Capital Blight: The More Things Change...

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 12, 2014

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.

A recent article from the folks over at the Rocky Mountain Institute--a pro renewable energy, green capitalist think tank founded by Amory Lovins, Lessons from Australia: How to Reduce US Solar PV Costs through Installation Labor Efficiency, written by Robert McIntosh and Koben Calhoun, demonstrates all too clearly why it's not enough just to replace the existing fossil fuel energy system with renewable alternatives. To sufficiently transform our world, we must confront the root of the problem, and that's hierarchical command / control political-economic systems like capitalism itself.

Yes, it's certainly a good idea to strive for a reasonable degree of efficiency in accomplishing one's desired goals by minimizing input and maximizing output. Doing so is human nature. If this weren't true, humans wouldn't have developed tools and machines to minimize throughputs. The flaw in this concept is the tendency to "externalize" the negative consequences of maximizing this efficiency and to unfairly distribute the fruits of such efforts. A several thousand (or perhaps million) year history of combined and cumulative efforts has created hierarchical class structure and nearly brought about a sixth mass terrestrial extinction event.

The idea that such practices can somehow be reconciled with both a sense of fairness and with ecological sustainability is simply another way in which capitalism has poisoned our minds and our environment.

Trainmen & Engineers Say “No” to Conductorless Trains

By J.P. Wright - Railroad Workers United, July 11, 2014

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.

Holding the Line on the W&LE

It's been nearly 2½ years now since bargaining commenced between the Wheeling & Lake Erie (W&LE) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) for a new contract for engineers and trainmen on this Midwest regional carrier. Negotiations have "gone nowhere" as the two sides are diametrically opposed on the issue of single employee train operations.

By August of 2013, things came to a head when the W&LE insisted upon single employee operations of trains, while the union stated that they would never accept such conditions. Then on September 13th and 14th, the carrier unilaterally opted to run a pair of trains with a single manager. The engineers and trainmen of BLET #292 went on strike September 20th, but they were quickly ordered back to work under a temporary restraining order (TRO) by a federal judge. The strike by more than 100 union members completely shut down the railroad's operations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Bargaining then resumed on the 23rd. However, the company remained intransigent and refused to negotiate the issue of single employee crews.

Since then, no negotiating sessions had been scheduled throughout the winter and spring. For nine months the two sides did not meet. Finally, after Local Chairman Lonnie Swigert's efforts, including a barrage of phone calls to Mediator Jack Kane, the NMB, the BLET national office, numerous BLET VPs and the General Chairman, the mediator scheduled a bargaining session for June 10-12th in St. Louis. Predictably, the carrier remained steadfast, and refuses to bargain on any issues unless and until the union concedes to run trains with a single employee. The union is holding fast, determined to stop any effort by the W&LE to open the door to single employee operations.

State Firefighters: Halt Oil Trains Until Safety Review Complete

By Joel Connelly - Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 9, 2014

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 movement of oil by rail through Washington should be halted until completion of a safety study recently authorized by Gov. Jay Inslee,  according to the Washington State Council of Firefighters.

“The WSCFF asks Governor Inslee to do all in his power to halt the movement of this crude by rail until completion of his study in March 2015 and the determination that this crude by rail can be moved safely through our cities and rural areas,” the firefighters said in a toughly worded resolution adopted last week.

In September of 2008, the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes accepted its first shipment of oil by rail.  Since then, refineries in Anacortes and at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham have rapidly moved to increase volume.

At the same time, the firefighters list a series of derailments and explosions, the most catastrophic a year ago in Lac Megantic, Quebec — 47 people were killed and the town center leveled — but also notably an explosion in an near Casselton, North Dakota.

Tesoro has announced that it is phasing out aging, 1960′s vintage DOT-111 tank cars.  Tesoro is proposing what it calls the Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal on the Columbia River.

It would handle up to 360,000 barrels of oil a day, taken from trains and put on ships to supply West Coast refineries and possibly for future export.

Sugar Plant Removed Safety Device Thirteen Days Before Temp Worker's Death

By Michael Grabell - ProPublica, July 9, 2014

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.

Inside the sugar plant in Fairless Hills, Pa., nobody could find Janio Salinas, a 50-year-old temp worker from just over the New Jersey border.

Throughout the morning, Salinas and a handful of other workers had been bagging mounds of sugar for a company that supplies the makers of Snapple drinks and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. But sugar clumps kept clogging the massive hopper, forcing the workers to climb inside with shovels to help the granules flow out the funnel-like hole at the bottom.

Coming back from lunch that day in February 2013, one employee said he had seen Salinas digging in the sugar. But when he looked back, Salinas was gone. All that remained was a shovel buried up to its handle. Then, peering through a small gap in the bottom of the hopper, someone noticed what appeared to be blue jeans.

It was Salinas. He had been buried alive in sugar.

As harrowing as the accident was, federal safety investigators recently discovered something perhaps even more disturbing: A safety device that would have prevented Salinas' death had been removed just 13 days before the accident because a manager believed it was slowing down production.

The Religion of Coal

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, July 14, 2014

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.

I usually avoid religion in my posts since it is such an inflammatory subject. At the same time, I cannot help but be disappointed in those who appropriate coal mining as somehow being Christian, or that coal itself was put here by God for us to use.

“If God didn’t want us to use coal, he wouldn’t have put it there!” a lady says to a gathering of environmentalists. But what if it wasn’t? How could a loving God who spent so much time creating life place something here that would cause so much harm?

In the early days of coal mining thousands of men and boys lost their lives every year in the darkness of a mountain. The owners of the coal mines were ruthless and full of greed, paying as little salary as possible and turning coal miners into slaves through company script and hiring mercenaries to maintain the status quo. The coal was shipped off where it would be put to use making steel in massive mills polluting entire cities and causing children to suffocate with asthma. The steel mill owners, like the coal company owners, were full of tempestuous greed, treating their workers in much the same ways as in the mountain coal camps. The steel made by coal and the electricity that came later gave rise to even more massive cities where people's hearts become hardened, where people fall further and further from the teachings of Christ. Coal was even used to build thousands of war ships, tanks, guns, and other instruments of evil wielded for greed,  spilling the blood of the poor and innocent the world over.

Even today the economic systems of modern convenience built upon coal disconnects us. Cell phones replace handshakes and friendly conversations. Televisions numb us and even entertain us with violence, taking place of evening chats on the front porch with neighbors and building a love for them.

The world coal created is one of immense wealth inequalities, casting billions into extreme poverty and starvation as the industrialized and wealthy nations build even larger cities and wage war for more resources, more wealth. The people living in these wealthy nations drive their cars to churches erected with steel and powered by coal to hear about the salvation of God, the learn how to save their own souls. They concern themselves with their own comfort, their own bank accounts, voting to wage war against countries without knowing the facts, believing what the people on television tell them.

Today production is preached in the coal fields, "more" is the new gospel. Blind eyes are turned to the places that coal is extracted, cleaned, and used--places where thousands succumb to  sickness. Places where God’s true creation is destroyed.

South African Metal Workers 'to Escalate' Strike

By Cecelia Jamasmie - mining.com, July 13, 2014

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.

South Africa's engineering and metalworkers rejected Sunday a 10% pay offer from employers, calling on its 220,000 striking members in the sector to intensify a two-week-long strike action.

Irvin Jim, the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers in South Africa (NUMSA), said its members rejected the latest offer because it didn't include a double-digit wage increase for all three years, Wall Street Journal reported.

In a media briefing Sunday, Jim added the country's biggest trade union members would continue with indefinite strike action.

"Should the employers continue with their reckless shenanigans and unreasonable demands, we might be left with no option but to call for targeted solidarity in all our sectors. This is seriously under consideration," the NUM leader said.

The work stoppage, which began only a week after the end of a strike in the platinum sector, is affecting about 12,000 employers including Nampak, Africa’s biggest can manufacturer, and carmakers such as General Motors Co. (NYSE:GE), BMW AG (FRA:BMW) and Evraz Highveld Steel (JSE:EHS).

It has also damaged wider investor sentiment in the country's economy, which is teetering on the brink of recession after a five-month strike in the platinum mining industry.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SAIFSA) estimates that it is costing the South African economy about $30 million a day.

The strike has also affected thousands of other companies across the manufacturing sector.

The Ideologue Who Tried to Make Environmentalism Mean Population Control

By Gabriel Levy - People and Nature, July 13, 2014

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.

Review of The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon and our gamble over Earth’s future, by Paul Sabin (Yale University Press, 2013).

It was the Indian food crisis of the mid 1960s that turned the biologist Paul Ehrlich from a field researcher on butterflies into one of the USA’s most vocal environmentalists and population control advocates.

Ehrlich published his best-seller The Population Bomb – which warned that “mankind will breed itself into oblivion” and called for “radical surgery” to excise the “cancer” of population growth – in the summer of 1968.

The American elite was receptive to Ehrlich’s “grim predictions about the future”, Paul Sabin writes in The Bet. That year, violent revolt swept through American cities; the USA was mired in the Vietnam war and faced opposition to it at home; and student and worker protests swept through the rich countries and culminated in the French general strike.

Ehrlich became a media superstar, doing more than 100 public lectures and 200 radio and TV shows in 1970 alone. The Population Bomb was reprinted 22 times in three years. In the introduction, Ehrlich explained that he had “understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time”, but that his tour of India in the summer of 1965 – during one of the subcontinent’s periodic food supply crises – had brought it home emotionally. One “stinking hot night”, he wrote,

My wife and daughter and I were returning to our hotel in an ancient taxi. The seats were hopping with fleas. The only functional gear was third. As we crawled through the city, we entered a crowded slum area. The temperature was well over 100 and the air was a haze of dust and smoke. The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people watching, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people.

Sabin argues that Ehrlich’s “revulsion” at India’s street life was “common for western visitors”. But his instinct to blame “the sheer number of people” reflected a shift in emphasis in western thinking (The Bet, p. 22).

Join the Anti-capitalist Protest Against FERC on July 13th, 2014

By x365252 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 11, 2014

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.

On July 13th, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) will be organizing a march from the Capitol Building to the office of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to protest FERC's refusal to conduct an environmental impact statement on the liquid natural gas export plant Dominion is planning to build in the Cove Point area of Lusby, MD. FERC has also basically been cozying up to Dominion, and has not taken the residents of Cove Point's concerns about health and environmental safety into account.

While CCAN's efforts against the proposed LNG plant at Cove Point is being supported by some mainstream unions and environmental groups alike, there has been growing frustration from the residents and rank-and-file members of CCAN that the group is ineffective in stopping the plant.

To this end, some Fellow Workers from the DC GMB and members of Chesapeake Earth First! will be forming an anti-capitalist bloc at the protest to show that unless capitalism is abolished, agencies like FERC will do the bidding of companies like Dominion, with no regard for the environment or the safety of working class citizens.

We are meeting at the Capitol Building on Sunday, July 13th, at 12:30 pm. We will be marching from the Capitol Building to the FERC office, which will end at 2:30pm.

If you're free on Sunday afternoon, please come out and show your support! While I'm not sure the bloc alone will be effective in any immediate change, it can serve to help us get contacts with people interested in organizing workers around environmental safety issues.

For further details, contact x365252 [at] iww.org

Fox Guarding Henhouse: Oil-By-Rail Standards Led by American Petroleum Institute

By Justin Mikulka - DeSmog Blog, July 9, 2014

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.

“How did it get missed for the last ten years?”

That was the question Deborah Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), posed to a panel of industry representatives back in April about how the rail industry had missed the fact that Bakken oil is more explosive than traditional crude oil.

“How do we move to an environment where commodities are classified in the right containers from the get go and not just put in until we figure out that there’s a problem,” Hersman asked during the two-day forum on transportation of crude oil and ethanol. “Is there a process for that?”

The first panelist to respond was Robert Fronczak, assistant vice president of environmental and hazardous materials for the Association of American Railroads (AAR). His response was telling.

“We’ve know about this long before Lac-Megantic and that is why we initiated the tank car committee activity and passed CPC-1232 in 2011,” Fronczak replied, “To ask why the standards are the way they are, you’d have to ask DOT that.”

So, now as the new oil-by-rail safety regulations have been sent from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, it seems like a good time to review Hersman’s questions.

How did we miss this? Is there a process to properly classify commodities for the right container before they are ever shipped? 

Capital Blight - Smoke and Mirrors

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 11, 2014

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.

This past week reports of a recent trend (but hardly a new phenomena), called "rolling coal", have gone viral in the green media--in particular on Grist and the Huffington Post. Essentially, predominantly white, working class, rural truck drivers are venting their frustrations on "effete, latte sipping, Prius driving, city-dwelling, liberals" by installing devices in their trucks that actually belch smoke and lower their own gas mileage on command. This display of reactionary machismo is detailed in a recent article by Elizabeth Kulze. As the famous comedian, Jack Benny would probably say--in the complete opposite context--"Only in America...".

As one would expect, the comments sections following these articles are full of harshly critical comments directed at these coal rollers, and not entirely without justification, but the anger is misdirected.

To be sure, it's not a classist or elitist slur to properly refer to attitudes such as these as retrograde. Back in the day the Wobblies had a nickname for members of our own class who would side with the bosses. We called them "blocks" (after the block-headed Ernest Riebe cartoon character, "Mr. Block") or "scissorbills", cultural memes which may have influenced both Charles Schulz (Think of Lucy Van Pelt calling Charlie Brown "blockhead") and the Beatles ("Billy Shears" possibly derives from "William Shears), but our fellow workers never forgot who the real enemy was: the employing class.

Why would anyone in their right mind go to such lengths to actually pay money to install such a moronic device on their vehicle and vent their anger at members of their own class? Clearly this is not logical in any sense. Only a fool would deliberately set their own house on fire, crap in their own bed, or piss in their own beer, but that is precisely what these coal rollers are doing. No matter how much they hate those "Commie tree hugging unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" or whatever, they're ultimately shooting themselves in the foot by spewing more greenhouse gasses into the Earth's atmosphere. Even if the effect is mostly negligible by itself, it still enables the capitalist class by enabling the latter's divide and conquet tactics which keep the 99% divided and at each other's throats.

We've seen this type of behavior before. In 1989, in timber dependent communities, after the US Government (finally) announced intentions to consider listing the Northern Spotted Owl as a "threatened" species (after years and years of lawsuits, campaigning, and frustration by environmentalists), the big timber corporations used a combination of propaganda, pseudoscientific nonsense, and false front astroturf "wise use" groups (as well as a few compliant business union officials) to whip timber workers into a vigilante mob hysteria against the environmental community.

Unfortunately, many environmentalists foolishly vented their frustration at the timber workers and not the timber workers employers, but this was a tactical mistake. Most timber workers didn't actually support this vigilante mob hysteria (though the corporate controlled media made it seem otherwise), but the capitalists wanted us all to think that the divisions were greater than they actually are, and things are no different now. This whole, sorry affair is simply more smoke and mirrors from the employing class.

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