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North America

RWU Resolution on Rail Improvement/Development in North America

By RWU Steering Committe - Railroad Workers United, June 2, 2021

Whereas, the US, Canada, and Mexico have a vast existing rail network, with the U.S. rail network alone at more than 140,000 miles, the world’s largest: and

Whereas, this vast network can be vastly improved in the coming years - through electrification, multiple tracking, higher speed limits, grade crossing eliminations, and increased train frequencies - to serve a far greater number of shippers and passengers than at present; and

Whereas, these improvements can be made cheaper, be implemented far quicker, and serve a far greater constituency than would the construction of an entirely new network; and

Whereas, making use of existing right-of-way can avoid many of the controversies (e.g. land condemnations, environmental concerns, high price tags, etc.), construction delays, and cost overruns that can be associated with “high speed rail” (HSR) projects; and

Whereas, the North American public conversation across society more than ever supports transportation infrastructure repair and improvement projects, especially rail, that include everyone who lives here; and

Whereas, the decisions we make regarding these projects now will highly affect our future health, safety, and economic prosperity for generations to come; and

Whereas, railroaders know from experience around the world that true HSR can and must be a critical part of 21st century sustainable environmentally sound transportation future; and

Whereas, High Speed Rail projects that only serve elites or which dismiss problems of climate, access, safety, and justice will leave the public hostile towards rail solutions; and

Whereas, the majority of the currently proposed HSR projects are exclusively passenger service projects that principally serve communities who already have access; and

Whereas, available funding for these “HSR” projects has the potential to absorb significant financial resources that could otherwise be made available to upgrade, expand, and develop our existing rail network that serves both passenger and freight; and

Whereas, rail lines that currently exist in unconnected communities are now often at risk for abandonment, and once they are gone, recovering them for public benefit will be difficult if not impossible to accomplish; and

Whereas, railroad workers want to have a safe and secure future, and therefore must not leave the key policy decisions about that future up to those who regard them as disposable in an industry dominated by finance and Wall Street; and

Whereas, many so-called HSR passenger-only projects are designed to substitute glitzy technology for trained and skilled railroad workers, putting communities at risk;

Therefore, be it Resolved that Railroad Workers United calls for rail development projects that up-grade low as well as high end speed for both passenger and freight trains, remove barriers like road crossings at grade and build capacity and environmentally sustainable safe rail transport for the future of all stakeholders (workers, passengers, shippers, trackside communities, etc); and

Be it Further Resolved, that Railroad Workers United does not support “high speed rail” projects that exclude freight service trains and do not reconnect excluded communities; and

Be it Further Resolved, that RWU opposes diverting crucial funding necessary to upgrade existing rail infrastructure to “high speed” experiments that only serve elites; and

Be it Finally Resolved that RWU calls upon railroaders, trade unions, rail advocates and allies to join with RWU in advocating for a broad array of integrated rail solutions that will make railroads a key part of the Green transportation future that serves our whole society.

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy: Global Forum on Mexico

By staff - Trade Unions For Energy Democracy, March 25, 2021

Speakers:

  • Heberto Barrios Castillo, Undersecretary, Mexican Energy Ministry- SENER
  • Martín Esparza, General Secretary, Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas- SME
  • Silvia Ramos Luna, Secretary General, Unión Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionistas Petroleros - UNTyPP
  • Fernando Lopes, trade union consultant in Brazil and former Assistant Secretary General of IndustriALL
  • Ozzi Warwick, Chief Education and Research Officer, Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU), Trinidad and Tobago

Global Just Transition case studies from a trade union viewpoint

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, January 14, 2021

Just Transition: Putting planet, people and jobs first” is the theme of a special issue of Equal Times, published in December 2020. The compilation of articles provides a trade union point of view to describe the just transition experiences in Bangladesh, Tunisia, Argentina, and Senegal, as well as the more frequently cited experiences in Spain and Scotland. The complete Special Issue is here , and was supported financially by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

Although Spain’s 2018 agreement regarding coal transition is well known, this article is a welcome English-language text, translated from the original Spanish version written by Spanish journalist María José Carmona. Another useful English text on the topic is The Just Transition Strategy within the Strategic Energy and Climate Framework, translated and published by the Spanish government in 2019. And an earlier report from the Central Confederation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) provides brief summaries of Spanish and other Just Transition frameworks, in A Fair Climate Policy for Workers: Implementing a just transition in various European countries and Canada (2019). It covers Germany, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, and Canada in a brief 32 pages.

The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading California

By various - International Transport Federation, et. al., November 2016

In the recent election, Chevron-backed campaigns lost bigtime, despite the $61 million the company has spent to influence California elections since 2009. That’s far more than any other oil company spend in state elections. The report, by the International Transport Workers Federation, was released Nov. 17 at the Chevron gates by a coalition including the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), and more.

Members of the coalition said the report, The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy, will educate the public about the corrupting influence of corporate money and alert politicians that they will be judged on whether they act in the public interest or in Chevron’s interest.

In this election, in State Assembly and State Senate races, candidates heavily backed by Chevron lost. In Monterey County, Chevron spent $1.5 to oppose a ballot measure to ban fracking and expanded oil drilling. Despite being outspent 33 to 1, the measure passed.

In Richmond, Chevron sat out this election, having spent $3 million in the last election, when its candidates lost anyway. This year, two additional progressive candidates won seats on the city council and a longstanding Chevron candidate was voted out.

Chevron makes billions in profits from its huge retail and refining business in California, but has aggressively cut tax payments to federal, state and local governments. In 2015, the company paid no net income tax in the US, but instead banked nearly $1.7 billion in tax credits.

In 2015, Chevron had over $45 billion stashed in offshore accounts, including the company’s 211 active Bermuda subsidiaries, and the company’s global effective tax rate fell to below 3%.

Read the report (PDF).

What Did the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium Mean for the Workforce?

By Joseph E. Aldy - Common Resources, August 22, 2014

On April 20, 2010, the Transocean Deepwater Horizon suffered a catastrophic blowout while drilling in a BP lease in the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Prospect. This accident resulted in the largest oil spill in US history and an unprecedented spill response effort. Due to the ongoing spill and concerns about the safety of offshore oil drilling, the US Department of the Interior suspended offshore deep water oil and gas drilling operations on May 27, 2010, in what became known as the offshore drilling moratorium. The media portrayed the impacts of these events on local employment, with images of closed fisheries, idle rigs, as well as boats skimming oil and workers cleaning oiled beaches.

In a new RFF discussion paper, “The Labor Market Impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium,” I estimate and examine the net impact of the oil spill, the drilling moratorium, and spill response on employment and wages in the Gulf Coast. The spill and moratorium represented unexpected events in the region, and the resulting economic impacts varied within and among the Gulf states. Coastal counties and parishes were expected to bear the vast majority of the burden of these two events, while inland areas were expected to be largely unaffected. The moratorium was expected to affect Louisiana—with significant support of the offshore drilling industry—but not, for example, Florida, which had no active drilling off of its coastline. Beyond the economic impacts, the timing and magnitude of the spill response varied across the states over the course of the spill as well.

Despite predictions of major job losses in Louisiana resulting from these events, I find that the most oil-intensive parishes in Louisiana experienced a net increase in employment and wages. In contrast, Gulf Coast Florida counties south of the Panhandle experienced a decline in employment. Analysis of the number of business establishments, worker migration, accommodations industry employment and wages, sales tax data, and commercial air arrivals likewise show positive economic activity impacts in the oil-intensive coastal parishes of Louisiana and reduced economic activity along the non-Panhandle Florida Gulf Coast. The billions of dollars of spill response and clean-up mobilized over the course of the spring and summer of 2010 positively impacted economic activity, similar to the effect of fiscal stimulus. The geographic variation in labor market impacts reflects the focus of spill response efforts in Louisiana and the absence of oil and thus spill response along the Gulf coast of Florida south of the Panhandle.

Read the report (PDF).

Indigenous Resistance Grows Strong in Keystone XL Battle

By Crysbel Tejada and Betsy Catlin - Waging Nonviolence, May 8, 2013

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.

On cloudy days, heavy smoke fills the air of Ponca City, Okla., with grey smog that camouflages itself into the sky. The ConocoPhillips oil refinery that makes its home there uses overcast days as a disguise to release more toxins into the air. These toxins are brimming with benzene — a chemical that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, can cause leukemia, anemia and even decrease the size of women’s ovaries. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2008 the ConocoPhillips refinery released over 2,000 pounds of this chemical into the air in Ponca City.

“Of the maybe 800 of us that live locally, we have averaged over the last five to seven years maybe one funeral a week,” explained Casey Camp-Horinek, a Ponca woman and longtime activist. “Where we used to have dances every week, now most people are in mourning.”

The refinery is located only 1,000 yards behind Standing Bear Park, which is named after the Ponca chief who, in 1877, led his people on their Trail of Tears, from the Ponca homelands in northern Nebraska to present day Oklahoma. But the park is more than a memorial to the distant past. In 1992, the oil giant’s tank farm spilled and contaminated ground water in a nearby predominantly Ponca neighborhood. As a result, ConocoPhillips agreed to purchase the contaminated land and tear down the 200 homes that were on it. In its place, the company built Standing Bear Park — a bitter testament to the Ponca people’s history of forced relocation and genocide.

“We live in a situation that could only be described as environmental genocide,” said Camp-Horinek. Beyond the refineries, she explained, “We also have had the misfortune of living on top of a spider web of pipelines as a result of ConocoPhillips being here.”

Some of these pipelines are transporting Canadian tar sands bitumen, which carries chemicals such as natural gas, hydrogen sulfide, benzene and toluene. This highly toxic diluted substance runs through large pipelines such as Enbridge’s Pegasus line, which recently burst in Mayflower, Ark., and would also flow through TransCanada’s contested Keystone XL pipeline if completed.

“It will not only come through the original territory of the Ponca people [but] it will follow the Trail of Tears of the Ponca people from the 1800s,” said Camp-Horinek. “As a Ponca woman these things are not far removed from us. My own grandfather, my mother’s father, was on this Trail of Tears of the Ponca.”

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