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Lean, green, letter carrying machine (or why the Canada Post lockout is the real frontline of the fight for Green Jobs)

We have written it on placards and we’ve chanted it in the streets.

It’s time for Green Jobs now!

But what is a green job? And what does it mean to fight for them?

As I write this, postal workers across Canada are being threatened with back to work legislation after being locked out by Canada Post. After a rolling strike began in early June, following eight months of negotiations. This heavy-handed attack on the rights of workers is more than just a warning shot by the Canadian government across the bow of organized labour, and the actions of our sisters and brothers in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) are more than just a strike. This is the frontline of the fight for Green Jobs in Canada.

When we ask people to tell us what a green job looks like, we often hear about building windmills, installing solar panels and re-powering our fossil fuel addicted energy grid. Of course this is true, a shift to a just and sustainable economy means re-tooling how our energy is made and consumed, but a green job is not simply a carbon neutral source of income. Equally, if not more importantly, a green job represents a shift to a new idea about employment, a new economy where work is meaningful and just, and where people are not simply making ends meet, but able to enrich our families and our communities. The future we are fighting for is not simple clean and green, it is also just, and that means respecting and defending the rights of all people -- including workers.

So what does any of this have to do with postal workers?

For more than 50 years CUPW has fought not only for the rights of postal workers, but for the rights of all people in Canada. In 1981 they were the first union to win paid maternity leave, setting the standard for employers across the country. They won this through a 42 day strike, putting themselves on the frontline for all of us, just as they are today.

Despite attacks from their detractors spreading disinformation, Canada Post remains a profitable enterprise. During the recession of 2008-2009, they turned a profit of 281 million dollars, money that seems to be going towards steps in the wrong direction for both the rights of workers and our environment. Instead of investing in their labour force,  Canada Post is taking steps to add more vehicles to their fleet and buying new machines to mechanize their operations.

All this is to say one thing. To every member of CUPW standing on the line today and for however long this fight lasts, thank you for showing us what the fight for Green Jobs looks like. And to everyone out there fighting for a cleaner, greener world, support your postie, because last time I checked, pounding the pavement to deliver our mail is about as carbon neutral as it gets.

Cameron Fenton is the National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition an active member of Climate Action Network Canada.

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