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disaster collectivism

Making "Build Back Better" Better: Aligning Climate, Jobs, and Justice

By Jeremy Brecher - Common Dreams, June 1, 2021

At the end of March 2021, President Joe Biden laid out his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan–part of his "Build Back Better" infrastructure program–to "reimagine and rebuild a new economy." Congress is expected to spend months debating and revising the plan. The public and many special interests will play a significant role in that process. President Biden has promised to follow up with additional proposals to further address climate policy and social needs.

Many particular interests will seek to benefit from the overall Build Back Better program–and that's good. But as Congress and the public work to shape the ultimate form of that program, we also need to keep our eyes on the ultimate prize: combining climate, jobs, and justice. What policies can integrate the needs of working people, the most oppressed, and our threatened climate and environment?

The Green New Deal reconfigured American politics with its core proposition: fix joblessness and inequality by putting people to work at good jobs fixing the climate. The Biden administration's Build Back Better (BBB) plan has put that idea front and center in American politics. Now we need to specify strategies that will actually achieve all three objectives at once.

There are many valuable plans that have been proposed in addition to Biden's Build Back Better plan. They include the original Green New Deal resolution sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; the THRIVE (Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy) Agenda; the Evergreen Action Plan; the Sierra Club's "How to Build Back Better" economic renewal plan; the AFL-CIO's "Energy Transitions" proposals; the BlueGreen Alliance's "Solidarity for Climate Action," and a variety of others. All offer contributions for overall vision and for policy details.

There are six essential elements that must be integrated in order to realize the Build Back Better we need for climate, jobs, and justice:

  • Managed decline of fossil fuel burning
  • Full-spectrum job creation
  • Fair access to good jobs
  • Labor rights and standards
  • Urgent and effective climate protection
  • No worker or community left behind

These strategies can serve as criteria for developing, evaluating, and selecting policies to make Build Back Better all that it could be.

Pandemic Capitalism and Resistance

By Susan King - Green Left (Australia), February 7, 2021

Last year began with huge climate action rallies around Australia in response to the Black Summer bushfires — a climate-change-fuelled catastrophe that made international headlines.

However, by March, Australians, along with the rest of the world, were facing a new global threat — also connected to the climate crisis, agribusiness and habitat loss — COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing global inequality, and exposed the results of four decades of neoliberalism, including the privatisation of healthcare, and the undermining of the welfare state in the advanced capitalist countries.

The pandemic death toll is still rising, countries have experienced second and third waves of infection, as governments sacrifice lives to reopen their economies. The media reports on health systems overwhelmed in Italy, Britain and the United States, but less about the crisis in the Global South, where people are literally dying in the streets, and where health systems are collapsing under the weight of the pandemic.

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 »

Care Work Is Essential Work. It's Also Climate Work

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