Ecologist Special Report: Divesting from investment in fossil fuels gains momentum in the UK

By Remo Bebié, Finance Dialogue - Ecologist, May 15, 2017

Bill McKibben, Author and co-founder of 350.org is categoric that one of the key ways to tackle climate change is through financial channels: "There is no question we are currently in a state of emergency on climate change. Day in day out people are dying from the effects of climate change. There are many ways to confront this emergency and divestment allows us to get in the way of the money financing the fossil fuel projects behind this crisis.

"The fact that the fossil fuel divestment movement has grown exponentially in the last few years is the best news ever. From the Pacific Islands to South Africa, from the United States to Germany, people are standing up and challenging the power of the fossil fuel industry."

And in the UK too, the divestment movement is now gathering momentum.

Only last week, 50 MPs announced their backing of a campaign calling on parliament's £612m pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.

Faith groups too are also increasingly moving out of fossil fuel investments. Earlier this month, more than a quarter of Britain's Quaker meetings pledged to divest and the Catholic Church is also taking stand ("the Catholic fossil fuel divestment movement has gained further momentum as nine more institutions pull out of fossil fuels, citing a "political impasse" around US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement." )

In late January, the Irish Parliament voted in favour of a law requiring the country's £6.8 billion Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to divest from all fossil fuels over the next five years. The story went viral on social media.

Three weeks ago, Norway's largest private pension fund, Storebrand, launched two new fossil free funds, bringing their fossil free fund portfolio to $1.2 billion. Storebrand also warned that the Norwegian government is overly exposed to fossil fuels through its $900 billion sovereign wealth fund, even though it has already taken significant steps to reduce exposure in the past.

Momentum is gathering at such a speed in the UK it appears to be approaching a tipping point: Waltham Forest and Southwark, two local government pension schemes for boroughs in London, have pledged to fully divest from fossil fuels within the last year, while Hackney's pension fund committed to cut its exposure by 50 percent, as the FT reported recently. Among the UK's Local Government Pension Schemes, these three are on the smaller range, each managing assets between £0.74 and £1.26 billion.  

But examples also include the £2.73 billion Environment Agency's Pension Fund, which is currently ranked second in the Asset Owner Disclosure Project's 2017 ranking (first in 2016) among the world's 500 largest asset owners. The fund is widely considered a global leader in terms of aligning investment strategies with the goals called for in the Paris agreement and reducing financial risks associated with the energy transition.

UK workplace pension scheme NEST, already progressive in terms of integration of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, has recently added a specific climate tilted fund to it's portfolio. NEST cited "addressing risks and capturing opportunities associated with the move to fight climate change" as reasons for launching the fund. 

Private institutions are taking note too: Last fall, HSBC Bank UK Pension Scheme chose a new climate tilted fund as the equity default option for its £2.6 billion defined contribution (DC) scheme. The scheme's CIO, Mark Thompson, expects the move to deliver "better risk-adjusted return, protection against climate change risks, and a more powerful ESG engagement policy within a passive mandate".

Furthermore, by April 2018, most UK local government schemes are due to be integrated into eight pools, each managing between £12 and £36 billion of pooled assets (see here for a good pooling overview by IPE). Implementation of divestment pledges for individual schemes will depend on the pool structure. The schemes of the London boroughs are already being pooled through London CIV, which recently wrote that it is "focusing on investment strategies the pension fund authorities have shown most demand for, namely: global equity income; sustainable equities; emerging markets and value strategies." 

Many other pools are now in the process of hiring executives: Brunel, the pool which contains the Environment Agency's Pension Fund, and LGPS Central have named new chairs within the last month. The London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA) is currently "seeking to recruit additional Board Members with knowledge and experience of either: 1) Environmental Social and Corporate Governance issues in a pension fund, with a strong commitment to delivering divestment from fossil fuels; or 2) strategic and sustainable infrastructure investment by pension funds, with a breadth of experience across all forms of infrastructure investment." 

All this indicates that more activity may be expected from the UK's public and private institutional investors. And public pressure is rising as well as various UK local government pension schemes are engaged by campaigners as part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation (GDM) with calls for fossil fuel divestment (see here for complete list of LGPS engagements within the Mobilisation).

There’s Nothing Anarchist about Eco-Fascism: A Condemnation of ITS

By Scott Campbell - It's Going Down, May 12, 2017

“When horror knocks at your door, it’s difficult to hide from. All that can be done is to breathe, gather strength, and face it….I shared news of the woman found in University City. From the first moment, I was angered and protested the criminalization of the victim. The next morning I woke up to the horror and pain that she was my relative.”

– Statement from the family of Lesvy Rivera to Mexican society

“[W]e take responsibility for the homicide of another human in University City on May 3rd….Much has emerged about that damned thing leaning lifeless on a payphone… ‘that she suffered from alcoholism, that she wasn’t a student, this and that.’ But what does it matter? She’s just another mass, just another damned human who deserved death.”

– 29th Statement of Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS)

Some things shouldn’t have to be said, but as is too often the case in this disaster of a world, that which should be most obvious often gets subsumed to the exigencies of politics, ideologies, money, emotion, or internet clicks. The purpose of this piece is to condemn the recent acts of eco-extremists in Mexico and those who cheer them on from abroad.

This critique does not aspire to alter the behavior of Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS), Individualities Tending Toward the Wild (ITS), Wild Reaction (RS), Indiscriminate Group Tending Toward the Wild (GITS), Eco-extremist Mafia, or whatever they will change their name to tomorrow. Like any other deluded, sociopathic tyrant, these individuals have declared themselves above reproach, critique, reason, or accountability. They have appointed themselves judge, jury, and executioner; the guardians and enforcers of Truth using a romanticized past to justify their actions. As absolutist authoritarians, they have constructed a theoretical framework that, while ever-shifting and inconsistent, somehow always ends with a justification for why they get to hold a knife to the throats of all of humankind. In short, they think and act like the State.

"Berta Didn't Die, She Multiplied": Indigenous Organizers in Honduras Call for Radical Transformation

Pascuala Vásquez interviewed by Beverly Bell - TruthOut, May 15, 2017; image by Beverly Bell.

"Berta didn't die. She multiplied," is an oft-heard chant in Honduras. The significance of the life of Berta Cáceres, warrior for indigenous peoples and the sanctity of Mother Earth, continues growing. So, too, does the significance of her assassination in March 2016, as more evidence emerges about the role of the US and Honduran governments, and the internationally financed dam company DESA, in the crime.

Also multiplying around the world is hope and action inspired by Cáceres' message that the world needs radical, structural transformation. As she said regarding the fight against capitalism, racism, and patriarchy when she received a Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, "Wake up! Wake up, humanity! There is no time left."

The organization Cáceres founded 24 years ago, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), continues multiplying, too. About a dozen new Lenca communities have recently joined the 200-plus communities already united in protecting their territories, waters, communities, and rights from the government and multinational corporations.

Cáceres' family and Gustavo Castro Soto are now compiling evidence for their joint trial against the Honduran government. Castro, director of Friends of the Earth-Mexico, was on a brief visit from Chiapas when he was wounded twice and almost killed in the assault in Cáceres' home. He then spent a month illegally detained in Honduras, where he was tortured. The sole witness to Cáceres' death, Castro told us, "If I hadn't been there that night, it would have been the perfect assassination." As it is, the trial threatens to blow the lid off of impunity the Honduran and US states and transnational capital.

The Honduran government has blocked the plaintiffs' efforts for a fair and transparent trial, denying them access to information, disappearing six months of evidence they had filed with the court, and refusing the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' offer to help.  While eight men have been arrested as suspects -- including one in Castro's home town in Mexico - the intellectual authors of the crime continue to walk freely.

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, introduced into the US Congress this past March, calls for the US to cut off security assistance to the government of Honduras until it makes improvements in human rights. (If your congressperson isn't yet on board, please urge him or her to sponsor the bill.)

Below, Pascuala Vásquez tells more about the Lenca fight, and offers insights into a little publicized part of COPINH and Cáceres' work: reliance on Lenca culture and spirituality to keep the movement strong and the Earth whole. A 75-year-old farmer and organizer, Vásquez is also COPINH's spiritual leader, head of COPINH's Lenca Cultural Committee, and member of the Council of Elders.

Getting Out of Our Coal Hole

By Oscar Reyes - CounterPunch, May 11, 2017

When you’re in a hole, it’s usually best to stop digging. But when President Trump told supporters at his 100th day rally in Pennsylvania that “we are putting our coal miners back to work,” he just burrowed deeper into the bed of administration lies on energy.

The truth of the matter is that climate regulations aren’t a “war on coal,” and no amount of presidential photo-ops will bring mining jobs back. A recent report from the Center for Global Energy clearly shows why.

The demand for U.S. coal has collapsed in the past six years, it explains, following big improvements in energy efficiency (like better lighting and appliances), cheaper gas and renewables, and a decline in coal exports as other countries look to cleaner sources of energy.

Three of the four largest coal mining companies have filed for bankruptcy, while Bob Murray — CEO of the largest remaining one — recently warned Trump that coal jobs are unlikely to return. The CEO should know, as Murray Energy’s formula for avoiding bankruptcy has largely involved slashing jobs, compromising safety, and worsening labor conditions.

America’s main competitors get the point and have already planned to phase out coal. On April 21, the United Kingdom met its energy needs without burning any coal at all — for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. And the country’s last coal-burning power station will close within the next decade.

Meanwhile, a majority of energy companies in the European Union have promised to stop investing in new coal plants by 2020.

China is also fast reducing its reliance on coal. It recently canceled over 100 planned new coal-fired power plants, as well as slashing production at state-controlled coal mines. China has pledged to reduce coal production by 800 million tons per year by 2020, more than the entire annual output of all U.S. mines combined.

Instead of trying to revive the mining sector, in short, we should be planning for its replacement.

Which way for the climate movement?

By Michael Schreiber - Socialist Action, May 11, 2017

On April 29, more than 200,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., in a powerful show of determination to rescue the earth from the ravages of climate change. Over 370 sister marches took place simultaneously across the United States and in countries around the world from Britain to Brazil, and from Mexico to Kenya and the Philippines.

The size of the crowd in Washington far surpassed earlier expectations by the organizers and the National Park Service. At precisely 2 p.m., virtually the entire march, which at that point extended more than 20 blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, grew quiet as people sat down as an ensemble. Drums kept the rhythm as the marchers thumped their chests to show that while coming from many backgrounds, their hearts beat as one.

In addition to the colorful puppets and banners carried by organized contingents, most of the marchers brought hand-lettered signs, with slogans reflecting a variety of related social concerns (such as “Black Lives Matter”) in addition to that of the environment.

Although the organized trade-union contingents were meager, spirited groups of Native Americans, LGBTQ people, and communities of color—including a number of Washington, D.C., youth—made their presence felt.

“In the face of a federal administration that would rather reap profits than protect people, our communities are rising up,” Jeremiah Lowery, climate justice organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said in a press statement on the eve of the march. “In Washington, D.C. and around the world, it’s low-income communities, communities of color, and workers who are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis they did the least to contribute to.”

There is no doubt that the threats by the Trump administration to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords and to rescind environmental measures put in place by Obama—which themselves were far from adequate—were responsible for swelling the numbers of people who joined the demonstration.

Eco-Prisoner Marius Mason is out of Administrative Segregation!

By staff - Fight Toxic Prisons, May 12, 2017

On May 8, Marius Mason was moved out of the Carswell Federal Medical Center’s (FMC) Administrative Unit, into general population. While this is a far cry from freedom, for the first time in nearly seven years, Marius is able to see the sky and feel the grass beneath his feet.

This welcome news comes weeks before the Fight Toxic Prisons convergence, to be held in the city of Denton, Texas, near FMC Carswell. The environmental activists and prison abolitionists organizing the conference have identified Carswell, located on a Fort Worth military base, as a prime example of a “toxic prison” worthy of national attention. Carswell has long been the subject of complaints about general conditions, as well as being of special concern due to its Administrative Unit, which has housed political prisoners and individuals suffering from serious mental illness. Anti-nuclear activist Helen Woodson was held in the facility until her release in 2011, and other political prisoners, including Aafia Siddiqui and Ana Belen Montes, remain there today.

Since Mason’s confinement in the Administrative Unit, advocacy efforts from his community and his lawyer have been ongoing. Advocacy work has included not only efforts to have him moved from the overly restrictive environment of the Unit, but a successful campaign to secure gender-affirming hormone treatment, making him the first known prisoner authorized to begin female-to-male gender transition in federal custody. Also during his time in the Admin Unit, the BOP has adjusted its policies on solitary confinement. Carswell administrators gave no explanation for Marius’ redesignation. Needless to say, friends and supporters believe the move is long overdue.

Shortly after his sentencing in 2010, Marius was moved from FCI Waseca to the highly restrictive administrative unit at FMC Carswell. After litigation, a FOIA request yielded a document indicating that his redesignation was due to his “radicalizing and recruiting other inmates.” No specific information was provided about why an inmate might be placed into the unit, or how Marius might be able to transition out of it. Indeed, more information is available about the BOP’s Communication Management Units (CMUs), created with the stated purpose of monitoring alleged so-called terrorists, than about the administrative unit at Carswell.

For several years, Marius’ lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, attempted without success to get the BOP to provide a written statement justifying the decision to keep him in the Administrative Unit. According to Meltzer-Cohen, the few written documents about the facility’s Administrative Unit state that it exists in order to coerce compliance with institutional safety. Upon successful behavioral modification, the inmate presumably is to transition back to general population. Marius remained in the administrative unit for years with an almost flawless disciplinary record. The facility’s redesignation of Marius into general population therefore seems to be a belated, but welcome compliance with the BOP’s own stated goals.

We are hopeful that this move may mean better control over his diet and more reliable mail service.

Meltzer-Cohen stated, “We wish Marius a lot of luck in this transition. While we may never know the reason for it, this does draw attention to the fact that the BOP finally seems to be acting in accordance with its own policy on administrative segregation in Mason’s case, after years of avoiding it.”

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) sends love to Marius in this move and extends solidarity to all people in administrative segregation as a penalty for their beliefs or mental health conditions which the BOP doesn’t want to deal with. We support the call to immediately close Carswell’s Administrative Unit entirely.

We also call on the BOP to address the long history of abuses in general population which Marius is entering. The Carswell Federal Medical Center has been the subject of more than a decade of scrutiny by groups such as the ACLU, which released an extensive report calling it a Hospital of Horrors.

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #153

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 12, 2017

A smorgasbord of news of interest to green unionists:

After a series of court wins, the question remains: Can Trump bring back coal? - By Robert Walton, Utility Dive, May 8, 2017 - Plausible ranges for domestic coal mining employment range from 70,000 to 90,000 in 2020, and 64,000 to 94,000 in 2025 and 2030, "lower than anything the US experienced before 2015," researchers concluded. "President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities."

Bucking Trump, US cities press ahead on clean energy, climate goals - By Jackie Snow , Utility Dive, May 4, 2017 - A study published by the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Climate Corps program found that the solar and wind industries are each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy.

Bus drivers union says Winnipeg Transit putting drivers at risk - By staff, CBC News, May 9, 2017 - The union for Winnipeg's transit operators is questioning whether the city is truly concerned about the safety of bus drivers.

California Rail Electrification Funding Trump’s Transportation Secretary Wanted To Kill Gets Funded In New Budget Deal - By Steve Hanley, Clean Technica, May 4, 2017 - Approval of the 2017 budget and execution of a Full Funding Grant Agreement by the Federal Transit Administration would allow construction to begin immediately. The project is expected to create more than 9,600 new construction jobs.

Coal Jobs Prove Lucrative, but Not for Those in the Mines - By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, May 2, 2017 - Though employment in coal mining has been growing since the fall after a long period of decline, the numbers have been minuscule — a net increase of 100 jobs in the latest jobs report for March. Since September, overall employment has increased by 1,700 to just over 50,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the work is a far cry from the stable, well-paying union jobs that were once the industry’s norm.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers news:

Dead and dying workers, death threats and disappearing water: Anglo American’s marathon AGM - By Richard, London Mining Network, May 3, 2017 - He said that the company needs to act with integrity and to respect the life and livelihoods of communities affected by its operations, its workers and the natural environment.

Dispelling the Spin: NYC Comptroller Reacts as #DivestNY Pressure Mounts - By staff, Fossil Free, May 8, 2017 - It is financially prudent to divest from oil, gas, and coal.  Increasingly fossil fuel investments are being seen as financially risky particularly as medium or long term holdings, which is the traditional time horizon for pension funds to invest their assets; [related]: New Yorkers take to state Capitol to lobby for Divestment Act - By staff, Fossil Free, May 9, 2017

Dozens trapped, two killed in Iranian coal mine explosion - By Cecilia Jamasmie, Mining.Com, May 3, 2017 - Two coal miners have died and more than 50 remain trapped after an explosion in a mine located in Iran's northern Golestan province.

Emergency Declared After Tunnel Collapse at Toxic Hanford Nuke Site - By Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, May 9, 2017 - A tunnel was damaged on Tuesday at a plutonium handling facility at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, leading authorities to evacuate some workers at the site and instruct others to take cover, a spokesperson for the site said in a release; [related]: Emergency Declared at Nuclear Waste Site in Washington State  - By Stefanie Spear, EcoWatch, May 9, 2017 | Evacuation: Emergency Declared at Hanford After Tunnel Collapses onto Nuclear Waste - By staff, EnviroNews, May 9, 2017 | Hanford’s Nuclear Option - By Joshua Frank, CounterPunch, May 10, 2017 | Hanford tunnel collapses onto rail cars storing radioactive wastes - by staff, Beyond Nuclear, May 9, 2017 | Hanford Workers Being Told to Take Cover! - By Stacy Lee, KEYW 98.3 FM, May 9, 2017 | There’s an ongoing emergency at the largest nuclear waste storage site in the U.S - By staff, Grist, May 10, 2017 | Tunnel Collapses at Washington Nuclear Waste Plant; No Radiation Released - By Tom James and Scott DiSavino, Reuters, May 9, 2017 | Workers at Washington nuclear waste plant take cover after apparent tunnel damage - By Charles Digges, Bellona, May 9, 2017

EPA dismisses half of key board’s scientific advisers; Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels - By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Washington Post,  May 8, 2017 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cleaned house on its scientific review board last week, dismissing at least five scientists on its 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors; [related]: E.P.A. Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review Board - By Coral Davenport, New York Times, May 7, 2017 | EPA Fires Scientists - By Climate Nexus, EcoWatch, May 8, 2017 | "Today, I Was Trumped": Pruitt's EPA Axes Half of Key Scientific Review Panel - By Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, May 8, 2017 | Scott Pruitt removes scientists from EPA advisory panels to make room for industry advocates - By Mark Hand, ThinkProgress, May 8, 2017

Exploitation and Abuse at the Chicken Plant - By Michael Grabell, New Yorker, May 8, 2017 - Case Farms plants are among the most dangerous workplaces in America. In 2015 alone, federal workplace-safety inspectors fined the company nearly two million dollars, and in the past seven years it has been cited for two hundred and forty violations.

Exxon Mobil's outdated equipment and procedures led to Torrance explosion, agency says - By Ivan PennIvan Penn, Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2017 - “At the Torrance refinery, workers did not have proper protocols to ensure safety when deviating from normal operating procedures,” she said. “Not only do procedures need to be on the books, but workers must be trained in them and management must put into practice what is on paper.”

Federal Report Slams ExxonMobil for Safety Gaps in LA Refinery Explosion, While Activists Say Risks Remain - By Larry Buhl, DeSmog Blog, May 5, 2017 - The explosion on the morning of February 18, 2015 released thousands of pounds of acid and caused chemical ash to rain on a heavily populated community for hours. Eight workers had to be decontaminated, and four were sent to hospitals with minor injuries.

5 Life-Saving Environmental Rules Industry Just Asked Trump to Attack - By Keith Gaby, EcoWatch, May 8, 2017 - The Trump administration seems to view all health and environmental safeguards as potentially suspicious. That's in spite of strong data showing that environmental rules actually help the economy—by preventing illness, missed school days, worker absence, productivity problems and early death.

5 of the Fastest Growing Jobs in Clean Energy -  By Daron Christopher, Renewable Energy World, May 10, 2017 - A recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report on jobs and the economy found that 6.4 million Americans work in the energy sector, with 300,000 jobs added last year. A huge percentage of these new jobs are in renewable energy and efficiency.

Four reasons why NUMSA rejects Cyril Ramaphosa’s un-apology for Marikana - By Irvin Jim, NUMSA, May 9, 2017 - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, (NUMSA) rejects the un-apology made by the Deputy President of the country and the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, regarding his role in the Marikana Massacre. Ramaphosa was the chairperson of Lonmin mines, at the time of the massacre and Deputy president of the country.

From Hero to Villain: Lessons About Energy From ‘The Dark Knight’ - By Matthew Klippenstein, GreenTech Media, May 9, 2017 - In the last few weeks alone, Tesla employees filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, relating to their efforts to form a union. German workers also demanded higher wages.

The Huntley Experiment

By Richard Lipsitz and Rebecca Newberry, Labor Network for Sustainability, May 9, 2017

As the Huntley coal-fired power plant in Tonawanda, NY, a working class suburb of Buffalo, NY, began cutting back on its production, the company began cutting back on its payments to the town; as a result, three schools were closed and 135 school employees lost their jobs. The workforce at the plant was slashed from 125 to 75. In response to the likely closing of the plant, the Kenmore-Tonawanda Teachers Association, the IBEW, the Western New York Area Labor Federation, and the Clean Air Coalition formed the Huntley Alliance.

They won funding from the new state Fossil Fuel Plant Closure Fund to offset lost tax revenue. And they are continuing to campaign for jobs and/or retraining for those employed at the plant and reuse of the plant for activities that will enhance the economic and cultural life of the community. Richard Lipsitz, President of the Western New York Labor Federation, and Rebecca Newberry, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, tell the inside story of this successful effort in “Huntley, a Case Study: Building Strategic Alliances for Real Change.”

[Full Text] of the case study

The Robot Economy: Ready or Not, Here It Comes

By JP Sottile - Truthout, May 7, 2017

September 17th changed everything.

On that day in 2013, Oxford University published an innocuously titled academic paper by two mostly unknown economists. But "The Future of Employment" wasn't just another number-crunching exercise in opacity by a couple of dreary scientists. No, their bombshell report portended a coming robot apocalypse that could change the nature of human civilization, and perhaps even human beings themselves.

Thankfully, the forthcoming carnage described by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne isn't a doomsday scenario where Skynet systematically wipes out humankind, or a darkly lit near-future where attractive Replicants violently struggle to make sense of their emerging emotions in a perpetually damp Los Angeles.  

Instead, the economists previewed an all-too-real world where the second-richest man on the planet -- Amazon's Jeff Bezos -- gleefully parades around like Sigourney Weaver in a massive robotic exoskeleton built by Hankook Mirae Technology.

They presaged the impending doom from robots like Handle, the Michael Jordan-esque robot built by Boston Dynamics. Handle can leap like a superhero, can run a marathon in under three hours and, if Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is right, will probably be smarter than you in just a few decades.

They foresaw a future with the likes of Gordon, the "first robotic barista in the U.S." Gordon can serve "about 120 coffees in an hour." They also predicted the likes of Otto, the self-driving big-rig designated by Uber to deliver truckloads of beer to thirsty consumers. And then there's Pepper, the empathic, "day-to-day" companion that is not just working in airports and banks, but being "adopted" into Japanese homes … and even "enrolling" in school.

One Class, One Struggle! Undocumented and Documented Workers Unite on May Day

By Patrick O’Donoghue - The Organizer, May 1, 2017; crossposted from iww.org

A Day of Resistance!

Today is May Day, or as we in the labor movement call it, International Worker’s Day- a day of celebration and resistance for working class people. It is a day not only of looking forward to the future, but also remembering the lessons of the past. May Day commemorates the struggle of the Haymarket Martyrs, a group of labor organizers, most of them immigrants, executed in Chicago for their work in the Eight Hour Day movement. The Eight Hour Day was the first time that workers around the world joined together in one campaign, supporting each other’s strikes and protests around a single demand- reduce the work day to eight hours, without a cut in pay. The movement faced violence and arrests from governments, but eventually won in country after country. The eight hour day became the basic work day for workers across the countries where the movement fought, with victories across Europe, North and South America, Australia, Iran, Japan, and elsewhere. Over a century ago, workers realized the power we have when we refuse to be divided by borders, industry, or race.

This May Day is also the Day Without Immigrants. It is the latest in a wave of of day strike by immigrant workers- not only to protest wages and work conditions, but also to protest the Trump’s plans to increase deportations. Under the Trump’s ramping up of the Obama administration’s already record-breaking deportations, ICE has increasingly targeted previously protected DREAMers and other undocumented people not otherwise criminalized by the state. ICE raids are becoming more regular even in “Sanctuary Cities”, and more of our neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends are being captured, torn from their homes, forced through over-crowded detention centers and courts without due process.

In the Twin Cities, many of the actions today are organized by CTUL, the workers center for low wage workers of color, especially immigrant workers. Even more of the walk outs and sick outs are “wildcat” actions organized on the shop floor between undocumented workers, without needing the go-ahead from a union or organizer.

By striking, these undocumented workers are showing how important they are to making the world run. How many restaurants are shut down today because the back end staff didn’t come in? How many landscapers and construction companies who rely on day laborerers are not making money today? How many farm fields aren’t being worked? Every day, undocumented immigrant workers do some of the toughest jobs in America, and the country starts to grind to a halt without immigrant workers. Deportations crackdowns have already left millions of dollars of produce to rot in the fields in Alabama, Georgia, and California as farmers dependent on exploiting undocumented workers can’t find Americans to work for as low as $10,000-$12,000 a year. The four industries with the most undocumented workforce- agriculture, cleaning and maintenance, construction, and food preparation and service- are all expecting labor shortages if Trump’s deportation plan is carried out. American companies and bosses need our immigrant fellow workers- but the administration and parts of the press try to tell workers who are citizens that undocumented workers are hurting American working standards. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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