The 1970s Struggle to Save the Vic Market

By staff - Earthworker Cooperative, June 2017; artwork by Sofia Sabbagh

Remembering the struggle to save the Vic Market from the threat of redevelopment in the 1970s. Earthworker recognises itself as part of this tradition of defending public and community space. 

The Vic Market is a vital public space in the heart of Melbourne. Many of us who live in and around Melbourne appreciate the Market as a place to work, eat, meet and enjoy company with friends and family.

Not many know that in the 1970s, pressure began to mount for the “redevelopment” of the Queen Victoria Market into a combined trade and hotel precinct. Even fewer know the truth about the role that a militant trade union, namely the Builders Labourers’ Federation (BLF), played in protecting the Vic Market from this threat.

This is an excerpt from Vic Market’s own website: “The separation of the Wholesale Market from the Retail Market lead to a plan to redevelop the Queen Victoria Market site into a trade centre, office and hotel complex in the 1970s. However, public outcry prevented this and resulted in the Market being classified by the National Trust. Later, the Market site and its buildings were listed on the Historic Buildings Register.”

Not a word about a union. Yet if you talk to the older stall holders today they all know people who came before them who were involved in that period, and who are proud of the union-declared ban on development work at the Vic market. This action was only one in a series of bans that the BLF put on development sites that were deemed socially or environmentally harmful. This strategy was collectively termed “Green Bans”.

Here’s some words from Dave Kerin, co-founder of Earthworker and one of those involved in the victory to protect the Vic Market in the 1970s:

“Our community is there; our kids grew up with the Market as a formative community influence; and importantly thanks to John Cummins (previous Victorian secretary of the BLF), the Green Ban remains on the Vic Market. In the early 1990’s the stall holders approached Cummo to discuss yet another proposal to build inappropriately on Market land. Cummo reassured everybody that as far as he was concerned “The Green Ban was never lifted!” The Green Ban still holds and yet goes unacknowledged by the Market’s Administration. This ahistorical presentation of events must change.”

History is repeating, and we now see that the Vic Market is under threat again. But, if we know our history, we can assert with confidence “We’ve saved it before, we’ll save it again!”.

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #158

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 14, 2017

A smorgasbord of news of interest to green unionists:

Baltimore Residents Call for Action on Oil Trains, Commemorate 1-Year Anniversary of Train Derailment - By Kenyetta Whitfield, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, June 14, 2017 - David McClure, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, said: “Each day our 2,500 MTA workers transport the people of Baltimore to work, school, the doctor, or wherever they need to go. And our riders’ safety is our number one priority. I repeat, it’s our number one priority. And now it’s time for the City Council to put the safety and health of the people first. It’s time to put a stop these trains from carrying dangerous crude oil and other hazardous cargo travelling through these densely-populated neighborhoods before we have a disaster on our hands.”; [related]: Baltimoreans Call for Action on Oil Trains on Derailment Anniversary - By Taylor Smith-Hams, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, June 14, 2017.

‘Coal is dead’ and oil faces ‘peak demand,’ says world’s largest investment group - By Joe Romm, ThinkProgress, June 8, 2017 - President Donald Trump famously campaigned on restoring coal jobs, and has continued to reiterate that commitment as president, but the economic reality makes that a futile effort; [related]: All the ways this White House props up coal - By Brian Sewell, Appalachian Voices, June 13, 2017 | Global renewables rise from the ashes of coal’s collapse - By Joe Romm, ThinkProgress, June 13, 2017 | New Coal Mine Opens, Employs Just 70 People - By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, June 13, 2017 | Pittsburgh and Paris join over 200 cities and states rejecting Trump on climate - By Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian, June 8, 2017 | The Trump administration’s false coal stats, explained - By Jonathan Thompson, High Country News, June 7, 2017 | World Coal Consumption Experienced a Record Drop in 2016 - By staff, YaleEnvironment360, June 14, 2017 | World coal production falls off a cliff - By Andrew Topf, Mining.Com, June 13, 2017.

As coal production declines, Montana sees drop in coal jobs, plans for more - By Holly K. Michels, Helena Independent Record, June 11, 2017 - In the past year, though, the numbers have declined, mirroring a drop in production that could be an indicator of what’s to come. 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers news:

Company fined €300k for health and safety breaches in relation to Corrib worker's death - By staff, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, June 13, 2017 - He had been working on a tunnel boring machine (TBM) that was being used to construct an underground channel to bring gas from the Corrib field to the onshore processing terminal.

Exposing the injustices that lie beneath the Canadian dinner table - By Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun, June 8, 2017 - Clearly, farm work can be dangerous in Canada. The collection of essays gathered by Shirley A. McDonald of University of B.C. Okanagan and Athabasca University’s Bob Barnetson for this book illustrate that many of the deaths and injuries that occur on Canadian farms and in our meat packing plants could be avoided if the workers had a strong union or if safety regulations and inspections in the industry were improved.

Farmworker union reaches tentative contract deal with Sakuma berry farms - By Jim Brunner, Seattle Times, June 11, 2017 - Just in time for the strawberry harvest, leaders of a union representing hundreds of farmworkers have reached a tentative contract agreement with Sakuma Brothers Farms in Skagit County.

Five Indian farmers killed during protest - By news agencies, Al Jazeera, June 6, 2017 - The spokesperson of a farming union said police had fired on the protesters in Mandasur city, marking an escalation of violence as a rural strike demanding debt relief spread.

Forced to Endure Extreme Heat, Prisoners Are Casualties of Texas' Climate Denial, Documents Show - By Candice Bernd, Truthout, June 12, 2017 - At this point, even unions representing prison guards, many of who have also experienced heat-related illnesses and injuries while on duty, have been supportive of lawsuits over extreme heat in TDCJ units.

Former EPA Staffers Hit Back at “Severe”, “Unprecedented” and “Orwellian” Cuts - By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International, June 14, 2017 - The "deep cuts would slash the Environmental Protection Agency's Budget 42%," leaving the EPA with the smallest workforce since the early eighties; [related]: Former EPA Employees Are So Worried About Trump’s Plans, They Formed Their Own Alt-EPA - By Alexander C. Kaufman, Huffington Post, June 12, 2017.

Fossil fuel interests seek to kneecap North Carolina’s growing solar industry - By Molly Taft, Laura A. Shepard, and Monika Sharma, ThinkProgress, June 12, 2017 - Solar companies created thousands of jobs on the back of a decades-old law. Now, the state’s utility wants to rewrite it.

Honduran Melon Workers Push for Union Rights - By John Walsh, Labor Notes, June 12, 2017 - Seeking to improve their wages and working conditions, melon workers in the politically marginalized southwestern corner of Honduras are fighting to win recognition and a contract for their young union, a local of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria y Similares (STAS, the Union of Agricultural and Related Workers).

ILWU Local 10 Speaks Out Against the ORCEM/VMT project in Vallejo

ILWU Local 10 President Edwin Ferris speaks out against corporate greed and the ORCEM/VMT project - Fresh Air Vallejo, June 1, 2017

This is the powerful 2-minute statement from Edwin Ferris, President, Int’l Longshore & Warehouse Union, Local 10, at the May 30, 2017, City Council of Vallejo meeting. He spoke on the long history of ILWU in the Bay Area on- and off-loading ships, barges and rail cars. He told the City Council neither VMT or Orcem had ever contacted them. But stated that this detail was secondary to health of the vulnerable.

The people of Vallejo thank the ILWU-10 for their work on our behalf. And the volunteers of Fresh Air Vallejo would like to thank all of the organizations who have endorsed our research and eduction efforts for the past 20 months. Other great speakers on May 30th included the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Migrante Napa-Solano and Voices of Vallejo as well as almost 100 individuals. To view the entire proceeding, please click on the City link and scroll down to the meeting date. Public comment start at 7pm and lasted until 11:30pm.


What premium do you place on the lives of the people of South Vallejo? - Fresh Air Vallejo, June 1, 2017

This is the 3-minute statement from Derrick Muhammad, Int’l Longshore & Warehouse Union, Local 10 Secretary and Treasurer, at the May 30, 2017, City Council of Vallejo meeting. A beautifully written speech that not only targets what we need to do now to stop the proposed VMT/Orcem private port and cement project—but also the problems we need to solve next for South Vallejo: Air, Food, Schools, Housing.

For more information, see this article.

An Open Letter to Our Allies in the Fight for Safe Rails and a Sustainable Environment

Open Letter - By Railroad Workers United, June 7, 2017

No More Lac-Mégantics – Drop the Charges

July 6th marks four years since a runaway train carrying volatile Bakken crude crashed and burned in the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 and destroying half the town. It’s time to recommit to making sure tragedies like this don’t happen again. It’s also the right time to speak up against the criminal trial beginning in early September this year, that unfairly and inaccurately hangs the Lac-Mégantic crash on two railroad workers.

Some of us focus on how dangerous this kind of cargo is. Trains carrying volatile crude are called “Bomb Trains” for a reason. Some of us focus more on rail safety, no matter what or who is on the train. We push for safer work schedules and big enough train crews to handle an unusual situation or an emergency. Railroad managers push hard to squeeze every dollar they can out of every train run. The Lac-Mégantic train had a dangerous cargo, a single crew-member and work rules that cut the margin of safety down to just about zero. The result was a disaster that still impacts the Lac-Mégantic community.

You’d expect railroaders to point the finger at management. But we’re not the only ones. Multiple government safety investigations and independent journalists looked at what happened in Lac-Mégantic and came to the same conclusion. Railroad management policies made this kind of runaway train crash likely to happen sooner or later. Lax government oversight looked the other way until it did.

You would think that four years later there would be stronger safety regulations on every railroad, with extra layers of protection for dangerous cargo. Sadly, this is not the case. Railroad policymakers are still cutting corners and government regulators are still looking the other way. They want people to believe that the big safety problem is a few careless railroad workers.

Even after all the reports and exposes, the Canadian and Quebec governments are still not going after the railroad policy makers and their unsafe policies. Instead railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie will be on trial this fall in Quebec. The managers who made the critical policies will not even get a slap on the wrist. That’s just wrong, and it guarantees that the danger continues. Every year since the crash, the number of reported runaway trains in Canada has increased. That’s a sign of a reckless culture, not the actions of two rail-road workers one night in Quebec.

Whether your main issue is the environment, community safety, rail safety, or worker’s rights, it comes down to stronger government regulations and stronger railroad safety policies, with real community and labor enforcement. The two railroad workers were not the cause of the Lac-Mégantic crash or any of the runaway trains since then. They are not the ones still running trains right through the town of Lac-Mégantic, ignoring the demands of the survivors for a simple rail bypass. The people in Lac-Mégantic know that sending Harding and Labrie to prison won’t address any of their problems with the railroad. But if that happens, you can bet the government will close the book as the official verdict on Lac-Mégantic and railroad management will be standing there with them.

Railroad Workers United is going to mark the Lac-Mégantic anniversary wherever we are. We’ll stand in solidarity with the people of Lac-Mégantic like we have for four years, and talk about rail safety. That’s who we are. But we’ll make sure to point out that scapegoating two railroad workers for this tragedy will make railroads and communities across the continent less safe.

When you hold public commemorations this year, we ask you to make this point your way. Blaming Harding and Labrie for the Lac-Mégantic tragedy weakens all of us and all our causes. So all of us have to speak up.

Justice for Lac-Mégantic requires Dropping the Charges Against Harding & Labrie

Sign on to this appeal! - Contact: (202) 798-3327 | info@railroadworkersunited.org

Sacrifice Zones

By Barbara Bernstein - Locus Focus, KBOO FM, June 5, 2017

As the fossil fuel industry turns up its pressure to turn the Pacific Northwest into a fossil fuel export hub, a Thin Green Line stands in its way. On this special one-hour edition of Locus Focus, we premiere Locus Focus host Barbara Bernstein's latest radio documentary, SACRIFICE ZONES.

Since 2003 a rash of proposals have surfaced in communities throughout the Northwest to export vast amounts of fossil fuels to Asian markets via Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. If these plans go through the Northwest would become home to the largest oil terminal in North America, the largest coal export facility in North America and the largest methanol refinery in the world.

SACRIFICE ZONES is a story about the pressure to transform a region of iconic landscapes and environmental stewardship into a global center for shipping fossil fuels. This one-hour radio documentary investigates how petrochemical development of the scale being proposed for the Pacific Northwest threatens the region’s core cultural, social and environmental values. And it shows how opposition to these proposals has inspired the broadest and most vocal coalition of individuals and groups ever assembled in the Northwest, a Thin Green Line of opposition that has so far slowed or stopped all the fossil fuel projects being proposed.

In SACRIFICE ZONES we hear from Native American tribes, longshoremen, environmentalists, business leaders, health care professionals, first responders and local residents along the blast zones of oil trains and terminals, who are raising their voices in public hearings, court proceedings, rallies and marches.

This program was funded in part by the Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Puffin Foundation.

Listen Here.

Capital’s Destruction of the Environment: Marx’s Inadequate Response

By Ignacio Guerrero - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, June 4, 2017; image by William Morris (1834-96)

This piece engages claims around Marx’s legacy as a thinker and his relation to ecology. A promotional blurb for a volume recently published by Haymarket Books on the subject, Marx and the Earth by John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett, goes so far as to claim that the authors are the “founders of Eco-socialist thought.” This narrative is taken to task in detail here by the author, who concludes with some brief reflections on an alternative vision of ecologically oriented socialism. 

Kohei Saito, writing in Monthly Review in February 2016 on Marx’s “Ecological Notebooks” (1868), distinguishes between “first-stage” and “second-stage” eco-socialists, with the former, an earlier wave, recognizing Karl Marx’s passing references to environmentalism but considering him overall to be a Promethean, and the latter instead claiming Marx to have been a profound ecological thinker. The main theorist presenting this alternative reading has been John Bellamy Foster, author of Marx’s Ecology (2000) and The Ecological Revolution (2009), co-author of The Ecological Rift (2010) and Marx and the Earth (2016/7), and editor of Monthly Review.

Foster bases his argumentation for second-stage ecosocialism on Marx’s statement at the end of “Machinery and Large-Scale Industry” in Capital, vol. 1, in the section on industrial-capitalist agriculture, where Marx states that, besides “concentrat[ing]” the proletariat—the “historical motive power of society”—in the cities through the enclosure of the commons and the dispossession of the peasantry, capitalism “disturbs the metabolic interaction between man [sic] and the Earth” in the sense that it exhausts the soil by demanding unsustainable extraction from it (637-8). Capitalism thus proceeds by “undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker” (638). Marx even states that “[t]he more a country proceeds from large-scale industry as the background of its development, as in […] the United States, the more rapid is this process of destruction” (638, emphasis added). Yet he views such environmental degradation as dynamically “compel[ling the] systematic restoration [of the metabolic interaction] as a regulative law of social production.”

Marx isn’t very specific here about what a movement to restore the “natural metabolic interaction” between humanity and the rest of nature would look like, and he doesn’t clarify whether environmental sustainability would be assured in a post-capitalist society, or whether the question of the domination of nature goes beyond the humanistic struggle for the liberation of the proletariat. Initially, it must be said that a passing comment on the capitalist degradation of the soil does not make Marx a radical ecologist, especially when juxtaposed with many of his more Promethean statements. In this sense, the first-stage ecosocialists make a convincing argument. Let’s not forget that this famous statement on the soil comes in the same volume wherein Marx effectively endorses the very dispossession of the peasantry for “dialectically” giving rise to capitalism and thereafter socialism and communism, per the stages theory of history. In “Machinery and Large-Scale Industry,” Marx explicitly calls large-scale industrial-capitalist agriculture revolutionary, “for the reason that it annihilates the bulwark of the old society, the ‘peasant,’ and substitutes for him the wage-labourer” (637), while in “The Communist Manifesto,” Marx and Engels deploy similar reasoning in lauding the bourgeoisie for having destroyed the putative “idiocy of rural life.”

C. L. R. James in the Age of Climate Change

By Justin Slaughter - Jacobin, June 7, 2017

In 1952, the US government detained Trinidadian socialist C. L. R. James on Ellis Island for four months. The official reason was that James threatened the “morals of the people of the United States.” More likely, it stemmed from the red company the author had kept since immigrating in 1938, the same year he published his seminal book The Black Jacobins.

Rejecting an immigration officer’s suggestion to “drink [his] Papaya juice” in the Caribbean, the fifty-one-year-old subsisted on milk and bread and fought his deportation order. As he awaited the court’s decision, James drafted a long essay on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, which he mailed, along with a plea for citizenship, to every member of Congress. It had no effect, and he was deported the following summer.

But James soon published the Ellis Island essay as a proper book: Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways. There, he describes Melville’s 1851 novel as the “grandest conception that has ever been made to see the modern world . . . and the future that lay before it.” For him, the book’s fateful whaling voyage was the first to conjure the madness that would subsume civilization a century later: a “world of massed bombers, of cities in flames, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Today, James’s reading of Moby-Dick resonates even more strongly, as we face not only bombers and burning cities but rising oceans.

For those who slept through high school English, Moby-Dick is a loose and high-flown epic that follows a Nantucket whaling crew as they track the eponymous sperm whale. The inscrutable, nigh-insane Captain Ahab drives their ship, the Pequod, across the globe, seeking revenge on the whale that previously ate his leg.

Ahab’s obsession becomes an “independent being of its own,” which “glared out of bodily eyes . . . a formless somnambulistic being, a ray of living light . . . without an object to colour,” Melville writes. The massive creature eventually wrecks the ship and kills most of the crew. After the battle, the “great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”

James’s interest in the book derived first from Melville’s sheer literary brilliance: he ranked the novelist’s command of language up there with Edmund Burke’s and William Shakespeare’s. More important, though, was Melville’s deft rendering of modern capitalism in living, breathing characters.

In the Pequod’s captain and crew, James sees the social relations that would produce world wars, genocides, and weapons of mass destruction. And though he couldn’t have imagined it while tearing at bits of bread in jail, the forces Melville animates in Moby-Dick also explain why weather this February in the US broke or tied almost twelve thousand warm temperature records.

James draws out the ways in which the Pequod’s crew and captain illustrate the structure of capitalism. Chief mate Starbuck (yes, the one your coffee is named for) and second mate Stubb are today’s technocratic managers, unwaveringly loyal to rules, procedures, and authority. Below them is the crew, on whose work the ship depends. These “mariners, renegades, and castaways” come from all corners of the earth, James writes, “living as the vast majority of human beings live . . . seeking to avoid pain and misery and struggling for happiness.”

Above them all sits Captain Ahab, the chief executive who wields centuries of accumulated knowledge and labor for his own gain, but who — not unlike Donald Trump and his circle — would blindly throw all of it into the abyss.

Capitalism is destructive and unsustainable: It needs to be replaced

By John Bachtell - People's World, June 6, 2017

This article is based on remarks made by the author at the CPUSA National Labor Conference, May 20-21, in Chicago.

Several crises of contemporary capitalism have reached or are reaching dangerous tipping points. They are rooted in a path of destructive and unsustainable development.

They include extreme wealth and social inequality, job loss and dislocation from automation, and the existential threat posed by the ecological crisis.

These interconnected crises are impacting everything and must be addressed together. And they can be.

But standing in the way are Trump, the GOP and extreme right, and their main support base: monopoly-finance capital, the fossil fuel industry, and the military-industrial complex. Their agenda is intensifying these crises and must be defeated.

This underscores the urgency to build the broadest resistance movement and radically elevate the fight for unity of our multi-racial, male-female, LGBTQ, immigrant and native-born working class and people. This is central to guarantee the working class emerges as leader of the entire movement to break the extreme right political stranglehold and open the way for the challenging, contested, and complex transition to a just, peaceful, eco-socialist society.

Corporate food system currently contributes between 44 and 57% of global greenhouse emissions

By staff - La Via Campesina, June 8, 2017

As never before, agriculture today plays a role in all of the unfolding crises of the twenty-first century. Despite producing many more calories than are needed to feed humanity, the globalized food system leaves a billion people hungry, and another billion with micronutrient deficiency (Kremen, Iles and Bacon, 2012). 

At the same time, the growing dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as petroleum, coupled with oversized feedlots and global commodity routes, make the planet’s food system among the chief factors contributing to carbon dioxide and methane emissions causing global climate change (Tilman et al. 2001).

The modernization of global agriculture has meant the application of technologies that maximize short-term yields at the same time as they undermine the long-term factors of agricultural productivity and stability, such as soil fertility, water cycles, seed diversity and local knowledge.

The science and technology used to produce food is generally owned by large transnational corporations that are guided by the profit motive, rather than any of the many other purposes that agriculture serves, such as providing food and health, guaranteeing sustainable livelihoods, or maintaining a natural resource base for future generations.

The industrial agriculture model is only about 60 years old, but has already contaminated water sources, replaced tens of thousands of seed varieties with a dozen cash crops, diminished soil fertility around the world, accelerated the exodus of rural communities toward unsustainable megacities, and contributed to global inequality. Additionally, the corporate food system currently contributes between 44 and 57% of global greenhouse emissions (Grain, 2011).

For a long time, corporate manufacturers have insisted that pesticides are safe to use, that expensive, hybrid seeds will produce better in all field conditions, and that the same technical packages can be applied to diverse agricultural systems (Ecobichon, 2001). Research has conclusively shown not only that these are myths, but that the same consolidated seed and chemical companies that now control our access to food have been dishonest all along about their knowledge of harm produced by their products (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food,2017).

Pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and petroleum-hungry monoculture are responsible for hundreds of thousands of annual deaths of farmers and farm workers by poisoning, as well as incalculable damage to ecosystems, watersheds and the atmosphere. Additionally, the technologies of industrial monoculture diminish the capacity of agriculture to employ the rural workforce, leading to abandonment of the countryside and the loss of the cultural diversity embedded in rural communities.

La Vía Campesina, the world’s largest peasant movement, is a leading voice in the global movement to recover food from transnational corporations. Since its first international conference in Tlaxcala, Mexico, in 1996, La Vía Campesina (LVC) has proposed food sovereignty as an alternative to corporate agribusiness (see Box 1). Food sovereignty can be briefly defined as the right of peoples and nations to create and maintain their own food systems, and has been at the heart of civil society protests against the free trade model since the 1990s. Food sovereignty means a fundamental emphasis on local and domestic food production, based on land access for small farmers and ecological production practices (Rosset, 2006). As a political proposal, food sovereignty implies a radical democratization and decentralization of the agriculture-food system, including the dismantling of corporate power over food (Patel, 2009). On a more cultural level, it is an affirmation of rural community, local knowledge, and gender equality (Wittman, 2010). Rather than the better-known concept of food security, which makes no mention of where food comes from or how it is produced, food sovereignty explicitly underscores local and national food routes, democratic processes of decision-making, recuperation of cultural forms of production, distribution and consumption, and the relationship between food and the environment.

Using Miners for Political Gain is Nothing New, Still Repulsive

By Rob Byers - CounterPunch, June 9, 2017

Earlier this spring, I was asked a question about my late father, who had been a coal miner in the 1970s and ’80s. It had to do with a familiar romantic storyline:

Did he feel at home underground? Was it a calling that tugged at him during the layoffs, a longing to get back to the job he loved?

Short answer: No. Long answer: Hell, no.

Best I could tell as a kid, he hated it. It was back-breaking, dangerous, cold, dusty, dirty. He did it for the same reason miners do it today – because it was the best-paying job around for a man with a high-school education.

As a coal miner’s son, you might think I would be proud of all the attention miners are getting nowadays from President Trump and the media. You’d be wrong, though. Actually, I find the whole thing pretty demeaning, as the coal miner is used as a political pawn and an excuse to trash the planet.

Then again, maybe I should be used to it by now. The miner-as-economic-victim thing has been hanging around for quite a while.

After the first Obama election in November 2008, Republican lawmakers, industry groups and political strategists needed a human face for their cause, which was eliminating environmental regulations and ignoring climate change. The noble miner, toiling away underground to power America, was perfect.

Never mind that the cause was much more about making money for political donors and industry partners than it was about any miner’s paycheck.

Now, how about a nice, sound-bite slogan? One that mining families and local politicos could easily spout. Enter the “war on coal” — a purely fictitious battle, of course, but nobody ever said politics was about honesty. And talk about effective marketing. So catchy.

The villain? Well, that was really too easy. Everybody was blaming Obama for everything anyway. Plus, it was a two-for-one deal: They could bash the union at the same time after the UMWA backed Obama in 2008.

Fast forward to 2016 and an out-of-context Hillary Clinton quote later (“we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”) and it was time to trot out the “war on coal” political machine once more.

Trump plays dress-up in a hard hat at a rally at the Charleston Civic Center, feigns what he thinks it must be like to hold a shovel and fakes his way to the White House.

And so, at long last, the Republicans – and many West Virginia Democrats — are getting what they want as Trump rolls back Obama environmental laws and ignores climate change.

By backing out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump gets to act like he’s helping out his base in West Virginia, while really doing nothing – except, of course, forfeiting America’s well-earned perch as the world’s problem solver. And all the while, our congressional delegation dutifully stands back and applauds.

True help for unemployed miners and other West Virginians would mean tackling climate change head-on, embracing renewable energy and re-training people to work in the emerging industries.

But Trump is a champion only for himself … and his golf courses and hotels.

After all, we’ve watched him propose gutting the Appalachian Regional Commission, Legal Aid, low-income heating aid, college tuition assistance and other programs that benefit West Virginians.

I find no value in the argument that West Virginians, miners and other working-class communities across the nation are getting what they deserve. It’s precisely that kind of divisiveness that landed us in this mess.

It’s not foolish for someone to vote for a candidate who promises to represent their specific interests. It’s not surprising for someone to pine for an earlier time, a time they perceive to have been better. That’s been going on since the first time anyone referred to the “good ol’ days.”

In a place where drug abuse and unemployment are rampant, it can be easy to look back instead of ahead. It’s simpler to think back fondly to the busy, bustling mines — and conveniently forget about the slag heaps and polluted streams. The men, women and children buried alive by coal waste at Buffalo Creek. The dust that turns lungs black and slowly chokes lives away.

It’s even simpler when the powerful spend lavishly to make damn sure it happens.

Coal mining can be a dirty business. But so is toying with West Virginia’s hope.

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