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disaster collectivism

Fall Economic Statement paves the way for a Green Recovery: energy efficiency, care economy, electric vehicle infrastructure, and nature-based solutions

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, December 7, 2020

On November 30, Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freedland presented the government’s Fall Economic Statement to the House of Commons, Supporting Canadians and Fighting COVID-19. At over 200 pages, it is the fullest statement to date of how the government intends to finance a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, but Canadians must still wait for a full climate change strategy, promised “soon”.

The government press release summarizes the spending for health and economic measures, including, for employers, extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Canada, the Emergency Rent Subsidy and Lockdown Support , and new funding for the tourism and hospitality sectors through the new Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program. In Chapter 3, Building Back Better,  the Economic Statement addresses the impacts of Covid-19 on the labour market and employment. It includes promises to create one million jobs, invest in skills training, reduce inequality, attack systemic racism, support families through early learning and child care, support youth, and build a competitive green economy. Most budget allocations will be channeled through existing programs, but new initiatives include “the creation of a task force of diverse experts to help develop “an Action Plan for Women in the Economy”; launch of “Canada’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program”; and a task force on modernizing the Employment Equity Act to promote equity in federally-regulated workplaces. Under the heading, “Better working conditions for the care Economy” comes a pledge: “To support personal support workers, homecare workers and essential workers involved in senior care, the government will work with labour and healthcare unions, among others, to seek solutions to improve retention, recruitment and retirement savings options for low- and modest-income workers, particularly those without existing workplace pension coverage.”

Resilience Before Disaster: The Need to Build Equitable, Community-Driven Social Infrastructure

By Zach Lou, et. al. - Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Blue Green Alliance, September 21, 2020

This report, jointly released by APEN, SEIU California, and BlueGreen Alliance, makes the case for California to make long-term and deep investments in the resilience of its most vulnerable communities.

As California faces devastating wildfires, extreme heat, power outages, and an ongoing pandemic, the need to proactively advance climate adaptation and resilience is more clear than ever. However, these efforts typically focus on improving hard infrastructure–roads, bridges, and other physical infrastructure–to the detriment of social infrastructure, the people, services, and facilities that secure the economic, health, cultural, and social well-being of the community.

Traditional models of disaster planning have also proven deeply inadequate: They are coordinated through militarized entities like local sheriff’s departments and rely upon protocols like evacuating to faraway and unfamiliar sites, sharing emergency alerts in only one or two languages, and requiring people to present identification to access services, thus shutting out many from the support they need.

Through these crises, we’ve seen new models of disaster response emerge. In some places, neighbors have formed mutual aid networks to share their resources with one another, schools provided food to tens of thousands of families each day, and libraries were turned into cooling centers during extreme heat waves. What these approaches have in common is that they are rooted in the existing social and public infrastructure of communities.

This report provides a policy framework for community resilience by building out models for Resilience Hubs and In-Home Resilience. This dual approach to resilience captures the need for both centralized spaces and distributed systems that promote resilience within a community. Importantly, these are not models for just disaster response and recovery. Resilience is built before disaster.

Read the report (PDF).

Solidarity School #1: Our Fight for A Just Recovery

Self-Help in the Coronavirus Depression

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 11, 2020

The second in a series of Mass Action in the Coronavirus Depression, LNS Research and Policy Director offers this: "Self-Help in the Coronavirus Depression." In the early years of the Great Depression of the 1930s, unemployed and impoverished workers turned to dramatic forms of self-help to survive. Anti-eviction “riots” led by organizations of the unemployed made it possible to protect hundreds of thousands of families from being evicted from their homes and ultimately forced government in many cities to halt evictions. And the unemployed in hundreds of communities formed mutual aid organizations through which they exchanged food, services, and labor outside the cash economy. These efforts are described in the commentary “Fighting the Great Depression – From Below. This commentary tells how those affected by today’s Coronavirus Depression are using self-help techniques like rent strikes and mutual aid exchange to survive depression conditions.

From Scarcity to Sovereignty: Food in a Time of Pandemic

By various - The LEAP, July 28, 2020

The pandemic has shone a glaring light on a food system that was already in crisis long before COVID-19. Millions of animals euthanized, lakes of milk poured down drains. Migrant farm workers, on whose labour the system depends, getting infected and dying because of utterly inadequate housing and lack of access to medical care. All within a context where entrenched racism and inequality already determines who does and doesn’t experience food insecurity.

The flip side of this disaster: the crisis has expanded our political imagination, and made clear how essential is every person and every link in the food system’s chain. The ground is laid for vastly more radical policy changes than were being discussed even a few months ago.

We have worked with allies across the food system to gather these political demands, and map them across the stages of a Just Recovery. We can seize this moment to build a food system that respects Indigenous sovereignty, treats producers with dignity, reconnects us to the nurturing power of the earth, and celebrates true diversity – from crops to cultures.

To mark the launch of this phase of our project, we are bringing together some of the most visionary thinkers and activists in the Food Justice community for a conversation on food and farming. It’s a big one, because it intersects with every aspect of our lives. And it’s crucial, because the food system is the site of some of the biggest challenges and opportunities of this crisis.

Speakers:

  • Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved, film-maker, academic
  • Dawn Morrison, Secwepemc Nation, Founder/Curator of Research and Relationships of the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty.
  • Evelyn Encalada Grez, Co-Founder of Justicia/Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW); Assistant Professor of Labour Studies at Simon Fraser University
  • Paul Taylor, Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto

Southern Struggles in Transit During Covid-19: Safe Jobs Save Lives Campaign

By various - Southern Workers Assembly, July 12, 2020

Transit workers, particularly in the public sector, have been on the frontlines of struggle in the midst of both the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprising. Numerous successful job actions, work stoppages, and strikes have been held by workers in Birmingham, Alabama; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia, among many other cities throughout the South and the U.S.

These struggles have largely elevated health and safety demands for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), better sanitizing of buses and transit centers, and social distancing - for transit workers and passengers alike - alongside calls for hazard pay. Many frontline essential workers rely on public transit to get to and from their jobs, a reality that has been reflected in many of the fights that have broken out in transit during this period.

Because of the failure of reactionary state governments that have capitulated to the demands of capital and other right-wing forces who have called for a quick return to business as usual, alongside the woefully inadequate for profit healthcare system in this country, COVID-19 cases are once again spiking across the U.S. and particularly in the South.

In April, the Southern Workers Assembly launched the Safe Jobs Save Lives campaign to advance the organization of workers at the workplace and to build solidarity formations such as local workers assemblies, particularly in light of the many struggles breaking out in response to the crisis and a system that values profit above all else. The SWA views the development of this type of organization as critical to confront the two pandemics facing workers, particularly Black workers - COVID-19 and racism.

What can all workers learn from the struggles waged by transit workers during this period? How can we continue to build a regional Safe Jobs Save Lives campaign, alongside the formation of workers unity council and workers assemblies? Join us for the discussion that will take up these and other questions.

The Pandemic May Be a Preview of Our Climate Future

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainabaility - July 1, 2020

Todd E. Vachon, faculty coordinator of the Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN) in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and an active trade unionist and member of the Labor Network for Sustainability, recently wrote an article in the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Warning that “The Pandemic May Be a Preview of Our Climate Future.”

Todd says,

Vital government agencies have been defunded, understaffed or put under the charge of industry hacks who do not believe in the missions of the agencies they are tasked with running. The production of vital healthcare equipment has been outsourced in pursuit of cheaper labor and lax environmental regulations. And perhaps worst of all, the Trump administration has refused to use all the tools at its disposal to protect American lives. These ideologically driven actions have left the federal government incapable of marshaling the health and safety equipment needed to help critically ill Americans and protect the courageous first responders and healthcare workers trying to save them.

He calls for a Green Stimulus and an Emergency Green New Deal (EGND) “to not only get our economy back up and running after the COVID-19 crisis but also to reduce the risk of climate-related disasters and to increase our general preparedness for all disasters.” He says “such an effort would strengthen the social safety net, decouple health insurance from employment, and create millions of family-sustaining green jobs while accelerating a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.”

Read Todd’s entire piece »

A Pathway to a Regenerative Economy

By various - United Frontline Table, June 2020

The intersecting crises of income and wealth inequality and climate change, driven by systemic white supremacy and gender inequality, has exposed the frailty of the U.S. economy and democracy. This document was prepared during the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated these existing crises and underlying conditions. Democratic processes have been undermined at the expense of people’s jobs, health, safety, and dignity. Moreover, government support has disproportionately expanded and boosted the private sector through policies, including bailouts, that serve an extractive economy and not the public’s interest. Our elected leaders have chosen not to invest in deep, anti-racist democratic processes. They have chosen not to uphold public values, such as fairness and equity, not to protect human rights and the vital life cycles of nature and ecosystems. Rather, our elected leaders have chosen extraction and corporate control at the expense of the majority of the people and the well-being and rights of Mother Earth. Transforming our economy is not just about swapping out elected leaders. We also need a shift in popular consciousness.

There are moments of clarity that allow for society to challenge popular thinking and status quo solutions. Within all the challenges that this pandemic has created, it has also revealed what is wrong with the extractive economy while showcasing the innate resilience, common care, and original wisdom that we hold as people. Environmental justice and frontline communities are all too familiar with crisis and systemic injustices and have long held solutions to what is needed to not only survive, but also thrive as a people, as a community, and as a global family. We cannot go back to how things were. We must move forward. We are at a critical moment to make a downpayment on a Regenerative Economy, while laying the groundwork for preventing future crises.

To do so, we say—listen to the frontlines! Indigenous Peoples, as members of their Indigenous sovereign nations, Asian and Pacific Islander, Black, Brown and poor white marginalized communities must be heard, prioritized, and invested in if we are to successfully build a thriving democracy and society in the face of intersecting climate, environmental, economic, social, and health crises. A just and equitable society requires bottom-up processes built off of, and in concert with, existing organizing initiatives in a given community. It must be rooted in a people’s solutions lens for a healthy future and Regenerative Economy. These solutions must be inclusive—leaving no one behind in both process and outcome. Thus, frontline communities must be at the forefront as efforts grow to advance a Just Transition to a Regenerative Economy.

A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy offers community groups, policy advocates, and policymakers a pathway to solutions that work for frontline communities and workers. These ideas have been collectively strategized by community organizations and leaders from across multiple frontline and grassroots networks and alliances to ensure that regenerative economic solutions and ecological justice—under a framework that challenges capitalism and both white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy—are core to any and all policies. These policies must be enacted, not only at the federal level, but also at the local, state, tribal, and regional levels, in US Territories, and internationally.

Read the text (PDF).

A Fair and Sustainable Economic Recovery Program for California

By Robert Pollin - Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated severe public health and economic impacts in California, as with most everywhere else in the United States. This report proposes a recovery program for California that is capable of exerting an effective counterforce against the state’s economic collapse in the short run while also building a durable foundation for an economically viable and ecologically sustainable longer-term recovery. This is an anti-austerity recovery agenda, including the following main elements:

Establishing Effective Public Health Interventions. This will generate millions of jobs through allowing the state to recover safely. Some of the industries in which workers have been hardest hit include restaurants and hotels, in-person retail trade, and health care. Workers in these industries all need to be provided with adequate Personal Protection Equipment so they can perform their jobs safely. They also need their rights at work to be fully protected, including the right to paid sick leave.

Upgrading California’s Public Infrastructure. California’s economy would receive a major boost, both in terms of short-run stimulus and longer-term productivity, by undertaking a large-scale public infrastructure investment program now. The study estimates that $25 billion in annual infrastructure investments in California will generate about 315,000 jobs within the state. Roughly half of these jobs will be in the construction industry, including new opportunities for carpenters, electricians, glaziers, plumbers, pipefitters, and construction laborers. Most of the rest of the jobs will be in manufacturing and a range of services.

Clean Energy Investments and High Road Job Creation. This study estimates that public and private investments in California to achieve the state’s mandated emissions and climate stabilization goals are capable of generating about 725,000 jobs in 2020 – 2021 through $80 billion in public and private investments in 2020 – 2021, and larger numbers thereafter to 2030. These investments will entail both: 1) greatly enhancing the state’s level of energy efficiency, including through deep energy retrofits to public buildings; and 2) massively expanding the state’s supply of clean renewable energy sources, starting with solar and wind power. New job opportunities will open for, among other occupations, carpenters, machinists, environmental scientists, secretaries, accountants, truck drivers, roofers and agricultural laborers.

Just Transition for All Displaced Workers. Some workers in California’s oil and gas industry will experience displacement over time through the state’s clean energy transition. This study estimates that about 1,400 oil and gas workers will be displaced per year between 2021 – 2030 and another 1,400 will voluntarily retire each year. All of these workers require Just Transition support, including pension guarantees, health care coverage, wage insurance, and retraining support, as needed. In addition to the oil and gas industry, a substantial share of jobs in hard-hit service industries such as restaurants, hotels and retail are likely to not return in the aftermath of the recession. Workers in these industries also need just transition support, including the extension of 100 percent unemployment insurance, Medicare health insurance coverage while unemployed, wage insurance, and high-road job training and placement support.

Download (PDF).

Reimagined Recovery: Black Workers, the Public Sector, and COVID-19

By Deja Thomas, Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, and Saba Waheed - Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work - June 2020

This report highlights the validity of public sector work as a solution in the response and recovery to the Covid-19 pandemic on Black people across communities in Los Angeles County. Covid-19 disproportionately impacts Black workers and communities. History shows that even once a disaster is over, Black workers and Black people across communities continue to disproportionately feel its impact far longer than other communities.

Through the most recent government data and relevant literature, this report demonstrates why and how public sector jobs should be a tool used to address the Black jobs crisis and the recovery from Covid-19, particularly in Los Angeles County.

Download (PDF).

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