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Global Climate Jobs Conference: Strategic Orientation

Fighting for Green Solutions to Pittsburgh’s “Sewage in the Rivers Problem”

By Thomas Hoffman - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 4, 2018

Almost 7 years ago, six Pittsburgh based organizations realized that our region was going to spend $2-4 billion dollars of area residents’ money to stop 9+ billion gallons of untreated sewage from flowing into our iconic three rivers. The overflows occur when stormwater runs off roads roofs and parking lots into the storm sewers which are the same as the waste sewers.

Pittsburgh is not unusual – many older industrial cities have the same problem. If you combine all the money that will be spent by these cities fixing this problem it totals to roughly half a trillion dollars.

The groups formed the Clean Rivers Campaign to win a “maximum green first followed by right sized gray” solution to cleaning our rivers. They felt that in addition to cleaning our rivers such a solution would bring maximum community benefits back to area residents. These benefits include long term local family sustaining Union jobs, cleaner air and water, and revitalized communities.

The six organizations are Pittsburgh United, a PWF affiliate composed of labor, faith and community groups, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, a faith based organization, three enviro groups -Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and Nine Mile Run Watershed Association and Action United, a low income neighborhood organizing group. The Unions in Pittsburgh United (SEIU, UFCW and USWA) have been very supportive of the campaign because the neighborhoods where much of the green investments would happen are where their members live.

The alternative solution being promoted by our regional sewer authority, ALCOSAN, is the construction of miles of massive tunnels to collect all the stormwater runoff and sewage overflow. The sewage would then be pumped out of the tunnels using pumps powered by fossil fuels and then treated  before being released into the river again. While this would solve the sewage in the rivers problems it would have none of the community benefits listed above. It would also do nothing to reduce the flooding that may low income and minority communities are experiencing.

Stand with Standing Rock: Pittsburgh Native Americans, healthcare workers to join #NoDAPL protest

By Sarah Anne Hughes - The Incline, October 31, 2016

A group of more than a dozen people including Native Americans and healthcare workers from the Pittsburgh area will travel to North Dakota this week to join a protest against a pipeline they say threatens a tribe’s drinking water and sacred land.

Jared McCray, a night-shift housekeeper at UPMC Mercy, is helping organize the trip. McCray said he had discussed the protests happening near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation with a co-worker and close friend who has Native American ancestry. She has a son with her boyfriend, who is also a Native American.

“This is something that’s very deeply rooted for her family,” McCray said. “She really wanted to try to get out there to bring supplies and to bring people to [show] support.”

McCray can’t make the trip to Standing Rock, but he started a GoFundMe page to help get others there. The delegation — which includes members of Pittsburgh’s Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center — has raised about half of its goal: $5,000 for transportation and shelter costs.

“We’re raising money to get them there to represent workers and the Native community in Pittsburgh and to show solidarity with Standing Rock,” McCray said.

In September, hundreds of activists gathered in Downtown Pittsburgh to protest the pipeline, which the Texas-based corporation Energy Transfer Partners wants to send under the Missouri River — the Standing Rock Sioux’s main drinking water source — as well as through sacred land and burial sites.

The tribe says the pipeline’s planned course puts its water at risk, and hundreds of indigenous people and allies have been camped for months near Standing Rock to block construction. Police have arrested more than 400 protesters, referred to as water protectors, since August; 141 people were arrested Oct. 27 alone, as law enforcement in riot gear shot people with beanbags and rubber bullets and deployed pepper spray and concussion grenades. Some of those arrested said they were kept in “dog kennels.”

UPMC workers like McCray are locked in a struggle of their own in Pittsburgh. Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize UPMC workers for several years, as the National Labor Relations Board has accused the hospital chain of violating workers’ rights.

Some of those who plan to go to Standing Rock, McCray said, are workers who are fighting to unionize and for a $15 minimum wage. McCray and his friend reached out to SEIU for support when organizing the trip, he said.

As a person who works in healthcare, McCray said the risk of a ruptured pipeline is a health concern.

“If that were to happen here, that would have a drastic impact,” he said.

McCray said he believes “we’re definitely at a critical point in history.” It’s time, he said, to take human rights seriously, to call for civil rights and environmental justice, and to show solidarity with people who are having their lives’ threatened.

“If we let people pollute water in North Dakota, they can pollute water anywhere.”

A win for Pittsburgh public transit

By Paul Le Blanc and Jonah McAllister-Erickson - Socialist Worker, August 5, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The authors of this article are long-time members of Pittsburghers for Public Transit; views expressed here are not necessarily those of the organization as a whole.

SINCE PORT Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) cut 15 percent of its service, residents of Baldwin, Mooncrest and Groveton--working-class suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--had to walk two miles, over roads with no sidewalks, just to catch the bus.

But on September 8, Baldwin residents active in the struggle of "Buses for Baldwin" and Groveton residents who pushed for service in their county housing authority will be riding the first restored buses, celebrating the sweetness of the victory.

The battle for public transit has been often been an uphill struggle under both Democratic and Republican administrations at the city, county, state and federal levels. Lessons from the Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) campaigns might be useful for others struggling for economic justice today and tomorrow.

Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley has pointed to Pittsburghers for Public Transit as a model for those defending public transit throughout the country, especially for the ways the organization unites transit riders and workers in its campaigns.

Since the 1980s, business interests and the right wing have crusaded for even more aggressive policies of laissez-faire capitalism (sometimes called neoliberalism). Public services--won over the years through struggles by working people--have been the target of late. Their successful efforts have cut funding for public transit systems, public education, public housing, public parks and libraries, the public postal service and more.

This, combined with a push to lower taxes for the rich and stagnant or diminished wages of working people, resulted in a shrinking tax base that often made public services shabby and inadequate. Right-wing ideologues create the problem, then insist that "privatization" and "market mechanisms" are the solution. But this makes things worse--capitalism functions not to meet the needs of the majority of people, but to maximize profits for private business owners.

The Pittsburgh Port Authority, in consultation with an "economizing" Democratic County executive, Dan Onorato, had already made severe cuts in 2007, and in 2010 approved a new 15 percent cut in service. In autumn 2010, Tom Corbett, a conservative Republican candidate promising pro-business tax cuts and budget tightening, ran for governor of Pennsylvania. His Democratic opponent was the very same Allegheny County executive who had twice cut public transit service. The Republican won.

In January 2011, budget proposals by Gov. Corbett projected an additional 35 percent cut in Pittsburgh's transit service. Right-wing elements argued that transit workers had been too greedy, that public transit was inefficient and unsustainable, and that privatization would provide a solution.

The Fine Print I:

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