This article explores the challenges faced by working-class environmentalism through the case study of the industrial decline of Porto Marghera’s petrochemical complex, in Venice, Italy. It argues that there is a class dimension in environmentalist struggles in both workplaces and communities. Workplace-centred struggles are conflicts over the conditions under which workers produce commodities or reproduce labour-power, while community-centred struggles are conflicts over the conditions of workers’ own reproduction. The distinction between workplace-centred and community-centred struggles is based on three theoretical expansions: (1) a conception of working-class based on dispossession rather than exploitation; (2) a conception of work including both production and reproduction; (3) a conception of working-class interests encompassing both the workplace and the community. The article thus contributes to environmental labour studies with an original analysis of the interplay between workplace-centred and community-centred working-class environmentalist struggles. In Porto Marghera, in the 1990s and 2000s, the community-centred and workplace-centred working-class environmentalist camps diverged over chlorine-based production, with the former demanding a just transition away from chlorine and the latter a just transition within it. While the rival mobilisations limited damage to health and the environment on the one hand, and to chlorine workers’ livelihoods on the other hand, chlorine-based production was closed without full environmental remediation and without the relocation of all its workers to comparable jobs. The article concludes that the convergence between workplace and community organising is a critical step in the construction of alternatives to the jobs versus environment dilemma.
- Environmental Justice
- Environmental Labour Studies
- Petrochemical Industry
- Social Reproduction
- Working-Class Environmentalism