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Solidarity Forever? - Last week the AFL-CIO broke my heart, releasing a statement supporting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline

By Brendan Orsinger - Medium, September 21, 2016

My grandma Gloria is 92-years old and the single greatest influence in my life. She has inspired me through the way she has led her life. She has strengthened my moral fabric as a human being and shaped what I believe to be right. She has given me the gift of music, and understanding and deep appreciation for justice, solidarity, and unions. Through the stories she’s told with great passion and conviction, she’s the reason I feel so moved and empowered to act.

Among her accomplishments, she:

  1. Alone raised three young children after being widowed when my grandfather Arthur died very suddenly.
  2. Graduated from law school at the age of 60, and was elected keynote speaker by her classmates.
  3. Worked on passage of and was present at the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and has one of the pens!).

Gloria came to Washington, DC to work for the Congress of Industrial Organizations, or the CIO, where she met my grandfather. After a secretive office romance, they snuck away one Friday afternoon to Alexandria Courthouse in Virginia to exchange their vows. When my grandfather Arthur passed away, it was their colleagues and union members who surrounded her with love and support and made sure she had a job to support her three small children.

In the 1960’s grandma Gloria was a legislative representative for the IUE, or the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America. They exist today as the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers — Communications Workers of America, or IUE-CWA. She worked with members of Congress and the White House during that time for passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. She was invited to the signings of both pieces of landmark legislation. She believed deeply in equality, and when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963 and shared his dream, she was there with my mother.

She later would go on to work for AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.) Then for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.

The labor movement runs in my blood through four generations, going back to my great-grandmother, Rose.

Gloria was influenced by her mother Rose, who worked in the garment district in New York. She worked for a dress factory/sweatshop and after seeing a need for improvement of conditions, became a member of the IWW or the Industrial Workers of the World — also affectionally known as the “Wobblies”. Under the IWW, she specifically worked with the International Ladies Garment Union.

Back then, conditions were really bad. There were stories of women with out means for childcare who would be forced to work with their babies beside them, asleep on the dirty floor covered with garment lint. There were no laws or protections for these women, so the doors were locked to force higher productivity. These were the same conditions that led to the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire in New York City that killed 145 workers.

It was my great-grandmother Rose who became a leader on then picket lines to demand the right to a reasonable wage and better working conditions. She ensured during strikes that the picket lines were held and never crossed. When the police tried to open the line to let the “scabs” through. Rose was punched by a cop after she warned him, “Don’t you put your hands on my girls!”. It’s unclear if the slap she landed on his cheek prior provoked the officer to violence.

There are so many stories like this I have heard from my grandmother about her “Mommy Rose”, but there are two in particular that stuck with me last Friday afternoon and Monday morning in the rain when I stood outside the headquarters of the AFL-CIO yelling and singing until I had lost my voice and my megaphone died — and even then, with no voice I sat outside in the rain and whistled union songs my grandmother taught me.

Dakota Access Foes Call on AFL-CIO to Retract Support of Pipeline

By Mark Hand - CounterPunch, September 20, 2016

The AFL-CIO is coming under attack from trade unions and their supporters angry about the organization’s support of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through Native American land in North Dakota.

Demonstrators stood outside the AFL-CIO’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19 calling on the union federation to renounce its support for the oil pipeline project. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in a Sept. 15 statement, called on Native Americans and the federal government not to “hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay” and asked the Obama administration to let construction on the pipeline continue.

“This is unacceptable behavior for the AFL-CIO, which has a rich history of supporting the right causes — civil rights, voting rights,” Brendan Orsinger, an activist and organizer, said in an interview at the demonstration. “My grandmother worked with unions to harness that people power and put pressure on Congress to help pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and 1965. My great-grandmother worked on the picket lines.”

The president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) came out with an even stronger statement against Native Americans opposed to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. “LIUNA is a champion of the right to peacefully demonstrate, however, extremists have escalated the demonstrations well beyond lawful civil disobedience,” Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA, said in a statement. O’Sullivan said he found it frustrating that Native Americans “have disregarded the evidence and the review process to vilify a project.”

Other labor unions have expressed solidarity with Native Americans in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, proposed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners. The Amalgamated Transit Union condemned “the ongoing violent attacks on the Standing Rock Sioux and others who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline” and noted “these attacks by a private security company bring back horrific memories of the notorious Pinkertons, who used clubs, dogs and bullets to break up peaceful worker protests.” The Communications Workers of America issued a statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ” as they fight to protect their community, their land and their water supply.”

“The AFL-CIO has a proud history of working with oppressed people to gain their rights and worker rights and they need to stake a strong stand on indigenous rights,” Orsinger said. “They have a seal on their headquarters of a black hand and a white hand shaking. It bothers me that they are betraying their history and their moral high ground.”

Activists are hoping to apply enough pressure on the AFL-CIO so the federation finds it politically infeasible to support projects such as Dakota Access. “As many jobs as they may get from this pipeline construction, it is dwarfed by the amount of jobs they will lose elsewhere from the public turning against them,” Orsigner said.

The Dakota Access Pipeline project is a proposed 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline designed to connect the Bakken production area in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline would transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels per day or more, which could represent approximately half of Bakken current daily crude oil production.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Sept. 16 ordered Energy Transfer Partners to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline for 20 miles on both sides of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River near the tribe’s reservation, while the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s appeal of its denied motion to do so is considered.

AFL-CIO to Planet Earth: Drop Dead!

By Norman Soloman - CounterPunch, September 19, 2016

At a meeting with the deputy political director of the AFL-CIO during my campaign for Congress, she looked across her desk and told me that I could get major union support by coming out in favor of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

That was five years ago. Since then, the nation’s biggest labor federation has continued to serve the fossil fuel industry. Call it union leadership for a dead planet.

Last week, the AFL-CIO put out a statement from its president, Richard Trumka, under the headline “Dakota Access Pipeline Provides High-Quality Jobs.” The rhetoric was standard flackery for energy conglomerates, declaring “it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is steadfast against the Dakota Access pipeline: “We will not rest until our lands, people, waters, and sacred sites are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline.”

In sharp contrast to the AFL-CIO’s top echelon, some unions really want to restrain climate change and are now vocally opposing the Dakota pipeline.

Communications Workers of America has expressed solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe “as they fight to protect their community, their land and their water supply.”

At National Nurses United, Co-President Jean Ross cites “an obligation to step up climate action to protect public health and the future for the generations to follow us.”

Ross said: “We commend the leaders and members of the Standing Rock Sioux, the many First Nation allies who have joined them, and the environmentalists and other supporters who have participated in the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.”

NNU points out that “the proposed 1,172-mile pipeline would carry nearly a half million barrels of dirty crude oil every day across four states.” Ross says that such projects “pose a continual threat to public health from the extraction process through the transport to the refinery.”

As for the AFL-CIO’s support for the pipeline, NNU’s director of environmental health and social justice was blunt. “We’re deeply disappointed in our labor federation siding with those that would endanger and harm the land, the water, the lives of the people along the pipeline path and the health of the planet itself in the name of profits,” Fernando Losada said.

He added that the Dakota pipeline is part of “a drive to extract fossil fuel that is untenable for the future of the planet.”

The nurses union is part of the AFL-CIO, but dominant forces within the federation are committed to corporate energy priorities. Losada said that “some elements in the AFL-CIO” have caused a stance that “is a narrow position in the alleged interests of their members for some short-term jobs.”

Compare that narrow position to a recent statement from Communications Workers of America: “The labor movement is rooted in the simple and powerful idea of solidarity with all struggles for dignity, justice and respect. CWA will continue to fight against the interests of the 1% and corporate greed and firmly stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the environmental and cultural degradation of their community.”

A venerable labor song has a question for the leaders of the AFL-CIO: Which side are you on?

When it comes to planetary survival, the answer from the top of the AFL-CIO hierarchy remains: We’re on the wrong side.

EcoUnionist News #122 - #NoDAPL Update

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2016

The following unions have issued statements in solidarity with those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline; we will add additional unions to this list as we become aware of their having taken a similar stand:

  1. New York State Nurses Association - September 1, 2016
  2. IWW - September 3, 2016
  3. Border Agricultural Workers - September 7, 2016
  4. Amalgamated Transport Union - September 9, 2016
  5. Communications Workers of America - September 9, 2016
  6. National Nurses United - September 9, 2016
  7. ILWU Local 19 - September 12, 2016
  8. Oregon Public Employees Union (SEIU Local 503) - September 12, 2016
  9. United Electrical Workers - September 12, 2016
  10. ILWU Pacific Coast Pensioners Association - September 13, 2016
  11. National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) - September 16, 2016
  12. California Faculty Association - ca. September 17, 2016
  13. AFL-CIO Labor Coalition for Community Action, (includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work) - September 19, 2016

(This may not be a complete list, but we will endeavor to correct any oversights as we find them. If you know of additional unions who have joined this list, please contact us at euc@iww.org.)

On the other hand, some unions insist on staying on the wrong side of history:

In Response, union members are encouraged to sign this appeal (instructions included within).

Dakota Access Pipeline Halted Again!:

Direct Actions against the Pipeline Construction Continue:

And Solidarity Actions Take Place All Over:

North Dakota Protest and Organized Labor

By John Reimann - Oakland Socialist,September 8, 2016

Many on the left have been inspired by the protest of Native Americans and their supporters against the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been horrified at the recent use of police dogs by private security to attack these protesters.

Not so much the union leadership. Look at this letter they sent the governor of North Dakota, urging him to “enforce the letter of the law”. What a disgrace!

But what can you expect from a union leadership that brings out the likes of Mark Breslin or “Chef Bob” to preach to members about how they should work harder, a union leadership which honors a top capitalist as “union person of the year”, a union leadership which on a daily basis sides with management when they have a dispute with a rank and file member? (See here.)

Meanwhile, all too many socialists try to ignore or minimize the significance of this approach of the union leaders in the hopes of getting some support from these same leaders for some campaign the socialists are working on.

Years ago, Daniel deLeon called these leaders “the labor lieutenants of capital” – in other words, that they represented – were the lieutenants of – capital (the employers) within the labor movement. That is ever more so today. Socialists should be leading the effort to build opposition groups within the unions, not trying to curry favor with these lieutenants.

If it's jobs they want, Labour and the unions must back renewables, not Hinkley C!

By Ian Fairlie - The Ecologist, August 30, 2016

On July 28, the Prime Minister's Office announced a delay until the autumn to allow a review to take place re the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C proposed by the previous Government.

Since then, press criticisms of the mooted Hinkley C have continued unabated led by flagship editorials from the FT and The Economist.

These echo widespread concerns by the National Audit Office (NAO) in its recent preliminary report - Nuclear Power in the UK.

A detailed reading reveals serious question marks about the proposed project. According to The Times of July 31, the NAO will publish another damning report on Hinkley as soon as the Government has made its decision.

It would be infinitely preferable for the NAO's considerations to be made available to the Government before legally binding decisions were taken on Hinkley C, rather than afterwards.

This is not a minor matter: the Government is understood to have ready a draft Investor Agreement - essentially an irrevocable contract for electricity from Hinkley C for 35 years at a cost of £29.7 billion to British energy consumers, as estimated in the above NAO report. This is a discounted sum: economists consider an undiscounted sum of about £37 billion should really be applied. Whichever figure is used, this is an unconscionable sum.

But it is not just the NAO which is concerned: other institutions including the Treasury's National Infrastructure Commission, chaired by Lord Adonis, and its Infrastructure and Projects Authority. Members of Energy UK are also worried.

And two years ago, as stated in the UK Government's report of October 8, 2014 to the European Commission on state aid for Hinkley, the then Infrastructure UK arm of the Treasury evaluated the Hinkley project as 'Speculative BB+'.

Even this junk rating would have depended on the proper functioning of the proposed EPR at Flamanville in France which is by no means assured. In 2016, two years later, it is likely Hinkley's investment rating will be even lower.

EcoUnionist News #119 - #NoDAPL Update

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 31, 2016

Statement from Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, August 15, 2016:

The United States via the Army Corps of Engineers is in the mist of moving ahead with an oil pipeline that officials are claiming is not potentially harmful to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. I am here to advise anyone that will listen, that the Dakota Access Pipeline Project is harmful. It will not be just harmful to my people but its intent and construction will harm the water in the Missouri River, which is one of the cleanest and safest river tributary left in the United States.

We have been told by the officials that there will be breaches in the pipe line, but they claim that the situations are generally never very bad. This is unacceptable.

Our Mother Earth is sacred. All things evolve and work together. To poison the water, is to poison the substance of life. Everything that moves must have water. How can we talk about and knowingly poison water?

I’ve been told and taught that it is our responsibility to stand for our relatives, the ones that crawl, the ones that fly, the ones that burrow, the ones that swim, the ones that flower. Relatives that cannot speak for themselves. Who will speak for them? We have to speak for those who are not here – our ancestors, for those children who are not yet born. Our ancestors left sacred sites for us. We have to speak for them. Children not yet born will not live without water. We have to speak for them.

Several of our Lakota and Dakota relatives have had visions and dreams. They have been visited in a spiritual sense and have been told that there is a black poisonous snake trying to come among us. Our relatives have said this.

Our instructions say snakes are good – they serve a great purpose in the web of life. Our elders and the elders before them have given us wonderful teachings and a beautiful way to live and co-exist with all that is, however, the black poisonous snake we are being warned about does not come from the Creator. It is man-made and the creature is made of nothing but Greed. There is nothing good that has ever come from Greed. Greed is pure poison. It blinds and twists thinking. It is what my people have endured and continue to endure.

Right now the Rosebud reservation, the Cheyenne River reservation, the Pine Ridge reservation and my Standing Rock reservation represent five of the 10 poorest places or counties in the United States, according to the 2010 Census. Our state of being is not our fault. We did not cause this. United States lawmakers and their policies caused this. Why?? Greed – and now again, even what little we have left is under attack.

Is it too much to respectfully and peaceably request that we not live in fear of being bitten by this creature of eminent harm? Isn’t living in fear and terror unacceptable in the United States?

The United States should use all its will and power to be a real great world leader. It should swear off oil production because we all know it is harmful to it is to our planet. The United States should use all its wisdom and technology to develop alternative sources of power. It should be a great wise leader to preserve and enhance this earth, not knowingly destroy the webs of life.

What I ask is that my fellow American citizens stand with my people to stand with us. I ask you to please call or write your Senators and Representative to stop this blindness and this greed.

And, if nothing else, please, offer a prayer for my people and all the people who are standing with us in prayer. Just offer some thoughts of protection for us. We ask that you offer a prayer for sensibility and common sense on behalf of all the two-legged that walk as this is not just a Lakota/Dakota issue, this is a human issue.

This land that is being disturbed was once ours. Our people, our Indian Nations lived and governed our peoples all over this territory. This land across the Cannonball River that is now threatened was forcibly taken from us and there was nothing that we could do about it then and now.

Nonetheless, we still believe that we are the keepers of this beautiful land. Although it was taken from us, we know, we must stand and speak on this land’s behalf. We want everyone and the federal government to respect this land and take care of it. That is why our people are standing up and standing with the land and water. We have to be here. It is instructions that the Creator has given us. We have to be here. We have to stand to protect ourselves and those cannot speak for themselves.

When the President of the United States came to Cannonball, I did not ask him for anything. I tried to let his wife, Michelle and him, see for themselves a little of our reality. They saw our people in our happiest times, singing and dancing, but they also heard the tough reality of life for so many of our youth.

I believe both were impacted but knowing what I know now, I wish I would have asked President Obama to help us in this struggle.

I will pass away someday, which is all part of the Creator’s plan, but I have a son and daughter. I have no doubt that they will give me grandchildren. What will we leave for our grandchildren? Poisoned water? The substance of Life! In my language, we describe water as the source of Life. We say Mni Wiconi!

My Tribe asks how can we live with ourselves if we don’t respect the rights and needs of our future generations?

Today I realize that everything happens for a reason. Although I didn’t ask the President for a dime, I see our people are peacefully speaking out in a good way now. This is hugely important to my Tribe and all of our Tribal Nations. This peaceful demonstration is a cry to stop the desecration of land and water.

I pray that the powers that be, hear our prayer because all this behavior we are exhibiting is a prayer on our part.

Thank you for listening and enjoy your families, your children and grandchildren.

To Join in the Struggle

UFW Tries to Silence Boycott Driscoll’s Activists at Cesar Chavez March

By Bradley Allen - Indybay, April 5, 2016

On Sunday, April 3, Michael Garcia and fellow Watsonville Brown Berets traveled a short distance to Salinas, California to attend the annual Cesar Chavez March and Rally presented by United Farm Workers (UFW). The Watsonville Brown Berets were joined by members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), an independent farmworker union in Burlington, Washington fighting for a union contract, and initiators of the boycott against Driscoll's.

The Watsonville Brown Berets (WBB) and FUJ activists spoke with people assembled at Cesar Chavez Community Park and handed out flyers about the growing movement to boycott Driscoll's, the world's largest berry distributor. FUJ, along with tens of thousands of farmworkers in San Quintín, México, are fighting to end wage theft and poverty wages, inhumane production standards, and retaliation from protected union activity.

Although advocating for farmworkers' rights seems like it would be warmly welcomed by UFW, that was unfortunately not the experience for WBB and FUJ members. Garcia, born and raised in Watsonville, noticed that his friend was working the stage and asked if his group could have some time later to speak about the Driscoll's boycott. Garcia's friend, who was both the owner of the stage and a mariachi musician performing at the event, agreed to provide Garcia time. The stage owner, however, was then reportedly approached by UFW representatives and specifically told that UFW does not want WBB or FUJ speaking from the stage.

Prior to parading through the streets of Salinas, Garcia enthusiastically approached UFW Regional Director Lauro Barajas and asked if it was OK if they carried their “Boycott Driscoll’s” banner towards the front of the march. Garcia was denied and then told that UFW did not want him to carry the banner at all during the march.

Labor in the Age of Climate Change: Any just transition to a green economy must take place on labor’s terms — not capital’s.

By Stefania Barca - Jacobin, March 18, 2016

Climate change must be stopped. But who will do the stopping? Who, in other words, could be the political subject of an anticapitalist climate revolution?

I am convinced this social agent could be, and indeed must be, the global working class. Yet to play this role, the working class must develop an emancipatory ecological class consciousness.

Fortunately, history is rife with examples of this kind of green-red synthesis — labor environmentalism is as old as the trade union movement.

For much of its existence, labor environmentalism focused on the workplace and the living environment of working-class communities, linking occupational health and safety with the protection of public and environmental health.

In the 1990s, labor environmentalism began embracing the concepts of “sustainable development” and the “green economy.” More recently, as climate change has intensified, “just transition” (JT) has become the idea du jour. JT is based on the notion that workers shouldn’t bear the brunt of the shift to a low-carbon economy, whether in the form of job losses or destabilized local communities.

To this end, blue-collar unions — particularly those in heavy industry, transport, and energy — have forged so-called blue-green alliances with environmental groups across the globe. These convergences demonstrate a growing consensus around the need to tackle climate change, advancing union involvement and sustainability as the means to that end.

Yet important cleavages exist within this consensus, especially when it comes to the just transition. Some groups simply push for job creation in a greened economy. Others, refusing to abide market solutions, have adopted a radical critique of capitalism.

How this schism shakes out will decide whether labor unwittingly bolsters capital — or confronts capital and climate change.

Flint had Many Betrayers

By Gregg Shotwell - Socialist Worker, March 17, 2016

"The water crisis has also stoked the UAW's social-justice mission, union officials say."
-- Mike Colias, "How GM Saved Itself from Flint Water Crisis," Automotive News, January 31, 2016

"I put The Heretics in the deepest part of hell, though Dante had them spared, on higher ground."
-- Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), The System of Dante's Hell, 1963

PUNDITS EXPRESS astonishment at the perdition of Flint, Michigan, as if the degeneration of a renowned American city is rare rather than emblematic of municipalities throughout the nation. Where have they been? Do they not recall the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis during rush hour in 2007? Can a head in the sand feel so comfortable that they can't feel the tremors, quakes and reverberations?

New Orleans flooded in 1915, 1940, 1947, 1965, 1969 and 2005. Love Canal, Hinkley, California, and the Louisiana Industrial Corridor aren't anomalous cancer alleys. The United States is riddled with environmental depredation.

The calculated failure of American institutions not only to invest in vital infrastructure but to provide basic care for citizens isn't a shock, it's status quo. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers [ASCE] publishes a report card for the nation's infrastructure. In 2013, the U.S. got Ds in drinking water, wastewater, inland waterways, roads, schools, dams, levees, aviation, transit and energy.

I guess it's uncivil for engineers to flunk an American marvel of mediocrity like Interstate 35W and other bridges, which were ranked at a C+. The overall D+ grade point average indicates that we did get some Cs in a few less precarious spots, like ports, parks and bridges. Take your hat off, hold your breath and pray to the EPA--we are about to cross the river of denial.

Gun ownership makes a home less safe, according to the statistics, but when a person feels surrounded by perilous social institutions and structural instability, it's natural to reach for a security prop, come as it may--blanket, rifle or bottle of gin.

For all the self-proclaimed greatness and chest-thumping bravado, Americans' expectations are low and receding like opinions pursued by dogged facts. Our characteristic emphasis on individuality and private property narrows and subverts the circumspection of our social purview to a belly-button muse.

The American Dream has shriveled into a gated community--the modern version of the besieged frontier stockade, now struggling to survive on minimum wage. What do you want to bet that more Americans invest in the lottery than the stock market?

The year before Delphi, a spinoff of General Motors, filed for bankruptcy in 2005, management garlanded the factories with a new slogan: "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be." And a sign posted on the demolished Buick City plant in Flint, Michigan, proclaimed, "Demolition Means Progress."

The policy of neglect is the counsel of despair. No wonder we have a volunteer army and multiple foreign wars. The homeland is hopeless. The walls of denial are caving in.

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