Just Transition in the Construction Industry: A Union’s Campaign to Create Jobs by Promoting Climate Change Upgrades in Buildings
Examples of unions successfully implementing climate change initiatives to reduce energy use and GHG emissions while simultaneously expanding members’ jobs are not that common. This article documents one such initiative: an innovative energy audit program developed by a small construction union, Local Union 131 of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, whose members install mechanical insulation (MI) on furnaces, ductwork and pipes. Faced with the contraction, or closure, of the traditional heavy industries where its members worked - and in response to the failure of the insulation contractors employing its members to find new work in other sectors of the economy - the union decided to do this itself. It developed a free energy audit program to persuade building owners of the financial benefits, energy savings and GHG emission reductions from upgrading their insulation. These have lowered building operating costs while achieving climate benefits, healthier indoor air quality, improved temperature control, better moisture management and improved student, faculty and staff comfort. In finding new work for its members using a strategy outside the bargaining table, the union has implemented a just transition program which it plans to expand to hospitals, government buildings, offices and manufacturing facilities. In the process it has raised the profile and reputation of the union in the industry while promoting awareness among members and the wider public of how its work addresses climate change.
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