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Unions and Youth together: A Just Transition for climate ambition

Taking the High Road: Strategies for a Fair EV Future

By staff - UAW Research Department, January 2020

The American automotive industry is constantly evolving and, throughout the union’s history, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has fought to ensure industry changes result in quality jobs that benefit workers and the economy.

The auto industry is facing a new shift in technology with the proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs). This shift is an opportunity to re-invest in U.S. manufacturing. But this opportunity will be lost if EVs or their components are imported or made by low-road suppliers who underpay workers. In order to preserve American jobs and work standards, what is needed is a proactive industrial policy that creates high-quality manufacturing jobs making EVs and their components.

Read the text (PDF).

Resisting RCEP from the ground up: Indian movements show the way

By staff - GRAIN & ICCFM, January 2020

In the history of people’s resistance against free trade agreements, 4 November 2019 is a day to remember. On this day, bowing to immense pressure from peasants, trade unions and rural communities, India’s central government decided to pull the plug on its participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), intended to become the largest free trade area in the world. The announcement, made at the ASEAN summit in Bangkok, has implications for free trade negotiations in the entire region and puts a fork in the wheels of unifying the Asian market – a project clearly favouring the interests of agribusiness and transnational corporations.

While countries such as Japan, New Zealand and Australia are making every effort to convince India to come back to the negotiating table, whether they will succeed is not clear. For now, Delhi’s decision has provided immense relief to millions of small-scale food producers and rural workers in India.

So how did a government that is overtly neoliberal, capitalist and with visible authoritarian traits end up bowing to the pressure of farmers and workers? To understand that, we need to understand the decade that just went past us.

Read the report (PDF).

Farmers storm India’s national capital, demanding freedom from debt and better price for their produce

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 23, 2017

Several thousand small-holder farmers from across India held a massive demonstration in New Delhi, from 20-21 November to draw attention to the acute agrarian distress plaguing the countryside and seeking immediate intervention by the Union Government.

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements – who are also part of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, joined in large numbers.

For long, farmers movements and civil society organisations in India have been pointing out the problem of mounting debt in rural farm households.

A steady and steep increase in cost of production over the last three decades, near-stagnant farm incomes and increasing cost of rural household expenses, which are exacerbated by crumbling public welfare services and privatisation drives, have resulted in nearly 60% of the farm households trapped in a cycle of debt. Back-to-back droughts and unseasonal rains since 2012 resulting in severe crop losses, a crash in farm prices over the last several seasons have only worsened the crisis.

On a set of 25 crops, the Government of India offer a guaranteed and minimum support price across to the country’s farmers. However, for several years now as social movements have pointed out, this support price is marginally above – in some instances below – the cost of production.

In 2014, while campaigning for general elections, Narendra Modi who is currently the Prime Minister, had publicly promised to procure farm produces at a higher rate, which would be at least 1.5 times the cost of production. Yet, this is far from reality. What is worse is also that farmers are right now forced to sell their produces at levels that are even lower than the minimum support price.

Green revolution and the subsequent opening up of Indian agriculture to the global free market, has exposed the country’s small-farmers to unfair and unequal competition on the world scene. Agricultural policies that are focused on exporting food, rather than promoting local production and distribution has only favoured agribusinesses and severely marginalised the peasants and small-holder farmers. Despite this, global institutions such as the WTO continue to mount pressure on the Indian government to reduce the support price further and to lower the import tariffs!

The consequences have been devastating. Since 1995, at least 300,000 farmers in India have been forced to commit suicide unable to bear their piling debt and harassments from lenders. Government data shows that on an average 2000 farmers are forced to quit agriculture everyday and migrate to cities in search of work in factories and construction sites.

Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto: Indian farmers send their objections to Competition Commission

By - La Via Campesina, January 30, 2018

On 25 January, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), placed on record their objection with the proposed acquisition of Monsanto by the German firm Bayer.

Here is the full text of the letter.


All Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements

Road No. 2, A – 87, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, IndiaTel:+91-9899435968 ; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com

The Secretary, 25.01.2018

Competition Commission of India,

New Delhi – 110001

Dear Madam/Sir,

Subject: Our objection to the Proposed Combination between Bayer AG and Monsanto and request for extension of 15 days notice for public participation.

We the farmers in India as Individual Farmers, Farmers Groups, Women Farmers, Small farmers, Young Farmers, Farm Workers, Landless Labourers have come together to place on record our objections pertaining to the Notification issued by the Competition Commission of India under Section 29(2) of the Competition Commission Act, 2002, inviting objections/ comments/ suggest with regard to the combination of Two Corporate Giants across the Globe viz, between Bayer AG, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Allee, 51368, Leverkusen, Germany (hereinafter ‘Bayer’ or ‘Acquirer’) and Monsanto Company, 2711 Centerville Road, Suite 400, Wilmington, Delaware 19808, County of New Castle (hereinafter ‘Monsanto’ or ‘Target’, and collectively with Bayer as ‘Parties’).

The signatories hereunder are members of All India Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM) and South Indian Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM) and we represent 12 farmers’ organizations across India representing millions of peasants, small and medium size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers. We defend peasant agriculture for food sovereignty as a way to promote social justice and dignity and strongly oppose corporate driven agriculture that destroys social relations and nature.

We consider that the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer not only causes but also likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India. We request the Commission to call for the records from these two companies regarding their market concentration and study the overall reach of these two companies put together in the market and assess the percentage of their shares objectively and independent of the projections given by the Parties in Form IV, before arriving at any conclusions. The Commission should carry out this investigation to determine the questions whether the acquisition or the combination of these two giant Corporates would cause adverse effect on competition within India.

It is important to place on record the study conducted by the Friends of Earth, Europe led by Ioannis Lianos, Professor of Global Competition Law and Public Policy and Director of the Centre for Law, Economics and Society (CLES) at University College London (UCL),1 concludes that even on a narrow reading of EU competition law, the merger between US-based agro-chemical and biotech company Monsanto and German ‘life science’ company Bayer should not be permitted. The legal study sets out five main reasons why EU competition law requires that the merger be blocked. The copy of the said document is enclosed herewith.

In addition to the issues raised in the said study mentioned supra and the objections submitted by many other individual farmers, farmers organization and farmers collective, we also like to highlight the certain discrepancies in the combination of Bayer and Monsanto as published in the Notification dated 5th January 2018.

In India, Bayer and Monsanto, as per the assertions given by the Parties in Form IV, prior to the closing of the Proposed Combination operate in the 5 Segments in terms of Products, viz, 1. Crop Production, 2. Agricultural Seeds, 3. Vegetable Seeds, 4. Environmental Science and 5. Traits and Technology. The Crop Productions again has 6 Sub Segments, Agricultural Seeds has 5 Sub Segments, Vegetable Seeds has 22 Sub Segments , Environment Science has 5 Sub Segments and Traits and Technology has 1 Sub Segment.

In the Crop Production Segment, both the parties have one Sub Segment overlapping i.e., Non –selective herbicides.

In Agricultural Seeds Segment, both the parties have one Sub Segment overlapping i.e. Cotton Seeds.

In Vegetable Seeds Segments, both the parties have 13 Sub segments overlapping, i.e., Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Eggplant, Bitter Gourd, Bottle Gourd, Melon, Okra, Onion, Hot Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Watermelon.

Indonesian Uber Drivers Fight Back with Anarcho-Syndicalism

By staff - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, January 30, 2018

As the “uberization” of the US economy continues, along with it is an ever precarious workforce struggling to make ends meet in the dog-eat-dog world of the so-called “sharing economy.” This trend is the same around the world, with Uber claiming to have more than two million drivers in over 80 counties across the globe now.

In Indonesia these conditions are little different. But radical unionists are hoping to change this and are organizing to take back their dignity, better pay and conditions and for great control over their work and lives. Kommunitas Uber Mainstream, abbreviated KUMAN which means ‘bacteria,’was formed by three Uber motorcycle drivers in the Spring of 2017. They have since crafted a list of 14 demands, led four one-day strikes and have grown to a membership of 6,000 drivers. All but two are male in the male dominated field of drivers. KUMAN is structured horizontally with regional sections meeting regularly in parks or other available spaces to discuss strategy and in turn chose delegates to larger general meetings. The union has no dues and supports itself largely by sale of stickers and t-shirts. Drivers can become members by proving they are an active driver and answering three basic questions: 1. What’s your perspective on this group?, 2. Are you a freedom fighter or a loser? and 3. What do you know about what working with Uber is like? KUMAN works together with Persaudaraan Pekerja Anarko-Sindikalis (PPAS), the two-year old anarcho-syndicalist initiative in Indonesia and an affiliate of the International Workers Association (IWA). The majority of the union has decided to adopt the ideas and strategies of anarcho-syndicalism for their struggle, although other political tendencies exist within the union.

KUMAN is continuing to escalate the fight for justice at Uber, with more strikes and actions planned. We hope that this interview will help inspire solidarity with their cause, so that workers around the world will answer KUMAN’s next call for action and join in putting pressure on Uber. We particularly hope that other rideshare and sharing economy workers will learn from the experiences we share here and connect with KUMAN drivers to build international networks of struggle and organization.

We were excited to be able to talk with Enrique, an Uber driver from Jakarta, Indonesia who was one of the initial three founders of KUMAN. We were also joined by Ricardo, originally from Surabaya, Indonesia but now living in Melbourne, Australia. He works in retail grocery and is active with the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation – IWA. The interview was conducted by Jesus, a Los Angeles based healthcare worker with Black Rose/Rosa Negra. The three sat down together in a cramped Hong Kong hostel room to talk about the situation of Uber drivers in Indonesia now and how anarchist ideas are being applied to build workers power among drivers in Indonesia.

Please note that for purposes of translation, clarity, and length this interview has been heavy edited.

Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation

Edited by Satoko Kishimoto and Olivier Petitjean - Transnational Institute, June 2017

You would be forgiven, especially if you live in Europe, to think that public services are by nature expensive, inefficient, maybe even somewhat outdated, and that reforming them to adapt to new challenges is difficult. It would seem natural to assume – because this is what most politicians, media and so-called experts tell us continuously – that we, as citizens and users, should resign ourselves to paying ever higher tariffs for services of an ever lower standard, and that service workers have no choice but to accept ever more degraded conditions. It would seem that private companies will inevitably play an ever larger role in the provision of public services, because everything has a price, because politicians have lost sight of the common good and citizens are only interested in their own individual pursuits.

This book, however, tells a completely different story. Sometimes it may feel as though we are living in a time when profit and austerity are our only horizons. In reality, below the radar, thousands of politicians, public officials, workers and unions, and social movements are working to reclaim or create effective public services that address the basic needs of people and respond to our social, environmental and climate challenges. They do this most often at the local level. Our research shows there have been at least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide in recent years, some of them involving several cities. In total there have been more than 1600 cities in 45 countries involved in (re)municipalisation. And these (re)municipalisations generally succeed-ed in bringing down costs and tariffs, improving conditions for workers and boosting service quality, while ensuring greater transparency and accountability.

Read the text (PDF).

The U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Dirty Dollars: U.S. tax dollars are supporting human rights, environment, and labor violations at the Sasan Coal-Fired Power Plant and Mine in India

By various - Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Pacific Environment, and FOE, October 2014

In January and May 2014, a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Pacific Environment, and Friends of the Earth U.S. (hereafter referred to as the Fact Finding Team), undertook two field visits to Singrauli, India, to meet with communities affected by Reliance Power’s Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) and its associated mine to assess the project’s effect on local communities and the environment.

Since the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) approved over $900 million in financing for the coal project in October 2010, little information has been provided by the agency about Sasan’s compliance with Ex-Im environmental, social, human rights, and corruption policies. This includes the Bank’s commitments under the Equator Principles1 and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards,2 the agency’s environmental, social, human rights and corruption policies, as well whether or not the project has lived up to the expectations laid out in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) documents for the mine and the power plant. An apparent lack of oversight prompted the NGOs involved in this report to conduct this independent investigation. The Fact Finding Team has uncovered numerous reports of corruption and human rights and labor violations associated with the Sasan coal project, all of which have largely been ignored by the Ex- Im Bank.

Read the report (PDF).

Can Trade Unions Become Environmental Innovators?

By Nora Räthzel, David Uzzell, and Dave Elliott - Soundings, December 2010

Learning from the Lucas Aerospace Workers

The attempt by workers at Lucas Aerospace in the 1970s to develop a plan to convert production in their company from weapons to socially useful goods has recently been invoked in debates on creating low-carbon societies.[1] As Hilary Wainwright and Andy Bowman have argued, a renewed Green New Deal that involved a similar level of painstaking attention to grass-roots participation ‘would be a worthy successor indeed’.[2] We agree with this view, and we would like to make the additional argument that the Lucas example is particularly helpful for international trade union debates on climate change.

The Lucas workers were way ahead of their time in recognising the need for sustainable development - even if such a concept did not exist at that time. But their project also demanded a radical revision of the ways in which society determined its priorities. In today’s terms, their argument was for a ‘Just Transition’. In other words, in adapting production for different needs, it was important to make sure that any new strategies would take workers’ interests into account. And it is this notion that is important in trade union debates today.[3]

Trade unions are not commonly regarded as being on the frontline of the climate change battle. Many people (including not a few trade unionists) see unions as being on the side of climate sceptics, or as being a constituency for whom other concerns are more important. But many national and international unions are currently seeking to develop policies through which their industries can help to mitigate the causes and effects of climate change; and unions do have a long history of struggling for environmental issues - even if this history is not given so much attention today. For example, in the early years of industrialisation trade unionists fought against air and river pollution in their communities. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that safe workplaces - an issue where the history of trade union involvement is more familiar - are also an environmental issue. One reason why the trade union record is often overlooked is that environmental issues have often been raised by environmental movements, which have paid little attention to social and work issues. Equally, trade unionists often reject environmental arguments, for example claiming that it is more important to preserve and create jobs than to ‘save a few trees’ - as was the kind of dismissive remark sometimes made in the course of our interviews. However, things are changing dramatically and fast.

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