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The Green Revolution Will Not Be Painless

By Annie Lowrey - The Atlantic, April 26, 2023

In 2006, James Feldermann got hired as a trainee at a refinery in Martinez, California, in the Bay Area. It was hard work, with 12-hour-minimum shifts, but Feldermann came to excel at it. He learned how to isolate pipes and vessels, load railcars with molten sulfur and ammonia, and helm an industrial control panel. In time, he rose to the position of head operator at the Marathon Petroleum site. The job paid well, and he enjoyed it. He expected to stay until retirement.

On a Friday afternoon in July 2020, Feldermann was abruptly summoned to an all-hands Zoom meeting. While some of his colleagues struggled to get the audio to work, Feldermann received a phone call from his union representative. “I didn’t actually hear management tell us that they were laying us off,” he told me. The plant was being shut down, as the rise of work-from-home and the spread of electric vehicles depressed Californians’ demand for gasoline. Feldermann and his co-workers would be out of a job in 90 days.

The United States is embarking on an epochal transition from fossil fuels to green energy. That shift is necessary to avert the worst outcomes of climate change. It also stands to put hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people like Feldermann out of work. The result could be not only economic pain for individual families, but also the devastation of communities that rely on fossil-fuel extraction and a powerful political backlash against green-energy policies.

A pathbreaking new study shows just how real the damage could be, absent policies to soften the economic blow. Virginia Parks, a professor at UC Irvine, and Ian Baran, a doctoral student, tracked the consequences of the Marathon shutdown in near-real time, getting more than 40 percent of the workers to return surveys and a smaller group to sit for interviews. They found that, more than a year after the shutdown, one in five Marathon workers was unemployed. Their earnings had declined sharply, with the median hourly wage of employed workers plunging from $50 to $38. Some workers were earning as little as $14 an hour. And those new gigs came with more dangerous working conditions.

To prevent other workers from experiencing the same, the Biden White House has promised to pursue a “just transition,” employing policies to ensure “new, good-paying jobs for American workers and health and economic benefits for communities.” But the green-energy transition is already underway. And it is not clear that it will be just.

International Workers’ Memorial Day 2023: Organise for safe and healthy workplaces

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), April 24, 2023

On International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April, trade unions are promoting the role that organising plays in making workplaces safer and healthier as we remember all working people who have lost their lives to workplace accidents and disease.

Workers’ unions are planning to use the new ILO fundamental right to a safe and healthy working environment to tackle the shocking death toll of three million workers who die each year because of their work, with tens of millions more suffering life-changing injuries and ill health.

Trade unions will use organising to ensure that the new fundamental right is put into practice and makes a positive difference to the daily lives of working people. The two ILO Conventions (155 and 187) provide backing for union organising, through the creation of workplace safety committees with worker representation, and worker safety representatives in workplaces.

This organising can improve the working environment through the right to refuse dangerous work and consultation rights over risk assessments, occupational health services and the provision of personal protective equipment. Convention 187 also requires the creation of national tripartite health and safety bodies with representation for government, workers and employers.

Combatting toxic workplaces

Around the world, unions will use 28 April to fight risks like asbestos and toxic chemicals, and hazards like long hours and stress in the workplace, as well as demanding an increase in the number of countries ratifying and implementing all ILO health and safety Conventions.

ITUC Deputy General Secretary Owen Tudor said: “Every working person has the right to expect to return home at the end their day’s work. No one should die just to make a living.”

Trade unions make work safer, and they have already saved lives in these areas:

Silicosis

Companies are continuing to expose millions of workers to excessive levels of silica dust, which can cause deadly cancers and lung diseases. Australian unions won new restrictions on products containing silica and cut in half the exposure limit to silica for workers, which could see cases of deadly silicosis drop to one-sixth of the current level.

Seafarers

In 2022, a Dutch court handed an important victory to the ITF, FNV Havens and Nautilus NL who had brought a legal case against Marlow Cyprus, Marlow Netherlands and Expert Shipping. The court ruled that ship managers, ship owners and charterers must honour the non-seafarer’s work clause that only professional dockers do demanding, skilful lashing work when they are available, rather than seafarers. The decision means greater safety for seafarers and secures jobs for dockers.

Nursing homes

In 2020/21, 75,000 nursing home residents in the USA died from the SARS-CoV-2 virus with more than one million nursing home workers testing positive. Unionised nursing homes reported Covid-19 mortality rates of residents 10.8% lower and an infection rate of workers 6.8% lower.

What Union Pacific and the media aren’t telling you about the Baker, CA, train derailment

Urban Ore Ore Workers Win Union Certification Election With IWW

By Comms Officer - Bay Area IWW, April 10, 2023

Urban Ore workers join IWW to build more sustainable working conditions as business booms.

(Berkeley, CA, April 7, 2023) Workers at Urban Ore, a 3-acre salvage operation in Berkeley, have successfully won their organizing campaign with the Industrial Workers of the World's (IWW), San Francisco Bay Area Branch. The victory comes after more than a year of organizing and building solidarity within the workplace, community outreach and a delayed election, culminating in a successful union election on April 7, 2023.

"I'm incredibly proud of my coworkers and the hard work we ve done to reach this moment," said Receiving Department worker Benno Giammarinaro. "It's been a tiring year and a half of planning and supporting each other, but achieving union certification makes me excited to continue building a collective voice in our workplace." AJ Abrams, a worker in Urban Ore's General Store, is ready to carry the momentum of the election to the bargaining table. "The solidarity and resolve of our workforce as represented by these election results is definitely worth celebrating. But, we have a lot more work ahead in our efforts to bargain for a fair contract."

"I'm confident that we can make Urban Ore a more sustainable place for everyone. not just the owners. I am thrilled that we now have a seat at the bargaining table where the voices of the workers can finally be heard" said Receiving Department worker Sarah Mossier.

Workers began organizing amidst the COVlD-19 pandemic in a push to implement better safety and health protocols, win more stable wages and correct chronic understaffing. Since the onset of the pandemic, the company has experienced both unprecedented turnover and unprecedented profit.

Workers announced their union campaign on February 1, 2023 and have received overwhelming support from the community. Tati, one of the clothing specialists, attended a majority of the customer support days that took place after the vote was announced. "I loved talking with our patrons about what's going on at Urban Ore. Hearing their questions and doing my best to answer. One of the top questions was 'Isn't Urban re a co-op?'. No, not yet. But the union may help us finally make that transition after twenty years of talking about it!"

The victory at Urban Ore is another example of the power of worker solidarity and the strength of the labor movement in fighting back against corporate greed and exploitation. The IWW remains committed to supporting workers in their struggles for better working conditions, higher wages, and greater dignity on the job.

The workers of Urban Ore join a long tradition of labor organizing with the IWW, a union founded on the principles of industrial democracy and direct action. The IWW has a proud history of successful campaigns in industries ranging from agriculture to entertainment.

The victory at Urban Ore is another example of the power of worker solidarity and the strength of the labor movement in fighting back against corporate greed and exploitation. The IWW remains committed to supporting workers in their struggles for better working conditions, higher wages, and great dignity on the job.

China, Southern Africa, Capitalism, Climate & Labor

A Worker-Led Approach: Shaping the Future of Aviation

As Oil Companies Stay Lean, Workers Move to Renewable Energy

By Clifford Krauss - New York Times, February 27, 2023

Solar, wind, geothermal, battery and other alternative-energy businesses are adding workers from fossil fuel companies, where employment has fallen.

Emma McConville was thrilled when she landed a job as a geologist at Exxon Mobil in 2017. She was assigned to work on one of the company’s most exciting and lucrative projects, a giant oil field off Guyana.

But after oil prices collapsed during the pandemic, she was laid off on a video call at the end of 2020. “I probably blacked out halfway,” Ms. McConville recalled.

Her shock was short-lived. Just four months later, she landed a job with Fervo, a young Houston company that aims to tap geothermal energy under the Earth’s surface. Today she manages the design of two Fervo projects in Nevada and Utah, and earns more than she did at Exxon.

“Covid allowed me to pivot,” she said. “Covid was an impetus for renewables, not just for me but for many of my colleagues.”

Oil and gas companies laid off roughly 160,000 workers in 2020, and they maintained tight budgets and hired cautiously over the last two years. But many renewable businesses expanded rapidly after the early shock of the pandemic faded, snapping up geologists, engineers and other workers from the likes of Exxon and Chevron. Half of Fervo’s 38 employees come from fossil fuel companies, including BP, Hess and Chesapeake Energy.

Executives and workers in energy hubs in Houston, Dallas and other places say steady streams of people are moving from fossil fuel to renewable energy jobs. It’s hard to track such movements in employment statistics, but the overall numbers suggest such career moves are becoming more common. Oil, gas and coal employment has not recovered to its prepandemic levels. But the number of jobs in renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal and battery businesses, is rising.

Launch of the Ecosocial Energy Manifesto from the Peoples of the South

‘Transition is inevitable, but justice is not.’ A challenge to social movements in the rich countries

By staff - People and Nature, February 13, 2023

“Clean energy transitions” by rich countries of the global north are producing “a new phase of environmental despoliation of the Global South”, states a manifesto published last week by an alliance of social and environmental organisations.

“This decarbonisation of the rich, which is market-based and export-oriented, depends on a new phase of environmental despoliation of the Global South, which affects the lives of millions of women, men and children, not to mention non-human life”, the Manifesto for an Ecosocial Energy Transition says.

Women, especially from agrarian societies, are among the most impacted. In this way, “the Global South has once again become a zone of sacrifice, a basket of purportedly inexhaustible resources for the countries of the North.”

As the rich countries secure supply chains for these “clean” transitions, the web of debt and trade agreements in which countries outside the rich world are caught is tightened.

I hope that social movements and the labour movement in the rich countries will not only sign the manifesto (which you can do here), but also – probably more to the point – think about and discuss what it means for us.

Manifesto for an Ecosocial Energy Transition from the Peoples of the South

By Peoples of the Global South - Foreign Policy in Practice, February 9, 2023

An appeal to leaders, institutions, and our brothers and sisters

More than two years after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic—and now alongside the catastrophic consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—a “new normal” has emerged. This new global status quo reflects a worsening of various crises: social, economic, political, ecological, bio-medical, and geopolitical.

Environmental collapse approaches. Everyday life has become ever more militarized. Access to good food, clean water, and affordable health care has become even more restricted. More governments have turned autocratic. The wealthy have become wealthier, the powerful more powerful, and unregulated technology has only accelerated these trends.

The engines of this unjust status quo—capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, and various fundamentalisms—are making a bad situation worse. Therefore, we must urgently debate and implement new visions of ecosocial transition and transformation that are gender-just, regenerative, and popular, that are at once local and international.

In this Manifesto for an Ecosocial Energy Transition from the Peoples of the South, we hold that the problems of the Global – geopolitical – South are different from those of the Global North and rising powers such as China. An imbalance of power between these two realms not only persists because of a colonial legacy but has deepened because of a neocolonial energy model. In the context of climate change, ever rising energy needs, and biodiversity loss, the capitalist centers have stepped up the pressure to extract natural wealth and rely on cheap labor from the countries on the periphery. Not only is the well-known extractive paradigm still in place but the North’s ecological debt to the South is rising.

What’s new about this current moment are the “clean energy transitions” of the North that have put even more pressure on the Global South to yield up cobalt and lithium for the production of high-tech batteries, balsa wood for wind turbines, land for large solar arrays, and new infrastructure for hydrogen megaprojects. This decarbonization of the rich, which is market-based and export-oriented, depends on a new phase of environmental despoliation of the Global South, which affects the lives of millions of women, men, and children, not to mention non-human life. Women, especially from agrarian societies, are amongst the most impacted. In this way, the Global South has once again become a zone of sacrifice, a basket of purportedly inexhaustible resources for the countries of the North.

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