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strategy and tactics

What’s Next for the Teamsters?

How Green New Deal from Below Programs Integrate Climate, Jobs, and Justice

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 3, 2024

The appeal of the Green New Deal lies in its drawing together the varied needs of diverse constituencies into a common program that realizes them all. Here’s how that works at the sub-national level.

Barry Eidlin & Paul Prescod on Labor’s Moment Today

In 2023, organized labor became core to the climate movement

By Katie Myers - Grist, December 20, 2023

2023 was marked by symbiosis between the labor and climate movements. Workers across industries and geographies loudly declared that a world in which their safety and well-being are disregarded is even more dangerous to them and to others in a time of energy transition and climate crisis. After decades of hesitancy, several major unions recognized an urgent need to organize those who will do the hard work of decarbonizing the nation’s economy. It doesn’t hurt that public sympathy, and policy, has grown friendlier toward them. As a result, calls for a just transition rattled union halls and corporate offices as organized labor enjoyed one of its most active years in recent memory and environmental organizations, long uncertain about where unions stood, found new allies.

“The choices and solutions are not really gonna work unless labor is involved with them,” said Dana Kuhnline, director of Reimagine Appalachia. It works with union leaders and environmental grassroots groups to bring good jobs to coalfield communities that need them. “I think that’s a lesson climate activists really have to take to heart.”

The reality of a warming world was a central concern for UPS, Amazon, and airport workers who demanded, and in many cases won, concessions protecting them from extreme heat. But the biggest gains were made by the 150,000 members of the reinvigorated United Auto Workers, or UAW, who made a just transition a key demand in one of the most high-profile strikes of the year. Though the union’s primary demands concerned wages and sick days, no small amount of negotiating focused on the looming transition to electric vehicles. Workers wanted to ensure the factories that will make that happen for Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis will be union shops, with wages and benefits equal to those provided at traditional auto factories. Forty years of internal organizing brought UAW to a place where it was willing and able to address energy transition, whereas in previous years, its leaders had gotten fidgety at the idea. 

How Minnesota Unions are Building Power in Their Communities

The Green New Deal and the Politics of the Possible

What Energy Companies Don't Want You To Know

The UAW Just Challenged the Entire Labor Movement to Get More Ambitious

By Hamilton Nolan - In These Times, November 30, 2023

Regular people who are not directly involved in the labor movement often find it hard to get interested in stuff that is happening at unions. Here is the short chain of reasoning I use to explain why they should care: What is the biggest underlying problem in America? Inequality. What is the single most potent and plausible weapon against inequality? Labor unions. What do labor unions need to do to actually roll back inequality in a way that would improve your life? They need to organize millions of new working people. 

So while it is understandable that the average person who is not in a union sees the topic of ​“union organizing” as some esoteric niche unrelated to them, that is not the case. This is the path to fix the whole fucking country. When people feel like this doesn’t affect them, well — that’s just an indicator of the problem.

The next question in this chain is: What will it take for unions to organize at the scale that we need? There are some practical answers to this question — it will take money, it will take organizers, it will take a structure conducive to keeping the money flowing towards organizing. But there is a more basic answer, that captures what has been lacking during the post-Reagan decades of declining union power: It will take ambition. Ambition!

Large parts of the union establishment still carry the sheepish look of a dog that has been beaten down for years. Living in a state of permanent decline, a life spent playing defense, has sapped them of the belief that things can be different. Their goals have gotten modest. Modest goals won’t get us where we need to go. We need to think big. The labor movement needs, before anything, genuine ambition for a new America. Rather than gazing at the scale of the problem and concluding that it is impossible, we need labor leaders who see their jobs as climbing mountains no matter how high they are. Ambition is the most precious quality of all.

That is why yesterday’s announcement from the United Auto Workers that they are launching a campaign to unionize more than a dozen non-union automakers at once is so important. The UAW knows that the biggest threats to its long term industrial power are the rise of big non-union auto companies like Tesla, and the fact that the auto industry has long been able to move plants to anti-union southern states in order to operate union-free. If left unchecked, those two trends will drain the UAW like a vampire, leaving it a hollow shell of a once-mighty institution. 

Hamilton Nolan is Labor’s BIG IDEAS Guy

COP28: what is at stake?

By Alan Thornett - Ecosocialist Discussion, November 29, 2023

COP28 (along with planet Earth itself) is faced with “an absolutely gobsmackingly bananas increase in the global temperature”

COP28 – the annual UN global summit on global warming – is taking place from November 30th until December 12 – under the auspices of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that was launched in 1992 to protect the planet against “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, which now takes place annually. It is the 28th UN climate change summit since 1992, and will take place in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

COP28, along with other recent such summits faces a deadly, and indeed existential, contradiction between the relentless acceleration of global warming ­ i.e. of the average global surface temperature of the planet – and the inability of the COP process to bring it under control, or even hold it to a maximum increase of 1.5°C in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

It became clear in August that 2023 would be of a different order of magnitude in terms of temperature when July turned out to be the world’s hottest month ever recorded.

The UN Secretary General António Guterres – the most radicle the UN has had on climate change – responded rightly by declaring that this meant that “the era of global warming had ended, and the era of global boiling has arrived”. It meant, he said, that: “Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning. It is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels), and avoid the very worst of climate change, he said, but only with dramatic, immediate climate action.”

The September figure, however, was a whole lot worse. It was a staggering 0.5°C above the previous such record. The Guardian’s environmental editor Damian Carrington quoted climate scientist Zeke Hausfather who had tweeted that: “This month was, in my professional opinion as a climate scientist – absolutely gobsmackingly bananas. It beat the prior monthly temperature record by over 0.5°C, and was around 1.8°C warmer than preindustrial levels.” He noted that datasets from European and Japanese scientists confirmed the leap.

It’s worth noting that the difference in the average global temperature between now and the depths of the last ice age when these islands were under a kilometre of ice is around 5.0°C.

In mid-November Guterres went further warning that. “Present trends are racing our planet down a dead-end 3C temperature rise. This is a failure of leadership, a betrayal of the vulnerable, and a massive missed opportunity. Renewables have never been cheaper or more accessible. We know it is still possible to make the 1.5 degree limit a reality. It requires tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels.”

He added: “Leaders must drastically up their game, now, with record ambition, record action, and record emissions reductions. No more greenwashing. No more foot-dragging.”

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