The Environment

Statement of Principles: Environment


Only One Earth

Our planet faces an environmental crisis of major proportions, one which could challenge our very survival. Unions around the world are striving to address this crisis, while protecting the welfare of working men and women. The CAW is also committed to this task.

In 1987, a highly-publicized United Nations environmental report painted a picture of worldwide degradation. The 'Brundtland Report' sent out an alarm for aggressive, coordinated action to begin a recovery, and introduced the idea of 'sustainable development'. The report challenges working people to reject the corporate choice between jobs and the environment. Workers must have the right to choose both economic security and a healthy environment for ourselves, our families and future generations. To do this, we demand input into setting priorities, determining the degree of regulation over private industry, and deciding who pays for clean up and lifestyle changes.

This is our world - our only home. From space we have seen how fragile our existence really is. Our earth is like a living organism with a failing respiratory system, poisoned bodily fluids and cancerous skin. For greed and profits our world has been sickened and hurt like the bodies of so many workers. We extend the struggle for health and safety outside our workplace - we fight as CAW members for the health and safety of our world.

Our Union's Special Role

Corporate priorities are responsible for the degradation of our environment. The CAW, as a major industrial and transportation union, needs to be heard on the environment. As a social union, we are committed to finding just solutions. Emissions of noxious pollutants from cars and trucks - hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide - have helped to create unhealthy cities, acid rain, the greenhouse effect and the depletion of the ozone layer. The CAW is committed to helping develop transportation policies that are environmentally sound, yet will not lead to the destruction of the transportation industry. We support high emission control standards to limit pollutants emitted by automobiles. By taking a stand for a cleaner environment through tougher controls on our employers, we reject the blackmail of choosing job security over the environment.

The Right to Refuse to Pollute

Workers' health is not for sale nor is the health of our world and our children's world. Our fight for a healthy and safe environment is an extension of our long-standing struggle for a safe and healthy workplace. CAW health and safety and environmental committees know that hazards are not confined to the workplace. The chemicals in our water supply and high rates of cancer and birth defects near some industrial sites, are examples of the clear links between the environment in the workplace and the outside community. CAW health and safety and environmental committees will mount a 'greenwatch' to ensure that the environment outside their workplace is not damaged. As workers we need to have the right to refuse to pollute! The CAW will fight for 'whistle blower' legislation to protect employees who report the crimes of their employers.

Working with Allies

We will continue and extend our work with local environmental activists and organizations. Most green activists understand that workers cannot be expected to pay the penalty, through the loss of their jobs, for decades of corporate environmental neglect.

Local union environmental committees and health and safety representatives are the CAW emissaries to the green community, province and country. Our union will continue to provide our voice for change within the house of labour provincially and federally.


The corporate community and their government friends have been fast to capitalize on sincere public concern over the environment. The focus of blame quickly shifted to the responsibility of the individual citizen. While 'blue box' solutions can play a role, the real issue is to get to the source of the problem and work towards a global approach to environmental cleanup. Formation of committees at the local level, the development of CAW environmental materials, and the utilization of our CAW Education programs and conferences will all promote worker awareness. Just as health and safety activists have gained the necessary skills and expertise to combat hazards in the workplace, so too worker environmental activists can become leaders in salvaging and restoring our community and world environments.

For CAW members, the battle for a healthier environment is being fought on many fronts; in the workplace, at the bargaining table, in the community and through political activism. The interests of the union and the environmental movements largely coincide and we must work together at each stage on the four R's of the future: Reduce, Reuse, Recover, Recycle


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