Empowering labour for environmental activism

Empowering labour for environmental activism
Unionisation across industries from the building supply chain and structural power shifts as a climate action.

NAA! (Netherlands Angry Architects)
Rotterdam, Netherlands
NAA! (Netherlands Angry Architects) wants to improve working conditions and empower workers in the architectural and design sectors.
Team members
Charlie Clemoes
Hazal Gumrukcuoglu
Anna Mańka
Field of work
Architecture, Communication, Research
Project category
Raising awareness
Project submitted

As a collective of architectural workers situated in the Netherlands, our objective is to improve working conditions in the architecture and design sectors.
We do this by highlighting the precarious nature of labour within the architecture sector, especially concerning workers who are just beginning their careers and immigrants and Dutch people with an immigrant background. Many of these individuals face unstable employment conditions, short-term contracts, low wages, and limited access to benefits.
We focus our work on sharing knowledge with the workers about their rights, helping to navigate within complex working conditions. Our educational approach (digital and live) aims to ensure that every worker possesses the necessary knowledge and tools to impact their work environment and safeguard their rights.
The climate crisis poses a complex set of problems for the architecture industry. The demand for innovative and sustainable design solutions that factor in upcoming resource shortages invests the architecture and design sector with a new relevance and urgency. Moreover, the sector’s historically subordinate relationship to the construction, insurance, finance and real estate sectors ensures that even its leaders have little genuine sway over the climate crisis: they may be able to lend a greenwash to a new development and perhaps even pull off a high-performing carbon neutral building, but they rarely control the materials used to make buildings and have no influence over the supply chains and workers that delivered these materials.
The phenomenon of climate migration adds another layer of complexity to the labour landscape, increasing the likelihood of architecture being called upon to develop the carceral system and make slum-housing more tolerable, while the architectural workers coming from migration backgrounds facing a great risk of exploitation in the workplace, unsafe working conditions, discrimination, and wage theft, to name a few.

We want to address climate change from the labour perspective and provide knowledge to individuals contributing to the built environment. We believe that organising is the way to give the vast swathes of well-meaning and idealistic architectural workers power to initiate changes that they know need to happen as a result of their experience in education and their intimate everyday encounters with the current broken building industry.
Efforts aimed at preventing climate change focus solely on material use but lack attention to the labour sector, including working conditions and environmental responsibility.
We aim to form connections between different industry sectors as a tool for addressing climate change. We believe that the power to effect change should not only reside with the “captains of industry” but rather that every worker should have a platform to express their environmental concerns and influence decisions.
The project creates an international dialogue with representatives of all industries involved in the built supply chain. We want to expand our current work beyond the design phase, utilising the tools we have previously operated with.
To achieve this, we aim to identify and map supply chain stakeholders. We want to host a dialogue between different organisations (such as Building and Woodworkers International, UNITE UK; FNV and more) ensure the involvement of all parties, foster collaboration for collective action, develop strategies for worker advocacy, raise awareness of socio-economic impacts, and establish communication channels. We want to facilitate resource sharing between these organisations and host a public reading group to collectively engage with resources gathered.
Expected outcomes of the project include increased awareness and empowerment, strengthened collaboration, and long-term networks for collective action. We believe it is the duty and responsibility of all contributors to the built environment to respond to the climate crisis.