Disillusioned Shell Whistleblower Runar Kjoersvik

By John Donovan - Royal Dutch Shell Plc.com, March 17, 2017

We have published a series of articles about Runar Kjoersvik, the Norwegian safety expert who in 2014 was dismissed by Shell on trumped-up charges.

Evidence was gathered in a covert surveillance operation as part of a vicious campaign conducted against him by Shell Norway senior management.

Runar was twice elected by his fellow workers, first as a SAFE Union representative and subsequently as the Main Safety Delegate.

His election was not a fluke. The employees who elected him at the Nyhamna Gas Plant in Norway knew Runar was fully qualified. He had attended several Norwegian law and HSE courses where he learnt how to protect legal rights according to rules, regulations and Norwegian Law. He also earned a diploma of strategic leadership from college university.

So in general, he had very skilled training and a long education that has led him to different managerial positions in several international companies giving him flawless feedback prior to his time at Shell.

He was, therefore, confident that his skills for managing the Main Safety Delegate position were first-rate and genuinely believed he could do a good job both for his co-workers and for A/S Norske Shell.

Senior plant managers congratulated Runar on achieving the Main Safety Delegate position and told him:

You will now be able to make an influence on Shell in a greater perspective, you will get to know the organisation, and make an influence through the work environment committee. This will be very positive for your future development and career.

Runar was also impressed by Shell’s claimed core values: honesty, integrity and respect for people, set within codes of conduct and ethics.

The future looked good. A responsible job and a decent employer.

The promising outlook did not last very long.

The Day of Mourning for injured and killed workers was invented by Canada. Now we're killing more workers than anyone

By Ed Finn - Rabble.Ca, April 28, 2017

April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job. This is the second of a two-part series. read part one here.

The lack of safety in Canada's workplaces is a national -- and international -- disgrace. Many of our industries neglect safety training, skimp on safety equipment and keep employees unaware of the danger of new chemicals. In our fiercely competitive global market, they will put the maximization of profits ahead of the "costly" provision of safe workplaces -- as long as they can get away with it.

Our governments, too, have given on-the-job safety an inexcusably low priority. Oh yes, they've beefed up work safety rules, even given workers the right to refuse dangerous duties, the right to sit on industrial health and safety committees -- even the right to be informed about the dangers of any material they are obliged to handle.

But, as with Bill C-45, no such legal rights can be exercised without managerial retaliation unless workplaces are regularly inspected and safety laws strictly enforced. And on that score, our federal and provincial governments have fallen shamefully short.

Without stringent government oversight, employers are left free to flout safety rules and regulations. They can maintain their profits-before-personnel policy with virtual impunity.

A climate insurgency: building a Trump-free, fossil-free future

By Jeremy Brecher - The Ecologist, April 28, 2017

As the thousands of foot-weary protesters leave the April 29 Peoples Climate March in Washington, DC - and its scores of sister marches around the country - one question will no doubt be foremost on their minds:

How can a march, or indeed any other action they take, force a reversal in the world's hurtle to climate doom?

After all, a single march, no matter how large, is not going to force President Trump and his administration of fossil-fuel company executives and climate-change deniers to reverse course.

They have already cancelled the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, authorized drilling and mining on public lands, and gutted regulations that protect local people and environments against the extraction of fossil fuels.

He has cleared the way for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. His allies in Congress are whetting their knives to gut the Clean Air, Clean Water and Environmental Policy Acts. The fossil fuel industry is lining up for permits to build new infrastructure that will accelerate global warming and threaten local environments to boot.

The Coal Industry is a Job Killer

By Basav Sen - CounterPunch, April 28, 2017

When Donald Trump announced he was rolling back the Obama administration’s signature climate rules this spring, he invited coal miners to share the limelight with him. He promised this would end the so-called “war on coal” and bring mining jobs back to coal country.

He was dead wrong on both counts.

Trump has blamed the prior administration’s Clean Power Plan for the loss of coal jobs. But there’s an obvious problem with this claim: The plan hasn’t even gone into effect! Repealing it will do nothing to reverse the worldwide economic and technological forces driving the decline of the coal industry.

And the problem is global. As concern rises over carbon dioxide, more and more countries are turning away from coal. U.S. coal exports are down, and coal plant construction is slowing the world over — even as renewables become cheaper and more widespread.

To really bring back coal jobs, Trump would have to wish these trends away — along with technological automation and natural gas, which have taken a much bigger bite out of coal jobs than any regulation.

Could domestic regulation have played some role in the decline of coal? Sure, some. Rules limiting emissions of mercury and other pollutants from burning coal, and limiting the ability of coal-burning utilities to dump toxic coal ash in rivers and streams, likely put some financial pressure on coal power plants.

However, those costs should be weighed against the profound health benefits of cleaner air and water.

Cleaning up coal power plants (and reducing their number) leads to fewer children with asthma, fewer costly emergency room visits, and fewer costly disaster responses when massive amounts of toxic coal ash leach into drinking water sources, to name just a few benefits. Most reasonable people would agree those aren’t small things.

There’s also the fact that the decline in coal jobs, while painful for those who rely on them, tells only a small part of the story. In fact, there are alternatives that could put hundreds of thousands of people back to work.

Here are a few little-known facts: Coal accounts for about 26 percent of the electricity generating capacity in our country — and about 160,000 jobs. Solar energy accounts for just 2 percent of our power generation — and 374,000 jobs.

In other words, solar has created more than twice as many jobs as coal, with only a sliver of the electric grid. So if the intent truly is to create more jobs, where would a rational government focus its efforts?

It’s not just solar, either. The fastest growing occupation in the U.S. is wind turbine technician. And a typical wind turbine technician makes $25.50 an hour, more than many fossil fuel workers.

By rolling back commonsense environmental restraints on the coal industry, Trump is allowing the industry to externalize its terrible social and environmental costs on all of us, giving the industry a hidden subsidy. He’s also reopening federal lands to new coal leases, at rates that typically run well below actual market value.

By subsidizing a less-job intensive and more established industry, Trump’s misguided policy changes will thwart the growth of the emerging solar and wind industries, which could create many, many more jobs than coal. In fact, hurting these industries by helping coal might even result in a net job loss for everyone.

Then again, maybe this was never about jobs. Maybe the administration’s intent all along was to reward well-connected coal (and oil and gas) oligarchs who make hefty campaign contributions. If so, that was a good investment for them.

For ordinary working people — and for our planet — the cost could be too much to bear.

Climate Movement to May Day Strikers: "We've Got Your Back"

By Deirdre Fulton - Common Dreams, April 27, 2017

Just as labor leaders are standing firmly behind this Saturday's national climate mobilization, the environmental movement has declared its support for workers who plan to strike as part of Monday's May Day demonstrations.

May 1st, International Workers Day, will see rallies, marches, and strikes around the country and the world; in the United States, acts of civil disobedience, work stoppages, and boycotts will target the Trump administration and support immigrants who have experienced an increase in raids and racist rhetoric since the election of President Donald Trump.

"May 1st is the first step in a series of strikes and boycotts that will change the conversation on immigration in the United States," said Maria Fernanda Cabello, a spokesperson from Movimiento Cosecha, which is part of a coalition organizing the actions. "We believe that when the country recognizes it depends on immigrant labor to function, we will win permanent protection from deportation for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, the right to travel freely to visit our loved ones abroad, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect."

An open letter signed this week by more than 80 environmental and climate justice groups recognizes that these demands and those of green groups have many points of intersection. 

"Today, workers face unprecedented attacks on wages, benefits, workplace safety, and the right to organize free from fear and retaliation," reads the letter, whose signatories include 350.org, Greenpeace, Rising Tide North America, and the Sierra Club. "But we know that we are all stronger when workers in our communities have safe, fair, and dignified employment with which they can support their families without fear of deportation or violence."

What's more, the letter continues:

The effects of our fossil fuel economy fall first and worst on working class communities, communities of color, immigrants, and Indigenous peoples who have not only contributed the least to climate disruption, but have the least resources to shoulder the burden of a transition to a new, climate-friendly economy. It is these frontline communities who are also at the forefront of change and whose solutions and leadership we most need.

[...] As environmental and climate justice organizations, we support workers who choose to walk off their jobs on May 1st because we know that the fight to protect land, water, air and soil is inseparable from the fight to protect the life and dignity of workers, migrants, and communities of color.

This language dovetails with that of Mary Kay Henry, international president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who declared Wednesday, "Every day SEIU members and our communities experience the impact of toxic pollution in our air and water and the catastrophic impacts from climate change that are made worse from this pollution."

Of Saturday's Peoples Climate March, Henry said: "We march because we are on the frontlines. As working people, people of color, and immigrants, we march because our families are disproportionately hardest hit by pollution and climate change's impacts. We march because as service and care workers we are on the frontlines of caring for and responding to impacted families and communities."

The letter from eco- and climate-justice groups calls on employers not to retaliate against workers who choose to go on strike, and pledges to defend workers who face retaliation.

Declaration of the Launching Congress of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)

By staff - Trade Unions For Energy Democracy, April 23, 2017

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) has been born. We have passed a milestone in the history of the South African trade union movement at this Launching Congress held in Boksburg from 21-23 April 2017.

700,000 workers represented by 1,384 voting delegates from 24 unions and other non-voting unions have taken the first decisive step to building a new, vibrant, independent, and democratic workers’ federation, leading the struggle against exploitation, mass unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption and taking up the struggle for the total emancipation of the working class from the chains of its capitalist oppressors.

Delegates formally adopted the name, logo and colours of red, black and gold. A constitution was adopted and a Report from the Steering Committee which  spelt out the way forward for the coming period, and endorsed the principles adopted by the Workers Summit on 30 April 2016.

We are building a fundamentally different type of workers’ organisation – independent of political parties and employers but not apolitical, democratic, worker-controlled, militant, socialist-orientated, internationalist, Pan Africanist from a Marxist perspective and inspired by the principles of Marxism-Leninism. 

Our historic mission is to rapidly build a united mass force of workers, which will transform their lives and pave the way for the transformation of society as a whole from one based on the greed of a rapacious capitalist elite to one run for the benefit of the working class and all the people of South Africa and the world.

But time is not on our side. Unless we urgently mobilize our forces to confront the quadruple challenge of unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption and revive the trade union movement, turn the tide and fight back against their appalling conditions of life, we shall slide into a new age of barbarism, and even worse exploitation of the working class and the poor. 

USFSA’s Participation in the #PeoplesClimateMarch

By staff - The US Food Sovereignty Alliance, April 28, 2017

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance, an alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups, is joining in solidarity with the It Takes Roots Coalition at the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on April 29, 2017 to stand for “the rights, actions, and leadership of communities who are at the frontlines of fighting for water, land, and home.”

As a US-based organization, the USFSA upholds the right to food as a fundamental human right and works to connect our local and national struggles to global movements led by farmers, fishers and indigenous people. Corporate-controlled industrial agriculture and fishing are significant contributors to climate change and smallholder farmers producing and harvesting food build the resiliency of ecosystems which contribute to both nourishing people and cooling the planet.

Humans have a right to the resources required to meet their basic needs and provide themselves with shelter, sustenance, and an adequate livelihood. The means of meeting these needs are often embedded in cultural practices that are vital for people’s sense of identity. Food feeds more than the body.

Climate change increases hunger.  A sustainable and nutritious food supply is essential for the entire human population, but it’s also essential for the economic well-being of food producers.  People who produce food – like farmers and fishers – are often hardest hit by climate change, which directly affects their family’s food supply and sources of income.  With 78 percent of the world’s poor relying on farming to support their families, it’s important to develop sustainable ways of farming that support both the environment and those who rely on crops for economic stability.

Tribunal judges: Monsanto isn't feeding the world - it's undermining food security

By Claire Robinson - The Ecologist, April 24, 2017

Monsanto promotes its genetically modified (GM) crops and associated pesticides on the claimed grounds that they are needed to help 'feed the world'.

But the five judges of the Monsanto Tribunal found that far from contributing to food security, Monsanto's activities have "negatively affected food availability for individuals and communities."

The judges of the Tribunal, held last October in The Hague, listened to the testimony of 28 witnesses from around the world whose health and livelihoods had suffered as a result of Monsanto's products and activities.

The judges are all renowned for their expertise in human rights and international law issues. They were led by the Belgian Françoise Tulkens, former vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights.

Last week the Monsanto Tribunal judges announced their damning verdict, based on a number of considerations. First, the judges found that Monsanto had interfered with the ability of individuals and communities to feed themselves directly from productive land:

"Monsanto's activities have caused and are causing damages to the soil, water and generally to the environment, thereby reducing the productive possibilities for the production of adequate food.

"Communal agricultural activities as well as forests that provide food resources are being devastated by the spread of genetically engineered seeds that use large amounts of herbicides like glyphosate. These activities by Monsanto are interfering with the right to produce food."

Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy: an Organizing Proposal

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 29, 2017

The world faces a crises of enormous proportions. Global warming, caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels, threatens life on Earth as we know it, and yet, those most responsible for causing the crisis, the fossil fuel wing of the capitalist class, seems hell bent on doubling down on business as usual. In the United States of America, whose corporate overlords are among the worst offenders, they are led by the recently elected Donald Trump, whose cabinet is bursting at the seams with climate change denialists and fossil fuel capitalist industry representatives. Instead of transitioning to a clean energy economy and decarbonizing society as quickly as possible, as climate scientists overwhelmingly recommend, Trump and his inner circle would seemingly rather not just maintain the status quo; they’ve signaled that they intend to make the worst choices imaginable, putting all of the US’s energy eggs into the oil, natural gas, and coal basket.

Worse still, Trump claims to enjoy a good deal of support for such moves from the Voters who elected him, which includes a good portion of the "White working class" who have traditionally supported the Democratic Party, whose policies are just barely more favorable to addressing the problems of global warming (which is to say, still woefully inadequate). Meanwhile, the leadership of the AFL-CIO, pushed principally by the Building Trades unions, have doubled down on their efforts to continue to serve as capital’s junior partners, even as the latter continues to liquidate them in their ongoing campaign of systemic union busting.  Just recently, science teachers across the country began to find packets in their school mailboxes, containing a booklet entitled "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming", a DVD, and a cover letter urging them to "read this remarkable book and view the video, and then use them in your classroom," courtesy of the climate change denialist Heartland Institute.

One might think, given all of these situations, that…well, to put it mildly…we’re doomed. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in spite of the bleakness of these circumstances, a deeper look behind them reveals that fossil fuel capitalism is in terminal decline, that their hold over our lives hangs by a thread, so much that we the people, the workers and peasants of the world, have the ability to transform the human existence to one based not on plundering the Earth and exploiting the masses for the profit of a few, but one based on true grassroots democracy, free of suffering and want, and one that exists in harmony with the Earth. The key to making this transformation lies with clean energy, and the people who can make this transformation are the very people who helped elect Donald Trump themselves. One may justifiably ask, how is this even remotely possible?

This new organizing proposal, Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy, offers a potential solution and practical steps to achieve it which can not only break the reactionary tide, perhaps once and for all, but also can greatly accelerate the very necessary process of abolishing capitalism and building a new, ecological sustainable world in the shell of the ecocidal old by building an intersectional movement championing "Clean Energy Democracy". Such a movement has the potential to unite workers, rural and rustbelt communities, climate justice activists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and farmers of all backgrounds and revitalize a vibrant and grassroots democratic anti-capitalist left, and it offers goals that help address the intertwining crises of global warming, decadent capitalism, failing economies, and demoralized communities plagued by economic depression, racism, and reactionary nationalism.

While the burgeoning "resistance", loosely led by a coalition of groups and movements with a smorgasbord of goals and demands, many of which are reformist and defensive (though not undesirable if seen as steps along the way to more revolutionary and transformative demands) has so far successfully held back much of the worst intentions of Trump and the forces he represents, making the latter fight tooth and nail for every single inch (as well they should), such resistance still lacks the positive vision needed to truly meet the needs of most people, including especially the most oppressed and downtrodden. By contrast, Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy offers one piece of a revolutionary and transformative vision that can truly help build a new world within the shell of the old, thus putting an end to capitalist economic oppression as well as the ongoing systematic destruction of the Earth's ability to sustain life.

Download the Proposal (PDF File).

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #151

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 21, 2017

A smorgasbord of news of interest to green unionists:

Activists and clients tell TIAA to stop investments linked to deforestation and displacement of local farmers - By Audrey Fox, Friends of the Earth, April 20, 2017 - Nancy Romer, a PSC-CUNY union faculty member and TIAA client, spoke out at today’s event. “I want my retirement money to be invested ethically, not in companies that exploit resources and abuse communities. I have a right to decide where my retirement investments go, and that cannot happen until TIAA and other investment firms stop concealing the destruction they are financing.”

Brazil: Since the return to democracy there have been nearly 2,000 political assassinations in rural areas - By Cauê Seigner Ameni, La Via Campesina, April 25, 2017 - Records from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) show that, since 1985, 1,833 peasants and leaders of the struggle for agrarian reform have been assassinated in conflicts over land, while during the same period of time large land estates have grown by 375%; [related]:  Outbreak of Killing in Brazil as Landowners Work to Displace Farmers - By staff, Global Justice Ecology Project, April 24, 2017 - The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) reported another murder in the struggle for land on April 23. This time it was in the Settlement Liberdade, municipality of Periquito. Around 8 pm, comrade Silvino Nunes Gouveia, 51, a regional leader of the MST, was brutally murdered with 10 shots.

As Britain Celebrates Coal-Free Day, Solar Could Soon Shine in US Coal Country - By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International, April 24, 2017 - Ebell should check on the numbers as he continues to twist the truth: Wind and solar now employ almost 475,000 people in the US, three times that of coal.

Climate Activists Plot How to Turn Anti-Trump Rage Into Anti-Trump Votes - By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News, April 18, 2017 - "A march is great and all—it's great to show power and show force," said Mike Williams, vice president of the Blue-Green Alliance, a labor-environmental coalition and one of the march's organizers. "But a lot of the focus is on how do we turn this into a true big, deep movement-building effort?"

Coalition of Immokalee Workers news:

Colorado Bill Would Create Bonds to Retire Coal Plants and Finance Worker Retraining - By Katie Fehrenbacher, GreenTech Media, April 21, 2017 - As coal plants and coal mines continue to shut down across the U.S., coal workers are getting hit hard. While the transition has brought lower-carbon electricity and cleaner air, it’s also meant lost jobs, company bankruptcies, and false political promises about revitalizing the industry.

Deepwater Horizon Anniversary Reminds Why Offshore Drilling Should Be Phased Out, Not Expanded - By Chris Carnevale, Clean Energy Footprints, April 20, 2017 - Perhaps worse than the direct economic damage are the ways that the spill has hurt the health of Gulf residents and workers. More than 50,000 cleanup workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals on a daily basis, resulting in chronic debilitating conditions, and possibly increased risks of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Gulf residents suffered considerable mental health degradation as well, with sharp increases in anxiety and clinical depression, largely related to the loss of income from the spill.

Donald Trump’s ‘Buy American’ Initiative Is a Lie, By John Nichols, The Nation, April 19, 2017 and Trump's "Buy American" Order Looks Weak as DAPL Company Pushes Back - By Nika Knight, Common Dreams, April 20, 2017 - "As with Trump’s campaign promises, the executive order is full of loopholes that are designed to protect Wall Street interests and multinational corporations—at the expense of American workers and communities," wrote The Nation's John Nichols. "The biggest of those loopholes involves the fact that dozens of countries currently get waivers that allow them to avoid following 'Buy American' policies."

Federal Judge Rules Against Oakland, Allows Coal Terminal Lawsuit to Proceed - By Darwin BondGraham, East Bay Express, April 20, 2017  - In response, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance banning the storage and handling of coal on the grounds that it would endanger the health and safety of Oakland residents and workers.

Fiji: Mining Work Ceased, 500 Workers Sent Home - Fiji Sun, April 20, 2017 - A recent death and a series of accidents have forced the closure of all underground operations at the Vatukoula Gold Mines.

Four Croydon tram drivers admit falling asleep at controls - Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, April 24, 2017 - The drivers told the BBC that they had fallen asleep while operating trams, with one alleging that irregular shift patterns caused fatigue. Drivers also claimed the dead man’s handle, a failsafe device designed to apply the brakes if the driver is incapacitated, did not appear always to stop the vehicles.

Here’s why so many young people are joining the climate march - By Morissa Zuckerman, Grist, April 24, 2017 - On April 29, an unprecedented coalition of movements will descend on the streets of Washington, D.C., to march for climate, jobs, and justice. The People’s Climate March will bring together indigenous people leading the fights against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, labor unions, environmental and racial justice groups, farmers, student divestment campaigners, and more.

How the climate march can stand out in a crowd of protests - By Emma Foehringer Merchant, Grist, April 25, 2017 - In February, a coalition of nearly 100 environmental, labor, civil rights, and religious groups came together in Washington to hash out details for the climate march. The aim was to incorporate a diverse array of voices into the march right from the start, to make sure it wasn’t just old-school green groups (and their largely white members) participating.

Is the Suniva Bankruptcy a Canary in the Coal Mine for Solar? - By Paula Mints, Renewable Energy World, April 21, 2017 - Those looking for jobs in solar manufacturing will not find stable employment in the solar sector, as price pressure has squeezed the viability out of the sector. Plenty of solar construction jobs but manufacturing is unlikely to recover. Module assembly is different from cell manufacturing, and here, the U.S. could see some recovery though highly competitive pricing means that these jobs are not stable either.

Kentucky coal company announces plans to build the state’s largest solar farm - By Natasha Geiling, ThinkProgress, April 19, 2017 - Clean energy employs more people than fossil fuels in nearly every US state. Former Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen, who is involved in the solar farm project, says interest in the project has been high, especially among unemployed coal workers.

National parks create jobs - By staff, Look West, April 20, 2017 - The Interior Department announced yesterday that America's national parks saw a record 331 million visitors in 2016, creating 318,000 jobs and adding $34.9 billion to the U.S. economy.

Oakland's Poorest Neighborhoods Will Be The Most Susceptible to Flooding Due To Climate Change And Sea-Level Rise - By Jean Tepperman, East Bay Express, April 19, 2017 - It’s not just homes that are at risk. Workplaces, too, would be inundated, affecting almost 30,000 Oakland employees. This scenario would also impact schools, hospitals, and other community facilities, as well as a large number of sites containing toxic contaminants, which could then be released into the floodwater.

On Workers Memorial Day, April 28, Nurses Vow to Keep Fighting for The Highest Level of Protections - By staff, National Nurses United, April 20, 2017 - On April 28, 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, governing workers’ right to a healthy and safe workplace, went into effect. April 28 is now an annual Workers Memorial Day, when we remember those who have been injured, or who have lost their lives, on the job. It’s a day when we underscore the need to ensure comprehensive, mandatory protections for workers.

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