Call for papers: Climate change and union activism

It is with great pleasure that the Research Committee of the Labour Movement Archive and Library wishes to announce a conference on trade unionism and climate change. The conference will take place on 10-11 February 2011 in Stockholm.

The proposed conference has two aims:

  1. to explore union responses to the issue of climate change from a historical perspective, and
  2. to help promote a broader discussion of climate change within the trade union movement.

The conference is intended to bring together union activists and researchers, in the hope that this will inspire future research while also addressing a topic of great relevance for the trade union movement.

The issue of climate change has become very prominent in public debates during recent years, and has also begun to be discussed within the trade union movement. This debate may be seen partly as a continuation of earlier debates about climate and environmentalism in the 1970s. These were however mostly concerned with nuclear production, and the possibilities for developing less environmentally harmful forms of production. Questions about the working environment also began to be understood in the broader context of general environmental issues. Within the trade union movement this took the form of a debate about responsibility for the wider environment beyond the factory gates.

Few people now doubt the reality of climate change, which has become a very prominent political issue both nationally and internationally. Seen in a global perspective, climate change is already causing some acute problems. It is also widely accepted that tackling the consequences of climate change will require the adoption of some radical and far-reaching reforms in the future. For the trade union movement this implies both a reconsideration of older questions as well as the acknowledgement of new ones. Unions concerned with the water and energy sector, transport and the food supply have already begun to develop strategies in response to the dilemma of how best to protect the interests of workers while at the same time responding to the threat of climate change. Concrete examples include the development of global industrial production processes based on environmentally-harmful global transport systems, or public purchasing systems which overlook local systems of production in favour of reliance on national and international chains of supply. In other words, the debate about climate raises the question of the public responsibilities of unions, and discussions about how these responsibilities should be assumed. Researchers have not yet tackled these questions in any depth.

Papers which seek to present an analysis of the following issues are welcome:

  • Trade union reactions/responses to the threat of climate change; attempts to define climate change as a union matter.
  • Union strategies to tackle the threat of climate change
  • Co-operation and conflict between unions and other social movements over environmental issues
  • Climate change and international trade union solidarity
  • Possibilities for the trade union movement to take the initiative in promoting necessary political, economic and social reforms

Abstracts should be no longer than 400 words and sent no later than 15 May 2010 to:

  • silke.neunsinger (at)

Authors will be informed whether their paper has been accepted no later than the end of June. Proposals for full panels including chair and commentator are welcome, as are individual papers. We would also very much like to hear from researchers working in this field who know already at this stage that they will not be able to attend the conference. Final drafts of conference papers are due by 30 November 2010. The conference language is English.

If you have further questions, comments or ideas, please contact:

  • Silke Neunsinger, silke.neunsinger (at)
  • Lars Ekdahl, lars.ekdahl (at)