Virtual Discussion: Workers and Communities in Transition (Just Transition Listening Project)
Mon, 05/02/2022 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm

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The Center for Global Work and Employment, the Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN), and the Center for Environmental Justice at Colorado State University hosted a discussion on the Just Transition Listening Project (JTLP)’s 2021 report Workers and Communities in Transition.

Authors and JTLP Organizing Committee members J. Mijin Cha (Occidental College), Vivian Price (California State University Dominguez Hills), Dimitris Stevis (Colorado State) and Todd E. Vachon (Rutgers) introduce the JTLP’s work and present the report’s main findings and the presentation is followed by an extended Q&A with the audience. 

The Workers and Communities in Transition report underscores a critical point in the shift to much needed climate policies: Workers and their communities must not be left behind in the transition to a green economy and in fact, their role in the process of developing a just transition is critical to making it work fairly.

The major findings of this report derive from more than 100 listening sessions, including qualitative interviews and focused discussion groups with workers and community members from across the United States conducted between May and October of 2020. Several themes emerged through these sessions, including a more complete picture of what transition entails, how coalitions come together, and what pathways to a just future exist. Among its main findings:

  • Transitions are inevitable and constantly happening across the economy. Past transitions, driven by market forces, corporate entities, and public policies left workers and communities largely behind with little to no support.
  • Workers and community members from all regions of the country are suffering from an historic decline and lack of access to opportunities. Many also face the threat of losing opportunities in the near future. The COVID-19 pandemic and persistent structural racism and wealth inequality have exacerbated these realities. People affected by past unjust transitions are reacting harshly to climate action and policy, creating tensions between labor, community and environmental movements that often erupt into open conflicts.
  • In the inevitable energy transition some, but not all, fossil-fuel workers will be employed in the renewable energy sector. Proactive policies should create a wide variety of high-quality jobs that can take advantage of these workers’ considerable skills.

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Meet the Speakers

Photo of J. Mini ChaJ. Mijin Cha is an assistant professor of Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental College. Dr. Cha is also a fellow at the Worker Institute, Cornell University. Her research includes labor/climate coalitions, climate justice, and just transitions.

Image of Vivian PriceVivian Price is Professor of Interdisciplinary and Labor Studies at California State University Dominguez Hills. She is a former factory and refinery worker and union electrician. Her published research centers on gender, race and labor in construction as well as labor and climate justice. She is also a filmmaker, most recently co-director of Harvest of Loneliness on the Bracero Program with Gilbert G. Gutierrez (


photo of Dimitris StevisDimitris Stevis is Professor of World Politics and Co-Director of the Center for Environmental Justice at Colorado State University. He has co-edited The Handbook of Environmental Labour Studies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) and Just Transitions: Social Justice in the Shift Towards a Low-Carbon World (Pluto Press, 2020) and has co-authored Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World (Just Transition Research Collaborative, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 2018).


Photo of Todd VachonTodd E. Vachon, PhD is Director of the Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN) at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations. Todd is a former union carpenter and United Auto Workers local president and currently serves as an officer for AFTNJ and as vice president of the Middlesex-Somerset Central Labor Council. His research on inequality, labor, and climate change has appeared in journals such as Socius, Social Science Research, Labor Studies Journal, Sociological ForumRSSM, and the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society.