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Standing up for workers in a climate of change

By Maureen Mariampillai, Communications Staff

Oct 11, 2023

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Climate change, extreme weather events, and rising costs of living are all connected. A Just Transition provides a solution that union members can fight for. 

It’s getting pretty scary out there. 

Extreme weather events such as heat waves, record-breaking wildfires, and prolonged hot and dry conditions are everyday occurrences now. That’s climate change. 

Like the rest of the world, Albertans are suffering the short and long-term impacts of climate change. Our health is at risk because of wildfire smoke, entire communities have faced evacuation orders, and even the food supply we grow here at home is under threat. 

Albertans are looking for solutions. We know we must tackle climate change, and that means taking charge and transforming our province’s energy sector. It’s a big job, but AUPE members are ready to do their part. 

AUPE Vice-President and Environmental Committee Chair Bonnie Gostola says the key to taking on climate change is to focus on creating new jobs for all of us, including those affected by the energy transition. That is why the term Just Transition was created by trade unions, to bridge the gap between labour and the environmental movement. 

"A Just Transition must include new jobs training, investments in human resources, and financial support—otherwise, we could risk becoming a ‘have not’ province.”
Bonnie Gostola 2023

Bonnie Gostola, Vice-President

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“Providing education and training opportunities for AUPE members is among our committee’s top priorities,” says Gostola. “It’s important to know what it could mean to transition away from fossil fuels and to be engaged in that process.” 

At AUPE Convention 2021, delegates showed immense support for the Environmental Committee’s three resolutions, which aimed to start a serious conversation about how organized labour can respond to the accelerating climate crisis. 

Adopting these resolutions at convention gives AUPE members the green-light to work together and force the government to transition in a way that supports workers. 

“We’re already falling behind, so we need to make sure we get this done right,” says Gostola. “That means making sure workers have input in shaping the path forward. A Just Transition must include new jobs training, investments in human resources, and financial support—otherwise, we could risk becoming a ‘have not’ province.” 

When oil and gas prices fell in 2015 and 2020, AUPE found that most families impacted by the downturn were kept afloat because their household had a second income from someone working in the public sector. 

“When we talk about Albertans’ livelihoods, there is no Just Transition without the support provided by the public sector,” says Gostola. “The problem the government doesn’t seem to get is that if one system goes, they all go.” 

AUPE’s Environmental Committee wants members to know there are things we can do right now to prevent Alberta from becoming a ‘have not’ province. Members can get involved in community initiatives, take political action like writing to your elected representatives, build solidarity with your coworkers, and utilize educational resources and tools to make your own climate change plan. 

The Environmental Committee is looking forward to providing a full report to the membership with more information at the 2023 AUPE Convention which will be held October 26 to 28, 2023, at the Expo Centre in Edmonton. 

For more information and resources, visit

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