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The Fossil Fuel Industry Is a Jobs-Killer

By Wenonah Hauter - In These Times, February 14, 2022

For years now, any discussion about climate action or the need to move off fossil fuels has run headlong into a familiar quandary: The industries fueling the climate crisis create good jobs, often in areas of the country where finding work that can support a family is incredibly difficult. 

This leaves activists gesturing towards well-intentioned goals like a ​“just transition,” a promise that likely rings hollow for workers and many labor unions because it’s hard to see where this has actually happened — even though, by every measure, we need to create some real policies that turn this vision into reality. While there are encouraging examples of labor unions throwing their support behind robust climate plans, it has proven difficult for the climate movement to find its way out of the jobs versus environment framing. 

But that is especially true when we refuse to question the original premise. The truth is that the fossil fuel industry wildly inflates its employment record, and the recent data show they are producing more fuel with fewer workers. Instead of avoiding this reality, perhaps it is time to tackle it head on. Dirty energy corporations are not creating jobs as much as they are cutting them these days, and that provides an opening to envision the kinds of employment — in areas like orphaned well clean up and energy efficiency — that will provide employment for the thousands of workers the industry is no longer employing. 

Some of the most common jobs estimates are produced by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the powerful oil and gas trade association. Over the years, API has released reports claiming that the domestic fracking industry creates somewhere between 2.5 million to 11 million jobs, both directly and indirectly. These numbers — or versions of them — are floated in political debates and in the media, but they are significantly out of step with other estimates, including the federal government’s labor reports. Food & Water Watch, an organization I founded, created a more accurate model that relies on direct jobs and relevant support activities, including pipeline construction and product transportation. The total comes to just over 500,000 in 2020, or about 0.4 percent of all jobs in the country. 

How to explain the massive gap between industry propaganda and reality? The API figures include a range of employment categories; in addition to direct industry employment, they add indirect jobs (those within a supply chain) and induced jobs (those that are supposedly ​‘supported’ by direct and indirect jobs). These categories make up the vast majority of their total. Convenience store workers, for example — working where gas happens to be sold — make up almost 35 percent of the industry’s supposed employment record.

Chevron refinery workers rally as contract expiration nears

By Joel Britton - The Militant, February 14, 2022

RICHMOND, Calif. — “Power in solidarity” read one of the signs carried by the more than 100 members of United Steelworkers Local 5 outside the main gate of the Chevron oil refinery here Jan. 27. The maintenance workers and process operators mobilized to press the union’s demand for a “significant” wage increase in the national oil bargaining negotiations with industry representative Marathon Petroleum. This is crucial to help workers meet the effects of rising prices.

And they were putting the company on notice that they’re ready to strike over working conditions and other local issues at Chevron, issues that are negotiated refinery by refinery after wages and other industrywide issues are settled.

On Jan. 31 the union rejected the company’s latest proposal — a 3% wage raise for each of next three years — and offered to keep working as long as further negotiations are fruitful.

“The corporations are making profits galore,” BK White told the Militant. White, an operator for 28 years and Local 5 vice president, highlighted how Chevron has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to cut back on preventative maintenance. “The public will pay for these decisions,” pointing to the history of serious fires and explosions at the refinery.

Short staffing and lots of forced overtime, increasing burden of the costs of medical care, tightened disciplinary measures, and the soaring cost of living were among the issues the unionists discussed on the picket line with worker-correspondents for the Militant.

On Jan. 28 Steelworkers union negotiators rejected Marathon’s offer of a pay hike of only 1.3% for each of three years of new agreements for the 30,000 refinery and chemical-plant workers represented by the union. The current contract, which expires at midnight Jan. 31, had included 3.5% wage increases for the first two years and 4% in the final year.

Marathon’s “wage proposals to date are paltry,” the union said in a public statement. “In light of their earnings and dividends to shareholders, they are offensive.”

The Global Tapestry of Alternatives: Stories of Resilience, Existence, and Re-Existence

By Shrishtee Bajpai - London Left Green Blog, February 14, 2022

Our food systems are not just the work of humans. They are the work of the mountains, of Pachamama [Mother Earth], of the sacred, the whole community which is centered on reciprocity, solidarity, and respect for elements of life. This is buen vivir (‘living well’) for us.

That’s according to Quechua residents of Potato Park in the Peruvian Andes, where the community has for the last three decades been involved in an inspiring process of conserving and sustaining their own livelihoods over the vast landscape where the potato originated. They were speaking to us through the dialogue series initiated by the Global Tapestry of Alternatives (GTA) to highlight stories of community resilience and wellbeing in the face of Covid.

The pandemic has shown the deep fractures and baseless promises of wellbeing that the capitalist model made to the whole world. Of course, several other crises pre-exist Covid, from the climate, biodiversity loss, and pollution, to inequality, conflicts, authoritarianism, and right-wing fascism across the globe.

Occurring alongside all this is a long process of colonization or post-colonial hegemony, and the domination of certain cultures and knowledge systems. Combinations of these interconnected challenges have significantly impacted our individual lives, whether it’s alienation from nature and from each other, or a heightened sense of meaninglessness or hopelessness.

It’s in the context of these multiple crises that GTA attempts to foster a dialogical space to show that there are alternative ways of being, knowing, working, dreaming, and of doing things — that the modern capitalist or nation-state dominated system is not the only system around.

Along with processes of resistance, across the world there are tens of thousands of attempts to construct alternative realities, either through sustaining things from the past which are still relevant, equitable, and just, or creating new ones — especially from within industrial systems or the so-called ‘developed’ systems of the world.

The Global Tapestry of Alternatives is a network that was seeded through experiences of networks of alternatives in India, Mexico, and Colombia. After several conversations and endorsements of movements across the world, GTA was officially launched in 2019 as a horizontal process of weaving with non-hierarchical ways of functioning.

With a strong commitment to highlighting the emergence and visibility of an immense variety of radical alternatives to this dominant regime rooted in capitalist, patriarchal, racist, statist, and anthropocentric forces, GTA seeks to create solidarity networks and strategic alliances amongst all networks of alternatives on local, regional, and global levels.

Over the last two years, GTA has organized over 22 sessions ranging from the responses to Covid by indigenous communities in Peru, Mexico, India, and Bolivia, to the responses of women in Rojava to Black Lives Matter and eco-socialist organizing for radical transformations.

The Great Texas Freeze: Lessons One Year Later

By Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, Gopal Dayaneni, and Mateo Nube - Movement Generation, February 9, 2022

The visibility of ecological crisis is increasing every day. Last year’s cold snap in Texas, and the corollary collapse of its energy infrastructure, was but one example of this fact. Humanity is up against the limits of nature’s ability to tolerate globalized industrial production.

What actions would better position Texans to navigate the next superstorm in a favorable manner? Furthermore, how can we reimagine and reconstruct energy systems around the country, so that these dance in a regenerative rhythm with our planet’s life support systems?

The clock is ticking, and we need to make new meaning out of this pivotal moment in planetary history. We can no longer tinker around the edges of an ever-expanding crisis: Tackling this reality with clarity may be the biggest and boldest challenge our species has ever faced.

Here are some important strategic frameworks, formulated by Movement Generation, that we think will help us meet the challenge:

Workers Can’t Wait: Just Transition Now – Building Global Labour Power For Climate Justice

Invest in Transit Equity, Invest in Transit Workers

By Julie Chinitz, et. al - Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and TransitCenter, February 2022

On Transit Equity Day 2022, Transit Riders and Workers Join Together to Call for Prioritizing Workforce Investments

A new report by the Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and TransitCenter shows how inadequate investments in our public transit workforce have resulted in service cuts in cities, towns, and states across the country. Investments in the public transit workforce are urgently needed to boost economic opportunity and racial equity in our communities.

The report, released on Transit Equity Day, February 4, 2022, notes how inadequate investments in job quality, the aging transit workforce, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced transit staffing levels, and left many public transit systems unable to meet the needs of the communities they serve. That’s a problem for the millions of people in cities and rural communities across the country who rely on public transit every day.

The report also includes recommendations to help rebuild a strong transit workforce in communities across the country. The report emphasizes that the starting point to addressing any workforce problem is to engage in a dialogue with transit employees themselves, through their democratically elected union representatives, as well as riders and other community stakeholders. Operators, maintenance employees, and other transit workers know better than anyone how to improve job quality in order to hire and retain a skilled, stable and professional transit workforce. Labor-management negotiations can forge the most appropriate policy solutions to providing safe and healthy environments for transit workers; improving their working conditions; expanding access to good transit jobs; and ensuring workers have the skills and training needed to adapt to modernization efforts like electrification.

Read the full report below, including detailed recommendations for building a stable, skilled, and experienced public transit workforce.

About the Alliance for a Just Society

The Alliance for a Just Society’s National Campaign for Transit Justice is working to ensure just transit drives the future of the economy. Started in response to the emergency faced by public transit systems around the country during the pandemic, we mobilize riders, transit workers, small businesses, and transit agencies to #SaveTransit. Learn more at allianceforajustsociety.org

About Labor Network for Sustainability

Founded in 2009, the Labor Network for Sustainability sets out to be a relentless force for urgent, science-based climate action by building a powerful labor-climate movement to secure an ecologically sustainable and economically just future where everyone can make a living on a living planet. Since 2018, LNS has convened the Transit Equity Network joining together transit riders, workers, environmental and environmental and climate justice organizations to host actions on Feb. 4, Transit Equity Day, recognizing public transit as a civil rights, workers’ rights and climate justice issue. Learn more at www.labor4sustainability.org. Learn more about Transit Equity Day.

About TransitCenter

TransitCenter is an applied research and advocacy foundation dedicated to improving transit in major US cities. Learn more at transitcenter.org.

Read the text (PDF).

A Green New Deal for Transportation: Establishing New Federal Investment Priorities to Build Just and Sustainable Communities

By Yonah Freemark, Billy Fleming, Caitlin McCoy, Rennie Meyers, Thea Riofrancos, Xan Lillehei, and Daniel Aldana Cohen - Climate and Community Project, February 2022

The transportation system is the connective tissue that transforms pockets of communities into a networked society. It links home, school, work, and play. It drives economic growth, social mobility, and employment opportunities. 

The transportation sector currently emits more carbon pollution than any other sector in the US economy. The automobiles we drive, the trucks, trains, and ships that deliver our goods, the airline flights we take, and other transportation activities account for about 28 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. The passage of President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is replete with new funding for state and local highway expansion, and seems likely to further exacerbate the sector’s emissions. More than 120 years after electric vehicles briefly achieved popularity in the 1900s, petroleum products still power over 91 percent of today’s transportation system. Americans collectively drive more than three trillion vehicle miles per year, most of those as a single driver in an automobile. Life in the United States is organized around personal automobiles powered by petroleum. For a Green New Deal in transportation to be possible, that has to change. A climate-safe future requires a swift and just decarbonization of the transportation sector, a major expansion of public and active transportation, and the parallel decarbonization of the electricity sector.

Transportation often exacerbates social inequity and racial injustice within and between communities. Its infrastructure speeds the movement of those who are better off, to the detriment of those who are most in need. In far too many communities, governments, planners, and engineers prioritize vehicles over people and efficiency in travel time at the cost of quality of life. Choices made by elected officials and transportation agencies about how funds are allocated at the federal, state, and local levels have played a major role in reinforcing these outcomes over the past century.

In 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – the centerpiece of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. It provides substantial new funds for intra-city public transit, intercity passenger rail, and new electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It also includes $7.5 billion in new discretionary funding for innovative transit projects in the RAISE program (formerly BUILD and TIGER), along with new incentives for roadway repair and maintenance. However, the bill also allocates $350 billion towards new road and highway projects that will be administered by state and local departments of transportation. Much of this funding is likely to be spent on highway expansion projects. In short, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is poised to invest in a small number of innovative, low-carbon public transit projects alongside a massive new investment in roads and highways – locking in higher emissions for the sector than those that predated the bill. In other words, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could invest dramatically more on highway expansion than on innovative, low-carbon public transit projects. That dynamic has to change.

In this report, we propose a series of critical opportunities for new transportation-related policies to improve equal access, mobility, and opportunity in our transportation system, reduce emissions, support global climate cooperation, and develop long-lasting infrastructure and workforce development strategies on a changing planet. We argue for a move away from past policies that encouraged the release of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants while furthering social inequity. Crucially, this report aims to shift the conversation surrounding the transportation sector and decarbonization from focusing exclusively on electric vehicles and high-speed rail to addressing the many disparate parts of America’s transportation system. This includes a focus on intra- and intercity rail in addition to high-speed rail; an approach to electric vehicles that pairs supply-side policies (e.g. manufacturing tax credits) with a more progressive demand-side approach that benefits low and middle-income households with few public transit options instead of wealthy, coastal city residents who tend to purchase high-end luxury electric vehicles (e.g. Tesla).

Instead, the transportation system should be viewed as a strategic lever for investing in good-paying low-carbon jobs, justice, and a decarbonized economy. We build on the important progress Congress members have made through their introduction of bills such as the Moving Forward Act to identify a series of policies that would further that ambition.

Read the text (PDF).

From Biscuits To Steel: Ohio Valley Organizing Goes Beyond Coal

By Katie Myers - Ohio Valley Resource, January 21, 2022

(Excerpt):

Public awareness of labor issues is growing but labor unions still face huge challenges.

Maxim Baru, an organizer with Industrial Workers of the World, spent the past months helping organize staff of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, a regional nonprofit, after complaints of long hours, sleepless nights and low pay.

“Just because there’s a new sense of vibrancy doesn’t make the situation totally more advantaged,” Baru said. “A lot of employers still have enormous financial and political advantages over their employees.”

OVEC’s board retaliated sharply, firing two employees, according to former organizer Brendan Muckian-Bates.

“I think that’s one of the things that frustrates me the most about this whole thing is we didn’t even get to present a path forward for OVEC,” Muckian-Bates said.

Employees filed four unfair labor practice suits to recoup their pay. In November, the company’s board dissolved the organization instead of recognizing the union. The National Labor Relations Board is now attempting to extract back pay from the company for the two fired employees. A judge has frozen the nonprofit’s assets.

Baru said organizing nonprofits and other industries has been challenging, and many workplaces require a different approach than the old-school shop floor once did.

“If we deliver that demand by continuing to do a kind of one-size-fits-all cookie cutter prefabricated unionization drive, we’re going to disappoint a lot of people,” Baru said. “The process of unionizing can sometimes be very lengthy.”

Bay Area Transit Workers Organize for Hazard Pay, Build toward Contract Campaigns

By Elana Kessler and Richard Marcantonio - Labor Notes, January 21, 2022

Oakland transit worker Connie McFarland drove home after a long shift last July 28 and logged onto Zoom for a board meeting of her employer, AC Transit. She joined a chorus of 40 workers and riders who held up the start of the agenda with nearly two hours of public comment.

Their demand: hazard pay for frontline transit workers.

Bus operator Sultana Adams, an assistant shop steward with Transit (ATU) Local 192, described the trauma of an assault by a rider who spat in her face. McFarland told the board, “We really would like to have some form of appreciation that’s more than lip service.”

By coming together around this popular demand, Bay Area transit workers built power across unions in the lead-up to their contract campaigns and fought to improve transit for their riders.

Unions and Climate Change: Toward Global Public Goods

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