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East Bay Labor Unions Say 'No' to Coal in Oakland

By Darwin BondGraham - East Bay Express, September 18, 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 official voice of the labor movement in the East Bay has come out against plans to export coal from Oakland. This morning, the Alameda Labor Council’s executive committee passed a resolution opposing the export of coal from the bulk commodity terminal planned for construction at the city’s former Army Base.

The resolution cites health hazards and environmental harms that are likely to result from shipping and storing coal in West Oakland — hazards that will impact both workers and Oakland residents.

“Jobs involving coal are unhealthy and unsafe due to dust emissions; coal is increasingly an anti-union industry,” states the resolution. “West Oakland residents are already twice as likely to visit the emergency room for asthma as the average Alameda County resident, and are also more likely to die of cancer, heart and lung disease… .”

Terminal Logistics Solutions, the company proposing coal exports from the terminal, has claimed that the facility will be served by covered rail cars to reduce the amount of coal dust that drifts into nearby neighborhoods. TLS recently unveiled sketches on its website depicting dome-covered silos and enclosed conveyor belts that will store and load the coal onto ships for export overseas.

Opponents of the coal plan have said, however, that covered rail cars, silos and chutes are not used anywhere in the United States today, and their efficacy hasn’t been studied.

The Labor Council’s resolution states that despite the unions’ “unified opposition to coal,” they believe that the project can move forward without coal. Their resolutions welcomes commodities such as steel, wood, grains, sand, gravel ,and other "non-hazardous materials."

A special meeting of the Oakland City Council is scheduled for Monday. The city clerk’s office has already received more than three hundred speaker cards from members of the public.

Sept. 4, 1921: Battle of Blair Mountain Ends

By Brandon Nida - Zinn Education Project, September 4, 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.

September 4 marks the end of fighting at the Battle of Blair Mountain, which was the largest example of class war in U.S. history. It was fought over the course of five days in 1921 by 10,000 coalminers. The coalminers were rebelling against inhumane conditions in the West Virginia coalfields. The region led the nation in mine fatalities and the coal companies controlled almost every aspect of mining families’ lives.

The miners had attempted to unionize for decades, but were constantly blocked by a corrupt political system, brutal intimidation for organizers, and other forms of harassment such as blacklisting where union sympathizers were barred from working in the region.

These struggles all came to a head when the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) went on a national strike in 1919. The southern coalfields of West Virginia at this time were the only major coal-producing region that was non-union. The continued production in the region during the strike seriously undercut the UMWA’s position. After the national strike was resolved, the UMWA set their sights on the problematic region.

This began two years of determined efforts on the miners’ part to unionize these fields. The first efforts were focused on Logan County. The union organizers met stiff resistance from the county sheriff, Don Chafin, who was in the employment of coal operators. Chafin used intimidation, beatings, and even murder to keep the union out.

Moving Beyond Protests and Counter Protests; the transition to a renewable economy requires the climate movement and unions to work in solidarity together

By Catherine Nadel - 350.org, August 15, 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.

In the lead up to the Ende Gelände action, that will see a mine shut down in the Rhineland this weekend, there have been rumours of a counter protest organised by the union for RWE employees. This possibility is disappointing for a number of reasons. The climate movement’s mission is not only to respond to the climate crisis by dismantling our reliance on fossil fuels, but to a build a movement that is capable of achieving this in a way that is just and fair. Central to this strategy are workers. It is understandable that the actions of climate activists, such as Ende Gelände can seem threatening to those who rely on the fossil fuel industries for their jobs and livelihoods. It is our hope that the communities that currently depend on these jobs, understand that there is no greater threat to them than the threat of climate change. This is a threat that will fundamentally change the way we live. If we do not work together to confront this challenge and transition to a cleaner, fairer future, we risk not only jobs and livelihoods, but everything.

Research into the fossil fuel industry reveals that the interests of unions and the climate movement are fundamentally aligned. The two groups share many common values; financial stability, job security and strong communities are among the clearest of them. We also share a common challenge, responding to an industry that values profit margins over the safety and security of both their employers and the climate.

RWE is not only the single biggest emitter of CO2 in Europe, it is also one of the continent’s most negligent companies. According to research commissioned by Greenpeace in 2012, RWE’s coal power stations cause over 900 deaths a year in Germany. RWE’s failure to adapt its business model at a time when the rest of Germany is transitioning to a low-carbon economy has caused its share price to drop by 70% since 2007. Predictably, these losses have not fallen on the executives of the company, but on the workers. In 2014 alone RWE slashed over 5000 jobs.

RWE’s business model is founded on disregard for both social and environmental consequences. When Ende Gelände activists walk into the mine tomorrow, their aim will be to disrupt this destructive model. They do this in the knowledge that when the action disrupts RWE’s business tomorrow, it will also be disrupting an ordinary workday for many people. This can justifiably be perceived as inconvenient and inconsiderate to the employees of the mine. This is regrettable, however climate change is disruptive and inconsiderate. It poses a threat to every one of us, a threat that we must respond to together.

It is for this reason that when Ende Gelände calls on RWE to change its ways, it also calls on the German government to invest in a transition to an economy based on renewable energy and sustainable long-term jobs. To us, this means investing time and money in the re-skilling and employment of workers, to rapidly deploy decentralised renewable energy solutions, that support whole communities rather than profits for a few and climate disruption for the rest. We want to extend an invitation to the workers and communities of the Rhineland, to join us in this fight.

The fight for a clean future involves transition for all of us. This includes transition for the workers of fossil fuel industries; this transition must not only be just and fair, it must be lead by workers. This is why the idea of a worker counter protest is so deeply saddening. As a climate movement we know we can do better to put the rights of working people at the centre of our work, but we know that to change everything, it will take everyone. Climate change is not just a siloable environmental issue, it is a people issue; and it is a threat to communities everywhere. That is why it is so important that we move beyond protests and counter protests and work together to build a fossil free future that is centred on fairness and justice for all.

How to Support Clean Energy and Not Be a Jerk; As the nation turns away from coal, what do we owe coal workers?

By Jonathan Tasini - Sierra, July-August 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.

Michael Phillippi makes $28.50 per hour working as a mechanic at Murray Energy's Monongalia County coal mine in West Virginia. That's almost double what he made as a crane operator before snagging this coveted job four years ago. With healthcare and pension, that figure is close to $60 per hour, all because he's a member of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW). That's a hefty paycheck in a state where the minimum wage is $8 per hour and the poverty rate is one of the highest in the nation.

The amiable, broad-shouldered Phillippi brings home more than twice what his wife makes as a teacher's assistant. He puts 10 percent of his paycheck into a 401(k) and invests another chunk in education savings for his three kids. He pays the bills and still has enough left over for a boat and a little camp where his family spends time in the summer. "I know guys making eighteen, twenty thousand," he says. "We had a banker start a few months ago—he was in charge of loans at a bank. He makes more money and has better benefits as a coal miner."

If the mine closed, Phillippi says, he'd have to learn to live off $15 an hour or less. To find a salary comparable to his current job's, he'd have to drive 75 miles north to Pittsburgh. But he probably wouldn't. "I won't move," he says. "I am from here. My family is from here. My grandparents are from here. My wife and her family. This is our community. I want to raise my children here. I plan on dying here. It's the sad truth that the good jobs aren't here."

Phillippi's paycheck also matters to the small businesses he sprinkles money on, like the mom-and-pops he stops at on his 35-minute drive from his home in Morgantown to the mine. Sitting in a small conference room in the UMW regional office in Fairmont, Phillippi points across the table to Mark Dorsey, who worked underground for 34 years before retiring in 2010: "For every hour I work, I'm helping to pay his pension." 

There are hundreds of thousands of Michael Phillippis spread out across the nation, from the coalfields of West Virginia and Kentucky to the more than 500 coal-generating power stations located in virtually every state. These workers now face the loss of their good-paying jobs due to the declining competitiveness of coal compared to other energy sources and new Environmental Protection Agency regulations intended to address air pollution and climate change. 

Those regulations, of course, have clear benefits for Phillippi, Dorsey, and everyone who breathes. Stronger soot standards alone would prevent 35,700 premature deaths per year and 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma. Shifting to renewable energy, says the Union of Concerned Scientists, would create three times as many jobs—although likely not as well paid—as an equivalent investment in fossil fuels. And the value of avoiding catastrophic climate change is incalculable. 

But it won't pay the mortgage. As the coal industry withers, what will happen to Phillippi, Dorsey, and the communities they live in? The classic free market answer: That's life. Economies change, so suck it up. When the car replaced the horse and cart, buggy manufacturers moved on. 

That is not the only answer. Slowly, tentatively, unions and environmentalists are beginning to talk about an entirely different option called Just Transition, a guarantee that the cost of bringing down the curtain on the coal industry will not be paid by coal workers alone, but will be spread across society. It would be a huge undertaking, ideally encompassing the tens of thousands of workers directly employed in coal, from mining to electric-power generation, plus the communities that depend on their spending and taxes.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: How Unions and Allies Can Protect Affected Workers

By Joe Uehlein, et. al. - Labor Network for Sustainability, 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 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just issued the final text of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a regulation whose purpose is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that climate scientists say are causing global warming. EPA and independent studies indicate that the CPP will create far more jobs than it eliminates. However, some jobs will be lost as a result of the plan, almost entirely concentrated in coal mining and electrical utilities. Affected workers and their communities should not have to bear the burden of environmental protection that benefits all. Public policy can and should provide a “just transition” that protects their wellbeing.

The EPA has released a “regulatory impact analysis” of job and other effects of the CPP. Dr. Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) conducted a further analysis to evaluate and extend the EPA findings and has produced the recently-released study “A Comprehensive Analysis of the Employment Impacts of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”

Between now and 2020, the CPP will require large investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. It will also reduce jobs in power plants and mining. The new “direct” jobs created by 2020 will outnumber the jobs lost by 96,000 jobs.

EcoUnionist News #59

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 4, 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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

Bread and Roses:

EcoUnionist News #58

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 27, 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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

EcoUnionist News #57

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 23, 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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

Caterpilliar Steals More Mining Jobs

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, July 17, 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.

Web editor's note: - Caterpillar are also known union busters.

(Caption from Coal Age Magazine image, pictured right):  Alpha Coal West Works with Cat to Develop a Better Dipper

The cut line for the (image) from Coal Age should read…

“Alpha Coal West Works with Cat to Eliminate More Coal Mining Jobs Through Increased Mechanization”

Tell me again why everyone still believes coal companies are job creators?

At various times through my blogging, I have pointed out that coal companies are legally bound to make a profit for their shareholders. Even staunch conservatives argue “What’s the point of a business that isn’t out to make money?” So why do people’s understanding of the coal business fall short of overhead reduction in the form of job elimination?

Coal miner’s must realize that there is a difference between a “War on Coal” and a “War on Coal Miners.” The companies, who miners believe to be their closest ally, are continuously trying to gain more productivity from their workers while cutting as much overhead as possible. Perhaps it’s time coal miners and their families realized the truth behind coal’s motivations and began fighting for themselves and the future of their children.

I for one would love to see what Appalachians can do on their own without the coal industry telling everyone what they should be doing.

EcoUnionist News #54

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 30, 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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Green Bans:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

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