A tribute to all frontline and environmental workers

May 1, 2020

The Earth Island Institute Philippines pays the highest tribute to all working-class people this International Workers Day especially those in the frontline battle against the COVID19 Pandemic, for their unwavering contribution and sacrifices for the development of our society, saying that professionals and blue-collared organized workers have a long tradition of struggling not just for a better working environment but also for environmental protection and other occupational health and safety.

“We pay the highest tribute and salutations to all Frontline workers who are undaunted in taking the risk amidst this pandemic. From the scientific community, professional health care workers, allied services in the hospitals taking care of our sick people, to the hardworking garbage collectors in the streets that are continuously working to assure us of a clean and safe environment. We likewise salute our environmental stewards, the peasants and farm workers and fisher folks that ensure our food supply, the forest rangers and the bantay dagat volunteer personnel, who are tirelessly doing their job despite their meager salaries and benefits, keeping our environment protected during this time of the Pandemic”. Earth Island Institute Philippines Campaign Officer Mark Louie Aquino said in a press statement.

According to a research paper entitled ‘Labor Unions’ Role for Environmental Protection-by Exerting Efforts for Training, Education and Awareness of Workers about Environment’. Many Unions around the world are now taking necessary actions in addressing Climate Change. In 1948, the United Steel Workers (USW) led its own investigation after a “Killer Smog” incident hit Donora, Pennsylvania that killed 20 people, including USW members. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association’ (OECTA) has done much to promote environmental education in schools, with waste reduction projects, ecological education, and “walking school buses”. Swedish union TCO initiated “6E” label, which is applied to equipment assessed for Ergonomics, Ecology, Emissions, Efficiency, Economy, and Energy. The union negotiates with employers to buy only that equipment which meets the union standards and label. ‘Education International’ (EI) and its affiliates insist that climate change is, indeed, a union issue. Education unions are beginning to engage in collective bargaining for measures to reduce the carbon footprint of their schools, colleges and universities.

Aside from the struggle for just compensation and benefits, the Organized Labor worldwide is now widening its key role beyond bargaining negotiations by being at the forefront of health and safety, and environmental protection. As the world is facing climate crisis, the young generation of unionized workers are very articulate and now engage in environmental affairs such as anti-pollution campaigns, anti-mining campaigns, sustainable energy source, reducing carbon emissions, waste management, disaster resiliency, food sufficiency, and sustainability and better occupational health safety campaigns.

“We honor those Unions who are very steadfast in environmental protection advocacies and we stand alongside them to hold to account the companies that perpetuate grave environmental and trade union rights violations like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated and Colgate-Palmolive. These companies continue to produce single used plastics that are harming our environment and creating a severe social cost to the lives of the working people around the world. We call on the workers of these companies to stand up for the better working environment and as well as to formulate Union’s environmental action plan towards attaining Social and Environmental Justice,” Aquino ended.

Statement by the Earth Island Institute Philippines