The climate emergency rally outside the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly building on Friday, September 24 was a public display of solidarity among diverse groups for climate justice and social justice.
Among the many speakers at the rally were labour leaders: New Brunswick Federation of Labour president Daniel Légère, Steve Drost, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) New Brunswick, and Canadian Union of Postal Workers member George Nickerson. They and other speakers called for a just transition for workers affected by the climate crisis.
CUPE, the largest public sector union in the province, will need solidarity from all social justice groups if it goes ahead with province-wide strike action.
The union is currently tallying strike votes from one of its largest locals, CUPE 1252, representing close to 11,000 healthcare workers. To date, seven other CUPE locals have voted overwhelmingly for strike action. The final two CUPE locals in a strike position will be voting soon. When all the votes are in, close to 22,000 workers in New Brunswick could be in a legal strike position in October.
The Higgs austerity government and its Brunswick News collaborator are trying their best to sway public opinion against CUPE and demands for fair wages. In recent weeks the Telegraph-Journal has published numerous editorials criticizing CUPE and Higgs government used public funds to pay for ads in the papers attempting to discredit the union.
The rally organizers made the link between climate change and austerity politics.
Addressing the crowd, organizer Tracy Glynn from the NB Media Co-op said that climate justice goes beyond advocating for renewable energy, although that is also necessary. The organizers recognized that injustice is linked to social, economic, and political systems and that human-caused climate change has its roots in capitalism, colonialism, the patriarchy and other systems of oppression.
The rally was supported by Extinction Rebellion New Brunswick, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Fredericton/Oromocto Local 54, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Council of Canadians Fredericton Chapter, Council of Canadians Saint John Chapter, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB), Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Fredericton Club of the Communist Party of Canada, Leap4wards Saint John, New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA), New Brunswick Federation of Labour, NB Media Co-op, No One Is Illegal Fredericton, RAVEN, Reproductive Justice NB and Solidarité Fredericton.
The organizers dedicated Friday’s rally to Roger LeBlanc, a miner from Eel River Bar who died on September 16. In the last years of his life, he fought for workplace compensation for lead poisoning and illnesses he was suffering. Unfortunately, our government and the powers that be were not on his side but he did receive the support of people like David Coon and Inka Milewski. He will remain an important part of the struggle for worker rights, health and safety, and someone we should remember when we talk about just energy transitions. Sympathies to his wife Yvette and his children and grandchildren.
Susan O’Donnell writes for the NB Media Co-op.