Climate striker: we need support from unions to build the movement’s power

Sydney School Strike 4 Climate activist Aisheeya Huq spoke to a meeting of National Tertiary Education Union members last week. We reprint part of her speech below:

The youth haven’t just realised the implications of climate change, we have taken it upon ourselves to alert the rest of the country. To make you all panic.

Through countless media opportunities and press conferences, through passion and protest, through the sheer numbers that we have accumulated for this cause—we have and are trying our very best as young people.

However; what I & others within the strike movement have realised, is that we cannot do this alone.

And us school strikers know that one of the groups we need to work with, are unions. We have a lot in common.

People like you and I can relate to each other. It’s not just because I live in Western Sydney—it’s the pattern of striking! 20,000 students and I have learnt that we sometimes need to strike in order to create social change!

But also, we relate as we both need to organise power. That we don’t have enough of. You talk about organising, about how you don’t have deep enough power in your workplaces.

I know this—we, too, do not have deep enough power in our schools.

To stop climate change, we need power everywhere. Because everyone here and around the country is going to be affected.

I know you have grappled with this issue. But some of you probably put it on the backburner. Saying, like I would have last year, “It’s important, sure, but not as important as other stuff.” In your case—other union stuff.

I am here to say—is that what you are going to say to your kids? If you don’t act, what world will they inherit? I am that kid. I am asking you; please don’t say that to me.

You are organising. But it’s always the question of what are you organising for? Is it just workplace power, or something bigger? Not just changing the rules for people at work, but for people’s working lives.

Like Jack Mundey, the famous unionist, once said: “What is the good of winning high wages and better conditions if we live in cities devoid of parks, denuded of trees?!”

The same is true today—quality of life isn’t just about good wages, it’s about not frying the planet.

And we fight the same enemies in doing so—we fight the profit motive, the large businesses—the ones that would prefer to lavish themselves with money rather than help working people.

Look, the solution to climate change—it isn’t singular and it most definitely is not simple. But I hope that as the NTEU, you will dedicate as much as you can to the School Strike 4 Climate Action movement.

Because it’s a movement not just for students, but for all Australians. Thanks.

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