On her way from Canada to Zagreb, the 2019 Junior Research Fellow, Clara Lea Dallaire-Fortier, participated in the Global Labor University Conference. The conference consists of the annual event celebrating the Global Labor University, a network formed by universities, trade unions, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the ILO. It delivers master training programs to trade unionists and labor activists.
This year, the conference focused on 5 different tracks to explore contemporary labour issues:
1) Instruments for Strengthening Global Labour
2) Representation of Informally or Precariously Employed Workers
3) Trade and Investment Regimes/Decent Work in Agriculture/Social Reproduction
4) Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Value Chains
5) Just Transition
In the Just Transition track, Clara presented her master dissertation and participated in discussions. Her presentation focused on the perspective of the layoff of coal workers in Appalachia, United States. Appalachia is currently experiencing deindustrialization and this reality provides elements of discussion on how the economic structure of some regions makes local population vulnerable to both the fluctuations in staple-dependant economies and to the energy transition. The results are derived from fieldwork interviews of laid off coal workers, their spouses and other local actors and from empirical analysis.
Her presentation was part of a session on land and labour conflicts. With two additional presentations, the session provided a diversity of perspectives on transition processes. One presenter discussed the landless workers movement in Brazil through an historical perspective. The movement achieved a large scale education program, which empowers rural communities. This presenter explored the movement’s position in the capitalist agricultural system. A team of two researchers then presented an initiative stemming from a large network of unions and environmental activists. The initiative advocates for alternative production of palm oil through small scale productions inspired by permaculture. Discussions after the panel underlined the need to thing about the synergies that exist between initiatives.
This brief overview gives an impression of the diversity of perspectives and richness of the discussion in the conference. One strength of the Global Labor University Conference is the presence of activists, trade unionists and researchers – some participants wearing all hats – that allows thinking about contemporary labour issues in a more holistic way and properly designing research action.