Welcome to the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus

"Judi Bari did something that I believe is unparalleled in the history of the environmental movement. She is an Earth First! activist who took it upon herself to organize Georgia Pacific sawmill workers into the IWW…Well guess what friends, environmentalists and rank and file timber workers becoming allies is the most dangerous thing in the world to the timber industry!"

--Darryl Cherney, June 20, 1990.

Railroad Workers United statement on The Wreck of #AMTRAK188

By Ron Kaminkow - Railroad Workers United, May 19, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

It has been a week now since Amtrak Train #188 derailed at speed east of Philadelphia, PA. The last week has witnessed endless speculation as the official investigation into the cause of the derailment continues apace. Those of us in the rail industry anxiously await the findings. Meantime, regardless of what the NTSB, the FBI and other agencies discover and conclude about the tragic wreck, there are a number of facts that are worth considering.

 

1. It is roundly agreed by railroad executives, union officials and industry insiders that had Positive Train Control (PTC) been in place and in effect on this section of track, the wreck would most likely not have been possible. PTC would have resulted in a train brake application in order to slow the train, recognizing that its speed was excessive and therefore unable to negotiate the tight curve ahead. PTC has been mandated by Congress, but its complete implementation has been delayed on the Northeast Corridor and elsewhere for a myriad of reasons. In Amtrak’s case, one of these reasons is a lack of adequate funding from Congress.

 

2. Amtrak has been underfunded for decades and forced to scrape by, cutting corners and deferring maintenance, even under the microscope by a budget cutting Congress more concerned with ideological purity and political expediency than with safety and security. On the busy Northeast Corridor where the recent wreck took place, Amtrak faces a backlog of drastically needed repairs to bridges and tunnels, obsolete rail interlockings, and trains that rely at times on 1930s-era components. Repairs for the Northeast Corridor are estimated at 4.3 billion over the next 45 years, while federal funding is expected to dwindle to $872 million.

 

3. As a result of this constant pressure to reduce costs, on March 23rd, 2015, just six weeks prior to the wreck, Amtrak had unilaterally implemented a new scheduling arrangement for Corridor (NEC) train and engine crews over the vehement objections of its operating craft unions. the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) and the United Transportation Union (UTU, now known as SMART-TD). The new schedule arrangements. designed to save the company $3 million by reducing scheduled layovers -- were condemned by both unions as a disaster in the making. Amtrak overturned a tried and true couplet system (trains paired out and back) for working crews in the NEC that had been in effect, with little modification, for decades. Prior to March 23, couplets adhered to the 90-minute layover minimum and took into account other factors including difficulty of the train in question, duration of trip, number and location of stops, timeliness etc. Now, not only has the 90-minute layover been scrapped, but crews have no guarantee of any break whatsoever!  In addition, the new arrangement allows for a different on-duty time each day of the work week, and these start times are no longer restricted to within a few hours of one another -- they can be any time of the day!

 

4. Simple technology has existed for nearly a century now that can aid and assist in preventing accidents such as this one. As with the wreck at Spuyten-Duyvil, NY on the Metro North railroad on December 1st, 2013, a simple transponder could have easily been located west of the curve that would have prevented the train from entering it at such an excess speed (in fact, such a transponder is in place on the approach to the curve in the westbound direction). This being one the tightest and most restricted curves on the corridor, it seems an appropriate location for such a life-saving device. Note: Since the above referenced MN wreck of, such a transponder has in fact been placed on the section of track leading to the 30 mph curve where that train derailed.

 

5. Amtrak Train #188. operated by lone engineer Brandon Bostian, entered the permanent speed restriction at the curve, rated for 55, at over 100 mph. Whether it was fatigue, the result of a projectile that hit the train, inattentiveness on the part of the engineer, or other factors at play, it is expected that the investigation will eventually pinpoint the cause. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that we may never know. But we know this: had there been a second crew member in the cab of the locomotive that day, it is very likely that such a second qualified crew member would have taken action to prevent the tragedy that. for whatever reason. the engineer at the controls was not able to avert.

 

In the past half dozen years or so we have witnessed a series of tragic train wrecks, all of which have resulted in countless injuries and loss of life. Four wrecks. Chatsworth, CA (9/12/08); Lac Megantic, Quebec (7/6/13); Spuyten-Duyvil, NY (12/1/13); and now Frankfurt Junction, PA (5/12/15) have all been attributed to some form of “operator error”. (It is worthy of mention a factor that all four of these incidents had in common; i.e. the employee in question was working alone in the cab of the locomotive or was the lone crew member). While operator error may in fact be the case, simply pointing the finger at the worker does little or nothing to assist in understanding why the error was made in the first place; nor does it help us to prevent similar such wrecks in the future. Since workers are human beings and as such, are prone to make mistakes (regardless of how many rules are written up, what discipline may be threatened or how many observation cameras may be installed), we must implement safety features that take this reality into account and thereby prevent tragedies of this nature.

A neoliberal train wreck?

By Guy Miller - Socialist Worker, May 20, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The media coverage of the deadly Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, which killed eight people and injured more than 200, focused on the engineer, but there is a long history of cutbacks and cost-cutting that set the stage for this catastrophe. Guy Miller, a railroad worker for 38 years with Chicago Northwestern and Union Pacific and a retired member of United Transportation Union Local 577, looks at where the blame for this tragedy really lies.

EVERY INDUSTRIAL accident is different in its details, but depressingly similar in the cover-up.

Before the dust settles and the debris is cleared away, the company spokesperson is busy framing the story and assigning blame. The media are quick to join the feeding frenzy--and the responsibility always stops at the employee farthest down the food chain. On the railroads, that employee is often the engineer.

On Amtrak run 188 on May 12, that engineer was named Brandon Bostian. Brandon's public trial began almost immediately. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter didn't have--or seem to care about--any evidence, but he knew where to point the finger: "Clearly, he was reckless and irresponsible in his actions. I don't know what was going on with him. I don't know what was going on in the cab. But there's really no excuse."

At this point, the engineer's safety record is usually trotted out. In the operating department, "safety violations" litter the records of even the most conscientious employees. Improper footwear, stepping on a rail, failure to ring the bell over one of the hundreds of grade crossings--all of these mean violations placed in a personnel file. Citations are easy to come by. Like a hound dog picks up fleas, conductors and engineers pick up safety violations.

The problem with Brandon Bostian is that his record was spotless. So something else had to be dragged into the equation. That something proved to be Brandon's sexual orientation, which conservative radio host Sandy Rios and later other right-wing media incredibly declared was a "factor" in the crash.

While most people now know that Brandon was a supporter of marriage equality, few know he was a safety fanatic. In addition to the normal routine, he had his own procedures. "At work, I run through a five-item checklist after I check my engine, and before I touch anything," he wrote on Facebook. "Then a 10-item checklist before I move the train an inch."

On the day of the accident, because of over-scheduling and a delayed inbound train, Bostian had only 30 minutes between runs. When it's to their advantage, trainmasters and other company officials put constant pressure on workers to short-circuit safety inspections and "get out of Dodge." May 12 may well have been such a day.

Clearly, brother Bostian was a model employee. Just before hitting the curve at Frankford Junction, he was complying with the rulebook and ringing the engine bell through the 30th Street Station. This isn't the behavior of a reckless and irresponsible engineer. This isn't the action of someone about to accelerate from the posted speed to 106 miles per hour less than a minute later.

Whatever happened to Bostian--after suffering a concussion in the crash, he has said that he remembers little about what took place in the minutes before the derailment--we must look elsewhere to place the blame for this tragic accident.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

IN 2008, Congress instructed the nation's railroads to install Positive Train Control (PTC) by 2015. Positive Train Control is a sophisticated system for monitoring and controlling train speed, separation and collision avoidance.

From the start, the carriers dragged their feet. Rather than spend money on making it happen, they invested in a small army of lobbyists to make sure the mandate would take as long as possible to implement. The list of lobbyists is a Who's Who of Washington insiders, including former Democratic Rep. William Lipinski and Linda Daschle, wife of highly connected former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Heedless of safety concerns and unmoved by the Metro-North accident of 2013 that killed four people in the Bronx--another accident that PTC could have prevented--these lobbyists have succeeded in buying time. Under legislation passed by the Senate Finance Committee and now pending before Congress, the deadline for implementing Positive Train Control would be extended five years until 2020.

Within hours of the crash on May 12, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that slashed Amtrak's budget for the next fiscal year by $251 million, to $1.1 billion.

Short of PTC, there are other, older forms of train control dating back to the 1960s. In my 38 years on the railroad, I worked with two of them: Automatic Train Control (ATC) and Automatic Train Stop (ATS). Either of these systems would have prevented the derailment of Amtrak 188.

ATC was already in use on the southbound track, just on the other side of the same deadly curve that train number 188 hit at twice the speed limit. If the system had been positioned in advance of the accident site, the train would have stopped automatically if the engineer didn't respond immediately to a warning bell.

The railroad knew just how dangerous this curve was. The Frankford wreck--which is legendary among East Coast railroaders--occurred on that same curve 72 years before. On Labor Day weekend in 1943, the inbound Congressional Limited derailed at the exact same spot, resulting in the death of 79 people. So why wasn't the ATC system in place?

As recently as the late 1980s, every commuter train in the Chicago Metra system had a second person in the engine cab. Although still known as a "fireman," this second employee was in reality a second engineer. Having just one person in the cab leaves no room for unforeseen events that can have disastrous consequences. What happens if the engineer has a heart attack, a seizure, an aneurysm--or, yes, simply falls asleep?

In March 1987, during the effort to eliminate the fireman's position in the cab, Metra spokesperson Christopher Knapton told the Chicago Tribune, "One-person crews have shown no decline in safety." I doubt if the eight dead passengers in Philadelphia would second Knapton's opinion; at any rate, it's too late to ask them.

Museum Workers’ Union Condemns Oil Sponsorship of British Cultural Institutions

By Kyla Mandel - DeSmog UK, May 20, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Big Oil’s sponsorship of British museums and galleries must come to an end, argues the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Culture Sector.

Delegates to the PCS annual conference in Brighton yesterday voted overwhelmingly to support a new union campaign calling for an end to oil sponsorship of the arts.

The union represents 5,000 workers in UK cultural institutions that have accepted money from BP or Shell, including Tate, the British Museum and National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Clara Paillard, president of the PCS Culture Sector, said: “We have taken an important step in calling for museums to move away from dirty sponsorship by oil and arms trade corporations.  

We believe these sponsorship deals and privatisation are two sides of the same coin: a capitalist model for arts and culture which we reject. Access to culture is a human right, and we will defend it.”

Growing Campaign

Over the past three years the campaign to end oil sponsorship in the arts has grown rapidly. Pressure from campaign groups, such as BP or not BP? and Liberate Tate, has led to the Southbank Centre ending Shell’s sponsorship of its ‘Classic International’ series.

And, most recently, an information tribunal ruling last December forced Tate to publish the sum of money BP paid as a sponsor between 1990 and 2006, along with details of internal decision-making on the controversial relationship.

Danny Chivers, an ‘actorvist’ from BP or not BP? speaking at the PCS conference, said: “Fossil fuel companies belong in the past, and their sullied logos have no place inside forward-looking publicly-funded museums and galleries.

We are committed to working towards a thriving culture sector, where staff have fair pay and conditions and are free to work for the benefit of the public rather than being forced to meet the interests of polluting companies and profiteering privatisers.”

The beginning of next year will see Tate, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House decide whether or not to renew their five-year sponsorship deals with BP.

Eco-Syndicalism

By Nick Djinn Kappos - May 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

As a very ecologically minded Syndicalist, I am sympathetic to and often supportive of some of the Green and Primitivist value systems. The condition that we leave the earth in is the single most important issue facing humanity, even before egalitarian social relations and economic equality/abundance....which I also consider very important. Future generations are not going to congratulate us for acquiring great wealth and status if we leave them a toxic wasteland where they are struggling to find clean water and survive.

That said....I don't think humanity will move backwards without destroying itself. The masses will not voluntarily give up their comforts, especially in a controlled consumer environment where they control the access to food and water. People will consume what is fed to them, since the alternative inside of cities is starvation. People fortunate enough to have yards or sunlit space can grow more of their own food and we can have community gardens....total sustainability is something only the dedicated few will strive for. You could spend your whole life trying to prepare for an ecological collapse, only to find that you are not protected from drought or toxic rain as the rest of the population keeps fucking the place up. I do think that there are advantages to having autonomous communities that live closer to the land and each other. I feel like we could accomplish more to change things by being involved with the rest of society, perhaps building experimental communities just outside of smaller University towns.

Without access to technology we will not be able to put up much of a fight. They just roll over and destroy indigenous communities who lack the tools to fight back. Even just having internet and CB radio would give communities the opportunity to call for help and let the world know what is happening. Technology might be the death of us, but I also think we have an opportunity to do it better.

I won't really consider ourselves to be an evolved or enlightened society until we can produce everything we need sustainably, thinking 7 (or more) generations ahead. Cities that are too densely populated to provide their own food and water locally will inherently adopt exploitative and imperialist agendas. To maintain the import of resources and the export of waste, we must necessarily dominate and exploit the surrounding areas or foreign lands. There is no way around this until we reach a point where we can sustainably produce our own food and water and material goods locally without poisoning ourselves. We can't continue to poison our oceans, clear cut our forests, strip mind our hillsides, and not have it bite us in the ass later....probably as our children are growing up.

Consumer choice isn't really much of a choice. You are either going to pay 3x as much for some eco-friendly products that you can only afford if you are wealthy, or you are going to buy all the same crap that the corporations provide to everyone else. If a few people escape the city, the masses of people will still be stuck and continue to perpetuate the system. The only way out of this that I can personally see, short of killing ourselves, is to put the means of production back into the hands of the people while guiding and encouraging a trend towards sustainability and egalitarian social relationships. If we produced for our own communities as local communities, we could make better and more ethical decisions than would be made by mega-corporations who only care about the bottom line and do not have to live inside of the conditions they create.

I think we should acquire and control our own technology and render the old powers obsolete...and while keeping our sustainable technology, I think we should plant a lot more trees and make our living environment greener, with an emphasis on fruit bearing plants and trees that are freely available to the entire community. I think we could live better if we lived in smaller well networked pod-communities where you could easily walk to most of the places you would need to visit in a day. I envision lite rail systems that connect communities, made in a way that does not cut eco-systems in half. I think we could use a combination of common earth elements and plant resins and fibers for our building materials, instead of cutting down forests. I think we should keep the internet and make it free for everyone to access, and utilize that technology to network local communities with the larger society, and individuals with each other. I think we should get to a point where we can produce everything we need locally without reliance on imports shipped halfway across the world. I think we can reduce our need for cars and traffic, while still having a few vehicles for specialty purposes. You just wouldn't require one to do everything you need to do in a day. I think that if we are not packed like sardines into cities and if we have access to the land and means of production, that we can easily produce more than enough food for everyone and then some. I think we could easily house everyone for a lot less than we are all paying in rent if we abolished the banks and landlord control of our living areas. I think we could realistically aim for a 12 hour work week in our lifetime, and build our communities for social interaction instead of mass consumerism. I think we could have fewer stores and less pavement, and still be able to affordably produce every consumer item we would ever need.

All of these things are possible, but they will never be given to us unless we create it for ourselves.

A Houston Wobbly’s Reflection on the USW Strike

By Adelita - Unity and Struggle, May 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Unions’ power is in decay and lately have been resorting to more creative methods in order to remain relevant. We’ve seen the Democrats putting their money behind the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight For $15 in Houston at the same time attempting to “turn Texas blue.” But this dependency of unions like SEIU and the United Steel Workers (USW) on the Democratic Party means they are severely limited in what they are willing to do in the realm of tactics. This along with union density being sharply in decline, as well as union power being undermined by Right-to-Work spreading to states like Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, means the unions are not up for waging anything close to a class struggle. Instead unions like the USW maintain their position as representing only certain interests and timidly bargaining around them.

Texas, like other Right-to-Work states, has a working class that is almost entirely disconnected with their own fighting traditions. There is no real culture of workers resistance, union or not, nor is there any historical memory of fighting strikes. However, recently in Houston we have seen a few significant developments unfolding in labor starting with the immigrant rights movement and detention center hunger and labor strikes, the Maximus Coffee strike and lockout at the end of 2013, the ongoing Fight For $15 “movement” and its semi-annual spectacles, and the most recent and equally significant, the USW refinery strikes. These developments are very exciting for Houston not simply because of the lack of historical memory of struggle to draw from, but also due to the high density of industry in Houston which is unlike most of the country.  This makes Houston a critical choke point for US capital and thus pivotal for workers struggle nationally.

Houston’s remarkably large industrial sector provides a lot of semi-skilled labor opportunities and has been instrumental in Houston’s ability to float the crisis better than most of the country. This and the extremely low levels of reproduction of the class, especially of black and immigrant people who make up the unskilled, low-wage, and casualized sectors of the economy. This leaves refinery work to be primarily composed of white and US-born Latino workers.

When the USW strike started it was the first strike the refineries and their workers saw in 30 years. Yet the USW was unable to carry out a successful strike nationally or locally. This is due to union decline mentioned above, but also because one-third of the oil industry is unorganized (many of which are contract workers). Also, the relationship between the USW and the Obama administration impacted the overall strategy of the strike. Only 5,000 workers were pulled out, a mere ten percent of all union workers, while local union leaders claimed this was part of their strategy. Overall this affected only about 20% of production which is pretty insignificant and we realized quickly that most workers had little to no information about the strike or negotiations. Locally the USW’s timidness looked like a handful of workers carrying signs at each gate while being unable to block scabs from crossing, or from even standing or parking on company property. The international didn’t even use their massive treasury to support their striking members.  It was clear that the USW was not in a position to be able to wage a political struggle against oil because they are beholden to the ruling party.

Support Farm Workers in NW Washington – Boycott Sakuma Berries

By Whatcom-Skagit GMB, IWW - Portland IWW, May 6, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Fellow Workers,

The Whatcom-Skagit general membership branch of the Industrial Workers of the World is urging everyone to join us in a boycott campaign in support of farm workers of the Familias Unidias por la Justicia (FUJ) union in NW Washington.

For decades now, the farm workers at Sakuma Brothers berry farm in Skagit County have endured inadequate housing, systematic wage theft, and racist abuse from supervisors, among many other problems. In the summer of 2013, the farm workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms went on strike and formed a union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, of over 450 indigenous Triqui and Mixteco berry pickers. After a series of strikes there was a written agreement between Sakuma and FUJ. However, Sakuma reneged on their word to the workers. After Sakuma broke promises they made during a negotiation session, the farm workers of Familias Unidas por la Justicia voted to endorse a public boycott of Sakuma, Driscoll’s berries and Haagen-Dazs ice cream (both are major buyers/packers of Sakuma berries) until the labor dispute is resolved and the workers have a contract recognizing their union.

The workers want a fair wage, health insurance, and respect on the job. In court, Familias Unidas has been recognized as a union with the right to organize and represent workers collectively. They have won landmark victories, including a settlement in which workers were collectively paid $500,000 in back wages and two rulings preventing Sakuma from changing their housing and hiring policies illegitimately. On the farm itself they have won several gains, such as the ability to take lunch breaks. However, these gains on the farm are now slipping as they have in the past. On February 3rd a farm workers tribunal took place in Olympia and members of FUJ spoke to state legislators about wage theft and working conditions at Sakuma Brothers Farm. The tribunal is an independent hearing by community judges that examines and provides judgments relative to human rights, labor rights, and civil rights abuses and the rights of peoples. The Farmworker Tribunal seeks to document and expose violations of state laws, civil rights, labor rights and human rights in Washington State’s Agricultural Industries. On March 17th in Toppenish the Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case (Demetrio et al. v. Sakuma Brothers Farms). This case will decide whether farm workers who are paid piece rate should also be compensated for rest breaks, as are wage workers in Washington State. The decision in this case will impact all Washington farm workers.

The farm workers at Sakuma are fighting against injustice on behalf of farm workers everywhere. We are reaching out to IWW branches to actively support these workers. Some ways that your group can support the farm workers is by promoting the boycott, picket stores that carry Driscoll’s, Haagen-Dazs and Sakuma Berry products, and supporting other groups’ boycott activities in your communities. The struggle of Families Unidas por la Justicia for dignity and justice in their workplace continues and it falls on everyone’s shoulders to support the people whose labor sustains us.

Solidarity,
Whatcom-Skagit GMB, IWW
Contact Info:
Email: iwwbellingham@gmail.com
Facebook: Whatcom-Skagit IWW

Boston school bus drivers vote in fired union leaders

By Brenda Ryan - Workers World, May 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In a stunning victory, the militant, fighting rank and file of the Boston school bus drivers’ union, United Steelworkers Local 8751, voted in the full slate of Team Solidarity candidates, led by four illegally fired leaders, on the union’s Executive Board.

The April 30 election was the largest voter turnout in the history of the local and resulted in an unprecedented landslide vote by more than 3 to 1 for the Team Solidarity ticket. The membership sent a clear message to Veolia/Transdev, the union-busting school bus management company, as well as to Boston Public Schools and Mayor Marty Walsh, that they will fight and win a just contract and the rehiring of their leaders. They will also unite with the communities they serve to struggle for Equal Quality Education.

The new executive board-elect of the 850-strong union, whose members are largely Haitian, Cape Verdean and African-American, includes President Andre Francois, long-time chief steward; Vice President Stevan Kirschbaum, a founder of the local; Treasurer Georgia Scott, veteran of the 1965 Civil Rights battle on Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.; Financial Secretary Steven Gillis, the outgoing vice president and benefits administrator; Recording Secretary Claude “Tou Tou” St. Germain, a Fanmi Lavalas activist; Grievance Committee members Garry Murchison, a three-term past president, Frantz Mendes, two-term president, and Richard Laine; Trustees Frantz “Fan Fan” Cadet, Fred Floreal and Judy Long; Guide Chantal Suffrant Casimir; Guards Adriano Barbosa and Ludnay Pierre; and Accident Review Committee members Jerome Samir Stanley, Kathy Moore and Robert Salley. Murchison led the local’s last five-week strike in 1991, which ended with a 48-hour occupation of the mayor’s office.

Veolia illegally fired Francois, Gillis, Kirschbaum and Murchison in November 2013, following a company-ordered, police department-enforced lockout on Oct. 8, 2013, which occurred after the local requested an emergency meeting. The lockout occurred in the midst of a three-month fight with the new company over wage theft, its refusal to honor the drivers’ long-standing contract and Veolia’s illegal demand — because it’s in violation of the contract — made the day before, that even 40-year veteran drivers must file new hire applications.

A small clique of business-minded, company-inspired opponents, including the current president — who bowed out during the election campaign — tried to turn the membership against Team Solidarity’s fighting slate. They bombarded members with the message: “Don’t vote for the people who were fired. They won’t do you any good.”

The climax of year-long bargaining over a new concessionary contract was the company’s divisive campaign that included pushing a “final” proposal with no amnesty for the fired leaders and using false “retro-pay” payroll documents produced by management. But the members voted for the new board based on their personal experience with Team Solidarity’s leaders, who have filed hundreds of their grievances, administered and defended their benefits, and fiercely fought for them and the union’s survival during the nearly two years since Veolia and the mayor’s office began their union-busting assault.

Climate message to transport unions: mobilize in Paris, build alliances back home

By Asbjørn Wahl - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, May 7, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Climate change is going on. Extreme weather conditions, storms, floodings, landslides, droughts and ice melting are reported ever more regularly from many parts of the world. Millions of people are losing their livelihood, their homes, their jobs – and many also their lives. The successive reports of the United Nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have increasingly called for urgent action in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. However, after having negotiated for 20 years, our political leaders have failed to take necessary action. The result is that emissions are increasing rather than decreasing (61 percent increase from 1990 to 2013). Temperature increase is on course for 4-6oC rather than maximum 1,5-2.0oC, something which will mean climate catastrophe.

In Peru last December, a climate summit (COP20) once more ended without showing any ability to do what is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. COP20 in Lima therefore became FAILURE20. However, COP20 was not expected by anybody to bring a breakthrough. It was seen as an intermezzo, while we have been told that it is at the next summit, COP21 in Paris at the end of this year, that we will have an ambitious and binding global agreement. Given the track record of more than 20 years of government negotiations, we should not so easily count on that. Time is therefore ripe for a massive mobilisation of social forces from below to put pressure on our political leaders. Trade unions will have to play a decisive role in such a mobilization. It is a question on what kind of society we want to develop. It is a question of having a just transition to a society based on clean and renewable energy.

Mobilise up to and in Paris

This mobilisation is now being prepared, and important parts of the trade union movement are already strongly involved. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has taken a leading role in this. General Secretary Sharan Burrow is urging trade unions to get involved at all levels – local, national and international. In France, a broad coalition of almost 100 organisations, including trade unions, have collectively founded the platform Coalition Climat 21 to mobilise and organise for COP21. Since the Mexico Congress of 2010, the ITF has followed up its strong climate change programme, organised seminars, taken part in global summits and mobilisations and developed educational tools, which can be found on our web site.

The ITF has also joined the global Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) network, which coordinates policy development, advocacy work and mobilisations – based on the understanding that in order to be able to carry out the necessary transitions, the energy sector, as well as other strategic sectors in our societies, have to be brought under democratic control. A number of national and international trade union organisations have already joined this network, and others, which support such policies, should do so as well. An important document, “RESIST, RECLAIM, RESTRUCTURE: Unions and the Struggle for Energy Democracy” has been developed, in addition to some interesting working papers and a short video.

Naomi Klein: "If you can marry an economic justice agenda with climate action, people will fight for that future"

Interview by Agnès Rousseaux and Sophie Chapelle - Basta!, April 24, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Given the massive inequalities generated by capitalism and the ecological urgency of climate change, "everything can change", Naomi Klein claims in a new book. Provided we do not "give in to despair", because "too many lives are at stake", and "fight for a more just economic system". The Canadian anti-globalization activist and essayist is famous for her inspired criticism of capitalism: No Logo denounced the tyranny of global brands, and The Shock Doctrine the brutality of neoliberal reforms. She now takes aim at the total impunity of major oil and gas corporations which have declared war on our planet. Interview and video.

21.000 signes

Basta! : We seem to be heading straight toward climate disaster. We know what will happen if we do nothing about climate change, yet nothing really changes. Why is it so?

Naomi Klein : It’s not that we’re doing nothing – we’re actually actively doing exactly the wrong things. We have an economic system that defines success and progress as infinite economic expansion. Any kind of expansion is deemed good. Our emissions are going up much faster than they were in the 1990s. In the past decade, we had very high oil prices, which has created huge economic incentives for fossil fuel companies to push into new, more expensive, higher-emitting forms of extraction, such as tar sands and fracking. We also have a system that allows multinationals to seek out the cheapest means of producing their products, with cheap labour and cheap energy – which has lead to the deregulated burning of coal. All this is making the problem much worse.

You say that transnational corporations such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell have declared war on the planet...

The business model of these companies is to find new fossil fuel reserves, which is the exact opposite of what we need to do in order to fight climate change. A research from the Carbon Tracker, three years ago, showed that the global fossil fuel industry has five times more carbon in their proven reserves than is compatible with keeping temperatures below two degrees warming… That’s the target our governments agreed to in Copenhagen, and that’s a target that is already a very dangerous one for many communities. But it provides us with a global carbon budget. We know how much carbon can be burned while still giving ourselves a fifty-fifty chance or better of meeting that target, and these companies have five times more carbon in their reserves than that amount. That explains why fossil fuel companies so actively fight the very dissemination of honest, climate science, why they fund politicians and organisations that deny the science of climate change, and why they fight every serious attempt to respond to climate change, whether it is a carbon tax or whether it is support for renewable energy.

Why such impunity?

Fossil fuel companies, particularly oil companies, are the most powerful companies in the world. Wars have been waged by our governments to protect their interests. It’s in the nature of fossil fuels that they’re concentrated in specific geographical locations, very expensive to get out of the ground, to transport, and to process. And so it lends itself to concentration of wealth and power, with a fairly small number of huge players , both state-run and privately owned, and that kind of concentration of power also lends itself to political corruption, both of the legal kind and the illegal kind. Hence the impunity.

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