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Momentive strikers bring their message to NYC

By Tim Goulet - Socialist Worker, January 19, 2017

BUSLOADS OF striking workers from Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, New York, arrived in New York City on January 13 to rally outside the offices of Apollo Global Management, the billionaire hedge fund that owns a majority of the company.

Workers hand-delivered a petition with 4,000 signatures from their community demanding Apollo negotiate a fair contract immediately.

The 700 workers at Momentive, members of IUE-CWA Local 81359, have been on strike since November 2, when the company tried to impose steep cuts in pay and medical and retirement benefits. Some 86 percent of the workers rejected the company's offer. Two days into the strike, management tried to offer a similar deal, which was rejected again by a similarly lopsided vote of 476 to 190.

Mike Harrington was one of the strikers who took the trip to Manhattan. "I went Friday to hopefully get the attention of the executives at Apollo, so they can see the faces of the people that their decisions affect," Harrington said. "I have also been overwhelmed by the support of others standing with us. So standing united with them was great."

The approximately 60 Momentive strikers who made the trip were joined by hundreds of people protesting in solidarity. Among them were local trade unionists--many of them from CWA District One--individual activists, and socialist organizations such as the International Socialist Organization and Democratic Socialists of America.

When a nearby rally for health care justice called by National Nurses United converged with the strikers, the protest nearly doubled in size.

Union leaders led chants such as "What's disgusting? Union busting," while strikers held signs calling out Apollo CEO Leon Black, who is worth an estimated $5.1 billion and is ranked 45th on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.

There is also a notable political dynamic to the strike. The Blackstone Group, another New York City-based hedge fund, holds a 7-percent ownership stake in Momentive. Blackstone, one of the largest hedge funds in the world, holding assets valued at over $300 billion, is run by Steve Schwarzman, President-elect Donald Trump's hand-picked chairman of a new council of strategic advisers that will aid the president on jobs, growth and productivity.

The Momentive strike should undoubtedly be seen in the context of an impending attack on unions and working-class living standards that will most certainly be the policy of a Trump administration. Schwarzman himself has stated that the Trump White House will likely pursue corporate tax cuts and further deregulation of industry.

UPTE-CWA resolution demanding University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) divest from Energy Transfer Partners and from Banking Institutions that fund the Dakota Access Pipeline

By the University Professional and Technical Employees union (UPTE-CWA) - Resolution, January 15, 2017

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on unceded treaty lands of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. The lands are the sites where the ancestors have been laid to rest and on which DAPL continues to desecrate; and

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) along a route under Lake Oahe and across the Missouri River, the primary source of drinking water of the tribe. The pipeline is slated to carry up to 570,000 gallons of crude oil per day along its 1, 172 mile route and pipeline ruptures have become increasingly more common throughout the U.S. and a pipeline burst would not only endanger the Standing Rock Sioux reservation but it would also endanger the clean water downstream since the Missouri River is a major tributary to the Mississippi River which more than 17 million people depend on for both human consumption and irrigation; and

WHEREAS, The members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are fulfilling the responsibility conferred upon them by their ancestors to Protect the Sacred Lands and Water for future generations and invite people to stand with them and join them in peaceful prayerful non-violent direct actions and to actively DIVEST from Energy Transfer Partners and any financial institution that is providing financial support for this project; and

WHEREAS, the Sacred Stone camp, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin camp (Seven Council Fires Camp) and now also the Oceti Oyate Camp (One Nation camp) have become major camps of non-violent resistance which brought together more than 300 Native American tribes throughout the U.S, Mexico, Central America, South America, the First Nation people of Norway, Australia and the Polynesians and thousands of people from around the world, to stand with Standing Rock and participate in prayerful non-violent direct action and among those that have participated in the activities in the camps are native and non-native members of organized labor as well as 4,000 U.S. military veterans; and

WHEREAS, the prayer ceremonies and non-violent direct actions carried out by the water protectors have been met with a brutal military response from DAPL security and Morton County Sheriff’s Department and to the arrests of more than 500 Water Protectors. The military response is unwarranted against unarmed civilians whom are exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Lawsuits have been filed against Morton County and DAPL security for its disproportionate use of violence and its use of attack dogs and “non-lethal” weapons such as rubber bullets, LRADs, 5lb cans of far reaching mace, tear gas shot into crowds, water cannons sprayed in sub-freezing temperatures and concussion grenades in ways that have caused serious and permanent bodily injury; and

WHEREAS, solidarity with Standing Rock has been voiced by a growing number of labor bodies, including the Communications Workers of America; Academic Student-Employees-UAW Local 4123; Amalgamated Transit Union; American Federation of Teachers Local 2121-City College of San Francisco Faculty Union; American Postal Workers Union; Black Workers for Justice; Border Agricultural Workers; California Faculty Association; California Federation of Teachers, Climate Justice Task Force; Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Canadian Union of Public Employees; Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions; Chicago Graduate Employees Organization, IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297; City of Madison LIUNA local 236; GEO-UAW Local 2322; GEU-UAW Local 6950; GSOC-UAW Local 2110; GSU-UChicago, IFT/AFT Local 6300; Industrial Workers of the World; IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus; Labor Coalition for Community Action; Labor for Palestine; Labor for Standing Rock; National Nurses United; New York State Nurses Association; National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981; Rutgers AAUP-AFT; SEIU 503 OPEU; Service Employees International Union; TAA-Graduate Worker Union of UW-Madison; United Electrical Workers; and University of California Student-Workers Union-UAW Local 2865; and

WHEREAS, union members, including UPTE members have shown support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the water protectors by donating money and supplies to the Sacred Stone, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin (Council of the Seven Fires) and Oceti Oyate (One Nation) camps as well as by going to the camps individually and in delegations such as Labor for Standing Rock and providing donated labor to assist the camps in its preparations for the extremely cold North Dakota winter weather conditions and staying there to provide continued support; and

WHEREAS, University of California has committed itself to Global Sustainability goals and supports the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement yet its financial investments in the University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP Holdings) include more than $3 million dollars in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the main corporation behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of shares in many of the banks that are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, which contradicts the stated goals of the Paris Climate Agreement since the continued extraction of fossil fuels will undoubtedly put the planet at risk of surpassing the 2 degree mark; and

WHEREAS, the Solutions Project, known previously as the Wind, Water and Sun study by Stanford University provides an evidence-based approach towards reaching our sustainability goals and a renewable energy future by investment in clean energy jobs and would steer us away from the destruction of our planet and lead us towards a Just Transition away from a fossil fuel economy; and

WHEREAS, millions of people are realizing that the false dichotomy of jobs vs environment no longer is sustainable and are opposed to the violation of Treaty Rights as well as violations of Human and Civil Rights perpetrated against the Water Protectors and are actively withdrawing their personal and business accounts from the banks that are funding DAPL as well as for calling for the divestment of ETP shares from their CALPERS and CALSTRS;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT: University Technical and Professional Employees-CWA calls upon the federal government to immediately end construction of and remove the Dakota Access Pipeline, and

be it further RESOLVED, that UPTE calls for an immediate end to state violence against the water protectors at Standing Rock and dismissal of all charges against Water Protectors, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union urges the entire labor movement to actively promote just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that respects indigenous rights, the environment, and the rights of all workers to safe, well-paying union jobs, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union will seek divestment of all union, benefit and Retirement funds from Energy Transfer Partners, Citibank, Wells Fargo Bank and other DAPL funders and will seek to invest in a future that will reduce our carbon emissions and help create a just, sustainable and prosperous future for all.

We Still Stand With Standing Rock

By Labor for Standing Rock - Labor for Standing Rock, December 14, 2016

Editor's Note: Many IWW members have been and continue to be involved with this mobilization. One of the three founders of Labor for Standing Rock is also a founder of the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus.

Labor for Standing Rock salutes the Water Protectors, whose courageous resistance has forced the Obama administration not to grant a final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri River.

We thank all those who have already joined us on the ground; helped purchase and deliver supplies to winterize Standing Rock camp; and organized support in their own unions and communities. We appreciate the thousands of military veterans whose recent presence has played a key role in fighting DAPL. This is what working class solidarity looks like.

Now, we must keep the pressure on until the Black Snake is dead and gone.

As indigenous activists point out: "This fight is not over, not even close. In fact, this fight is escalating. The incoming Trump administration promises to be a friend to the oil industry and an enemy to Indigenous people. It is unclear what will happen with the river crossing. Now more than ever, we ask that you stand with us as we continue to demand justice." http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/…/whats-next-wate…

While supporters are not being asked to come to Standing Rock at this time, the coalition "support[s] those who choose to stay, if they are able to live comfortably and self-sufficiently through a winter in the Great Plains." In addition, indigenous activists have asked Labor for Standing Rock to continue providing support for those who remain through the bitter winter.

In this context, we reaffirm that workers' rights are inseparable from indigenous rights. An Injury to One is an Injury to All! -- Mni Wiconi: Water is Life! There are no jobs -- or life -- on a dead planet; we need just transition and full employment to build a sustainable world.

Resolution Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Resolution passed by Railroad Workers United - November 2, 2016

Whereas, the  unprecedented  $3.78  Billion,  1,172-mile  Dakota  Access  Pipeline would carry over half a million barrels of dirty crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in  North  Dakota,  through  South  Dakota  and  Iowa  to  Illinois  to  connect  to  other pipelines bringing oil to the East Coast and the Gulf; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is slated to pass through the tribal lands of Standing Rock Sioux  near  Cannon  Ball,  North  Dakota,  and  underneath  the  Missouri  River,  the main source of water for the tribe; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is  slated  to  pass  under  the  Missouri  River  a  second  time before  passing  under  the  Mississippi  River,  a  total  watershed  coving  40%  of  the continental United States; and

Whereas, the pipeline has already disturbed the lives of millions of Americans; and

Whereas, millions  of  workers--including  many  union  members  and  their  their families--live in communities that are in thepath of the proposed pipeline; and

Whereas, the transport of heavy crude is particularly volatile, leading to 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals spilled, leaked, or released into the air, land, and waterways  between  2006  and  2014  in  North  Dakota  alone,  causing  death,  contamination of soil and water, and numerous types of disease; and

Whereas, scientists  have  warned  that  in  order  to  avoid  wide-scale,  catastrophic climate disruption, the vast majority of known remaining fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground; and

Whereas, people  engaged  in  protecting  their  land  and  water  have  been  brutally attacked by private security forces in both Iowa and North Dakota; and

Whereas, Native  Americans  and  other  activists  defending  their  land  and  water have  the  same  right  to  defend  their  land  and  engage  in  non-violent  protest  as workers who are protesting the actions of an unfair employer; and

Whereas, the  U.S.  Congress  has  repealed  the  ban  on  exporting  oil,  meaning  that the oil transported by the pipeline is likely to be sold overseas and not contribute to US energy independence; and

Whereas, we know that a very real threat to workers’ lives and livelihoods is the prospect of catastrophic climate change; and

Whereas pipelines  accidents,  such  as  the  recent  Helena,  Alabama  gas  pipeline explosion  which  killed  one  and  injured  five,  pose  a  threat  to  workers  and  their communities; and

Whereas, many  large  corporations,  and  especially  fossil  fuel  corporations,  have been  putting  profits  ahead  of  the  common  good  of  workers,  the  public,  and  the environment, and these corporations have been unjustly granted the constitutional  rights  and  powers of “person-hood”, diminishing  democracy and  the  voice  and power of the people; and

Whereas, numerous national and international unions have already passed resolutions against construction of the pipeline, including National Nurses United, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Communications Workers of America, the United Electrical Workers, Service Employees International Union, and others; and

Whereas, these unions have an economic, environmental and racial justice strategy which has been employed to win membership strikes through broad base support by non-unionized workers and community members; and

Whereas, unions  in  support  of  Standing  Rock,  and  against  the  Dakota  Access  Pipeline  have  come  under  attack from reactionary unions who have engaged in the bad practice of collaborating with bosses, such as the virulently anti-union Koch Brothers; and

Whereas, Railroad  Workers  United  is  already  on  record  supporting  the  development  of  a  just  transition  plan  for

workers affected by fossil fuel elimination; and

Whereas, more long-term good paying jobs would be created by investing in sustainable energy infrastructure projects using already existing technologies while at the same time reducing greenhouse gases; and

Whereas, we support the rights of our union brothers and sisters building the pipeline to work in safe environments at jobs that are consistent with respect for the environment and the rights and safety of frontline communities;

Therefore Be  it Resolved, that we call upon the Federal Government to  make permanent the moratorium  on  construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline by revoking permits for construction issued by the Army Corps of Engineers; and

Be it Further Resolved, that Railroad Workers United calls on the labor movement to support a just transition to a renewable energy  economy  and  investment  in  the  construction  of a  nationwide sustainable energy  infrastructure that will address the growing threat of climate change and its consequent droughts, floods, fire, crop failure, species extinction and other dire consequences of global warming;

Be it Finally Resolved, Railroad Workers United urges all railroad craft unions and the rest of the labor movement to become actively involved in promoting a just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that protects the  environment and respects  the rights of all working people to good paying safe  jobs, human  rights and justice for all.

Climate Emergency: Global Insurgency

By Jeremy Brecher - Common Dreams, October 14, 2016

Note: The new, updated 2016 edition of Jeremy Brecher’s Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival, from which the following is drawn, can be now be downloaded for free at the author's website here.)

The Lilliputian defenders of the earth’s climate have been winning some unlikely battles lately. The Standing Rock Sioux, supported by nearly two hundred Native American tribes and a lot of other people around the globe, have put a halt, at least for now, to completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that threatens their sacred burial sites and the water supply for 17 million people—not to mention the world’s climate. Before that a seven-year struggle terminated the Keystone XL pipeline. Other fossil fuel extraction, transport, and burning facilities have been halted by actions around the world.

But as Bill McKibben has said, "Fighting one pipeline at a time, the industry will eventually prevail."[1] Is there a plausible strategy for escalating today’s campaigns against fossil fuel infrastructure to create an effective challenge to the escalating climate threat? How can we get the power we need to counter climate catastrophe? My book Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival (download) grapples with that question and proposes a possible strategy: a global nonviolent constitutional insurgency. Now that strategy is being tried – and may even be overcoming some of the obstacles that have foiled climate protection heretofore.

Standing Rock Solid with the Frackers: Are the Trades Putting Labor’s Head in the Gas Oven?

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 14, 2016

This article first appeared in New Labor Forum. It has been updated to reflect the rising level of union opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

If anyone were looking for further evidence that the AFL-CIO remains unprepared to accept the science of climate change, and unwilling to join with the effort being made by all of the major labor federations of the world to address the crisis, the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) provides only the most recent case in point. Taking direction from the newly minted North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), the federation stood against the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations.

In a recent video interview, NABTU president Sean McGarvey dismissed those who oppose the expansion of fossil fuels infrastructure. “There is no way to satisfy them…no way for them to recognize that if we don’t want to lose our place in the world as the economic superpower, then we have to have this infrastructure and the ability to responsibly reap the benefits of what God has given this country in its natural resources.”[i] Although the leaders of NABTU no longer identify with the AFL-CIO and the letterhead does not mention the Federation, the Trades continue to determine the shape the AFL-CIO’s approach to energy and climate. This is despite the fact that a growing number of unions have opposed the DAPL, among them the Amalgamated Transit Union, Communication Workers of America, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Nurses United, New York State Nurses Association, Service Employees International Union (SEIU); SEIU 1199, and the United Electrical Workers. Union locals (branches or chapters) have also opposed the DAPL, among them, GEU UAW Local 6950 and Steelworkers Local 8751.

These unions have been joined by the Labor Coalition for Community Action, which represents well established AFL-CIO constituency groups like LCLAA, APALA, Pride at Work, CBTU, CLUW and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Reacting to the progressive unions’ solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux, NABTU’s president Sean McGarvey wrote a scathing letter to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, copies of which were sent to the principal officers of all of the Federation’s affiliated unions. In a fashion reminiscent of the Keystone XL fight, McGarvey disparaged the unions that opposed DAPL. A day later, on September 15th, the AFL-CIO issued its own already infamous statement supporting DAPL. “Trying to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved” said the statement. “The AFL-CIO calls on the Obama Administration to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue.”[ii]

Dakota Access opens rift in AFL-CIO and debate within labor movement

By Paul Roland - KBOO, September 28, 2016

Audio File

After AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement on September 15 (link below) harshly criticizing Native Americans and others opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline DAPL), a growing number of progressive unions and labor organizations--many of them AFL-CIO affiliates--stepped forward to stand with the Standing Rock and other Native Nations and their allies.

While a similar conflict surfaced during the KXL pipeline controversy, it remained less openly contentious because the section that would have passed through the Dakotas was ultimately cancelled by President Obama. Now, with DAPL construction massively underway and hundreds of Native Nations uniting against the pipeline and gathered in an encampment of thousands, the battle lines are being more clearly drawn.  Perhaps Native troubadours there are singing the old United Mine Workers song from the 1930's, "Which Side Are You On?" 

Among the unions and organizations opposing the pipeline are Oregon's SEIU 503, the Pacific Coast Pensions Association--ILWU, the Labor Coalition for Community Action (which 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), National Nurses United, ATU transit workers, California Faculty Association, Communication Workers of America, IWW Environmental unionism Caucus, National Writers Union UAW Local 1981, UE ( United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America) and others.

Today's guests are Gregory Cendana, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, an AFL-CIO member organization (http://www.apalanet.org/national-staff.html); Roben White, enrolled Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge and long-time local union activist;  Laura John, Blackfeet/Seneca and member-activist of SEIU Local 503 who pushed her local to adopt a statement in support of the Standing Rock and against the DAPL, and Rob Sisk, President of SEIU Local 503.

Work Week Radio: AFL-CIO and Opposition To Pipeline and Brazilian Workers Strike

By Steve Zeltser - Work Week Radio KPFA, September 27, 2016

WorkWeek looks at the growing conflict in the labor movement over the Dakota Access Pipeline project and the protests by Standing Rock Sioux Native Americans and other tribes and supporters against the pipeline. LIUNA, the Teamsters, Operating Engineers and Richard Trumpka of the AFL-CIO have supported the pipeline. Additional LIUNA, IBT, Pipefitters and Operating Engineers have also called for calling in the National Guard to protect the pipeline workers from protest.

Unions including the National Nurses Union NNU, Amalgamated Transit Union ATU, Communication Workers Of America CWA and American Postal Workers Union have opposed the pipeline and supported the protesting Native American tribes.

WorkWeek interviews NNU Director of Director of Environmental Health and Climate Justice for National Nurses United (NNU) Fernando Losada. We also interview Jeremy Brecher who is a labor writer and with Labor For Sustainability.

They discuss the split in labor, what is behind it and also the labor management partnership between the building union leadership and the oil and fossil fuel corporations.

Next WorkWeek looks at the upcoming strike in Brazil of auto and metal workers along with bank and public workers with Fabio Bosco who is with the Sao Paulo Metro workers union and Conlutas a labor federation which is supporting the strike.

Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, September 28, 2016

As United States Energy Transfers Partners began building the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the tribe began an escalating campaign against the pipeline. By this summer nearly 200 tribes around the country had passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and many hundreds of their members joined nonviolent direct action to halt it. Amidst wide public sympathy for the Native American cause, environmental, climate protection, human rights, and many other groups joined the campaign. On September 9, the Obama administration intervened to temporarily halt the pipeline and open government-to-government consultations with the tribes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has become an issue of contention within organized labor. When a small group of unions supported the Standing Rock Sioux and opposed the pipeline, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka issued a statement discounting Native American claims and urging that work on the pipeline resume. Other constituencies within labor quickly cracked back. Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?

Big Labor has an identity crisis, and its name is Dakota Access

By Aura Bogado - Grist, September 28, 2016

A growing rift has split the country’s biggest union federation, the AFL-CIO. Many labor activists and union members are outraged that Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, threw the AFL-CIO’s support behind the Dakota Access pipeline project earlier this month.

The AFL-CIO’s statement backing the pipeline was announced a week after the Obama administration put construction on hold. Trumka acknowledged “places of significance to Native Americans” but argued that the more than “4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs” attached to the pipeline trumped environmental and other considerations.

That move rankled many in the AFL-CIO’s more progressive wing, highlighting strains within the federation of 56 unions representing 12 million workers. Recent tensions within the AFL-CIO have deepened a long-running divide between a more conservative, largely white, jobs-first faction and progressive union members who are friendly to environmental concerns and count more people of color among their ranks.

Grist interviewed five staffers at the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. Trumka’s public support for the pipeline caught these senior-level and mid-level staffers by surprise, they told Grist — especially because he had recently taken progressive positions on Black Lives Matter, immigration, and criminal justice.

A call to Trumka’s office was not returned. The federation’s policy director, Damon Silvers, who is said to have helped write the statement, also did not respond to an interview request.

Union opponents of the pipeline project and their advocates quickly responded on social media with satire. One post on Twitter likened Trumka’s position to helping the wrong side in Star Wars.

Other frustrated union members and staffers placed calls to Climate Workers, an organization of union workers focused on climate justice, to vent. Brooke Anderson, an organizer at the group, says she fielded dozens of calls from members upset about the AFL-CIO’s position.

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