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Transportation Webinar: Where is This Train Going? Freight Rail in the Public Interest

Progressive Groups Unveil 'Rural New Deal' to 'Reverse Decades of Economic Decline'

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, September 13, 2023

"A Rural New Deal is urgently needed to build and rebuild local economies across rural America, reverse 40 years of wealth and corporate concentration, restore degraded lands, reclaim land and ownership opportunities for those whose land was taken by force or deceit, and ensure that communities and the nation can and do meet the basic needs of its people."

That's the opening line of a report released Tuesday by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) and the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative (RUBI), which recognizes that "for too long, we've neglected, dismissed and underinvested" in rural U.S. communities, and offers "a broad policy blueprint to help steer progressive priorities" in such regions.

"Addressing the problems and concerns of rural America, isn't just the right thing to do, it is essential for the health of our nation. Progressives have ignored rural for too long," said PDA executive director Alan Minsky in a statement. "The Rural New Deal will change that."

A Rural New Deal

By Anthony Flaccavento, Alan Minsky, and Dave Alba - Progressive Democrats of AMerica and Rural Urban Bridge Institute, September 12, 2023

A Rural New Deal is urgently needed to build and rebuild local economies across rural America, reverse forty years of wealth and corporate concentration, restore degraded lands, reclaim land and ownership opportunities for those whose land was taken by force or deceit, and ensure that communities and the nation can and do meet the basic needs of its people. This document proposes ten pillars essential to a Rural New Deal, each with a modest amount of detail about specific policies in order to understand what implementation of the pillar might look like.

At the heart of a RND is the recognition that rural places are fundamentally different from urban and suburban areas, not only culturally and politically, but physically. They are “rural” because they are expansive and land-based. This does not mean that all efforts to rebuild rural economies and communities should revolve around farming or other land-based sectors. However, it does mean that land-based (also including rivers, lakes and oceans) enterprises must still play a central role in rural development, even as internet access, virtual work and the tech sector grow in importance.

While rural and urban places are fundamentally different, they are also deeply intertwined. Many farmers, fishers, foresters and other rural businesses have come to rely on urban markets and in some cases, capital to sustain them. On the other hand, towns and cities need healthy, functioning rural communities for their food, fiber, energy and clean water, indeed for their very survival. Yet for too long, we’ve neglected, dismissed and underinvested in the people that provide these essential goods along with critical ecological services. This has caused great harm to rural communities and it has undermined our collective health and resilience as a nation. Rebuilding and renewing supportive social and economic connections across rural and urban lines, empowering rural people and communities, moving away from extractive relationships of the past, is the course we must chart together.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Direct Unionism: A Different Approach to Union Activity

By Allan Hansen - Industrial Worker, August 31, 2023

It is no secret that the strength of labor unions in America has been waning in recent years. Union representation in the labor market has hit an all-time low, labor laws are more and more being drafted in favor of employers rather than workers, and employer-driven anti-union activity has all led to our unions growing weaker and unable to stand up for workers’ rights in the workplace. Despite these weaknesses, most people support unions in principle, and so we must discuss how to advance the labor movement in the face of these challenges. One such tool workers have at their disposal for such action is Direct Unionism. 

When most people discuss unionism they tend to think about it in a very contractual and bureaucratic way, and this is largely how unions operate today. Union activity is focused on the election of union officials and the passing of contracts. This idea of unionism faces several limitations. For starters, with a focus on collective bargaining, contract change can often be a lengthy process, and change can only be implemented when the time comes for a contract negotiation, which usually lasts for several years, and since the bosses are aware of when the contract ends and when negotiations are to happen they know when to expect an uptick in union organizing and activity, thus the workers’ bargaining power is diminished as a result of this predictability. If an issue of mistreatment arrives but no such policy is outlined in the contract, the union usually can’t do much to address the issue or seek restitution from the employer. The best the union can do in such cases is to fight for it during the next contract negotiation. The importance of the election of union officials also presents some potential problems in the advancement of union causes. While there are many honest and hard working people involved in labor unions, it must be addressed that our union leaders are not infallible. Many union leaders make a staggering amount of money more than the workers they represent. While this is not to say that union leaders do not do good work, the further that union officers get away from the workers they represent, the more they run the risk of being alienated from the realities that these workers face. It is also much easier for employers to put anti-union pressure on a handful of individuals, than an entire workforce. 

The Working Class Stake in the Fight Against Global Warming

By Tom Wetzel - Workers' Solidarity, August 22, 2023

I’m going to suggest here that the working class has a unique role to play in the fight against global warming because the owning and managing classes have interests that are tied to an economic system that has an inherent tendency towards ecological devastation whereas the working class does not.

In its “Code Red for Humanity” warning in 2021, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse‑gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth…” With wreckage from intensifying storms and people dying from heat waves, it might seem that everyone has a stake in the project of ecological sustainability, and bringing a rapid end to the burning of fossil fuels. As we know, however, various sectors of the owning and managing classes pursue profits from fossil fuel extraction, refining, and burning fossil fuels. They protect sunk investments in fossil fuel-based infrastructure (like gas burning power plants) or propose highly implausible strategies (like carbon capture and storage). Thus many sectors of the top classes in our society are a roadblock to ecological sustainability.

The working class, on the other hand, have a stake in the fight for a livable future, and also have the potential power to do something about it. The working class is a large majority of the society, and thus has the numbers to be a major force. Their position in the workplace means workers have the potential to organize and resist environmentally destructive behaviors of the employers.

Class Politics in a Warming World

Green Jobs or Dangerous Greenwash?

By Tahir Latif, Claire James, Ellen Robottom, Don Naylor, and Katy Brown - Working People, July 7, 2023

Greenwash is not always easy to challenge: the claims to offer climate solutions; the PR offensive in local communities; and promises of 'green jobs' that in reality are neither as numerous or as environmentally friendly as promised.

But whether it’s a ‘zero carbon’ coal mine, heating homes with hydrogen, importing wood to burn in power stations, ‘sustainable aviation growth’ or offsetting, there are common themes that can give a reality check on greenwash claims and misleading jobs promises.

Speakers:

  • Claire James, Campaign against Climate Change
  • Ellen Robottom, Campaign against Climate Change trade union group
  • Don Naylor, HyNot (campaigning against HyNet greenwash and the Whitby hydrogen village)
  • Katy Brown, Biofuelwatch (using slides from Stuart Boothman, Stop Burning Trees Coalition who was unable to make it).

Amazon Strikes as a Climate Justice issue; Trade Union briefing

Episode 4: Exploring the Intersection of Labor and Climate Policy

Bypassing the Culture Wars to Energize Rural-led Climate Solutions

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