the table, but that is why we collectively organise, to achieve shared goals, and to not overburden the individual.
The Green Party Spring Conference of 2021 overwhelmingly backed the motion for winning over workers. Green Party members are ever more understanding of the need to engage workers in the struggle to save our planet. The motion calls on the party to ensure that workers and a just transition are centre stage in our policy formation and tackles one point central to achieving this; the role of the Green Party trade union liaison officer and the Green Party Trade Union Group.
It will be no secret to Green Party members that a review of the holistic variety with the means to change how the party runs has been working its way slowly but steadily through all the pipes and cogs of the party. If the Greens are to be taken seriously, we must be seen at the forefront of protecting workers rights. We achieve this by having a representative at the highest-level championing workers. The trade union liaison officer and the Green Party Trade Union Group provide that link up and are integral to being the vital bridge between unions and the party going forward.
Now is the time to join a Trade Union in your workplace. Visit the TUC website to find out which one might represent you. If you’re a member of the Green Party, join the Green Party Trade Union Group.