Our History

The Global Trade Union Roundtable on Energy and Climate

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (“TUED”) emerged from a three-day Global Trade Union Roundtable, held on October 10-12, 2012, under the title, Energy Emergency, Energy Transition. The Roundtable met at the headquarters of the New York City District Council of Carpenters. Seventy trade unionists and policy experts from 19 countries took part.

Roundtable attendees acknowledged that “business-as-usual” is no longer an option, and that the energy and climate emergency is marked by the unimpeded use of fossil fuels that is leading to ‘carbon-lock in’ and out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. At the same time, the group recognized the growing power and political influence of oil, coal and gas companies, and the inadequacy of present market-based approaches to energy transition.

The Roundtable also acknowledged that governments have failed to negotiate a global climate agreement under the UNFCCC and the Rio+20 talks in 2012 concluded with no firm commitments. Meanwhile, The World Bank continues to promote fossil fuels and push for more privatization and liberalization. These policies make matters worse for workers, consumers, and the environment.

A discussion document Resist, Reclaim, Restructure: Trade Unions and the Struggle for Energy Democracy  was prepared for the Roundtable. The document explained both the nature and extent of the ‘energy emergency’ and articulated the need for democratic direction and control of energy.

Leading climate and energy scientists Dr. James Hansen, from NASA’s Goddard Institute, and Dr. Robert W. Howarth, from Cornell University, addressed the roundtable as well. Dr. Hansen’s presentation is here.

Building the TUED community

Following the roundtable, unions were invited to join TUED and designate a representative to serve on a Global Advisory Group. You can find the current list of participating unions and allies here.

On May 1, 2013, TUED’s first electronic bulletin was sent out to 750 union leaders and staff spanning the global trade union movement. Today, the bulletin reaches several thousand subscribers around the world. The bulletin provides news and analysis pertaining to energy, as well as reports on trade union and social movement struggles from around the world. The bulletins are archived here.

The 2012 roundtable was convened by the Global Labor Institute (GLI), a program of The Worker Institute at Cornell University, and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—NYC.  In February 2015, GLI changed its name to the International Program for Labor, Climate & Environment (IPLCE), and moved to what is now the CUNY School for Labor and Urban Studies (at the time, the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies), which is part of the City University of New York. IPCLE and TUED are also affiliated to the Global Labour Institute Network.