This report challenges the idea that corporatism holds back environmental reforms and prevents workers from meaningfully participating in the decisionmaking process of a coal transition. Using two case studies, it highlights how militant unions with a tradition of neo-corporatism are best positioned to demand just transitions for their members. The author draws on existing literature to identify industrial militancy as: radical opposition to managerial prerogatives; deep advocacy for workers’ rights; a belief in industrial democracy and rank and file control over working conditions; along with support for collective action.
The author makes a case for industrial militancy by using the example of the German neo-corporatist approach of Ruhr and Saarland, a set of practices whereby governments, unions, and employers set the industrial policy together. Through this collaborative approach, the unions and workers’ militants achieved success on behalf of the coal miners. The author compares their success to the limited corporatism approach of the Appalachian coal unions and argues that the failure of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to achieve a just transition is due to a lack of democracy within the governing system and the absence of the union members’ militancy. The author suggests that the environmental and social achievement of the German coal unions stems from militant activism. A similar approach could benefit the UMWA in achieving a just transition for its miners and their communities. The author concludes that balancing the concerns of labor with the environment requires some degree of worker control over the industrial policy and disruptive militant activism.