Labour leader to urge students to combat climate change in the workplace

He has been an organic farmer, postal worker and union leader, and was named Labour Environmentalist of the Year. Before the Canadian unions became leaders in the struggle to slow climate change, Donald Lafleur, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress, was training unionists about climate bargaining and green plans, and working with postal sorting stations, factories and offices to adapt the way they work in order to slow the climate warming that is threatening life as we know it.

Donald Lafleur

Lafleur’s linking of work with climate change is opening a whole new path of study and research. He will speak to students enrolled in Social Sciences 1510, “The Future of Work,” taught by David Langille on Friday, March 15 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., in Room 102 Accolade East Building, (Price Family Theatre) at the Keele Campus. The lecture is open to the public.

In 2014, Lafleur was elected executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress and re-elected in 2017 — Canada’s central union federation with more than three million members.  Since being elected he has taken the climate message everywhere: to the massive climate marches in New York City; the COPs of the Paris Agreement that take place every year; to children’s’ climate activist marches, union halls and workplaces; and to York University. His message – climate change will be the most important force changing the world of work that students will encounter, but the threat of climate change is also creating a whole new world of jobs and ways of working. Students can take a leading role in adapting work itself to slow the causes of climate change.

While many universities are just beginning to take the threat of climate change to how we work seriously, Lafleur has been working with York University faculty and students since 2012. When he talks to the students enrolled in the Future of Work course, the first course in the Work and Labour Studies program, he will be stressing that students hold the future in their hands, and that there will be literally millions of new and established jobs worldwide that will focus on a “green transition” that will make us work differently.

Lafleur has also been closely involved with the Work in a Warming World (W3) research program. He is the associate director of W3’s present project, “Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change,” a $2.5 million-dollar, seven-year research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and headed by York University Professor Carla Lipsig-Mumme. The research project has twice been profiled by the United Nations and has employed more than 100 students, most of whom, but not all, at York University.