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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:

How America’s Supply Chains Got Railroaded

By Jeremy Brecher - The American Prospect, February 4, 2022

When the Union Pacific Railroad closed its Global 3 Intermodal Ramp outside of Chicago in 2019, Union Pacific marketing executive Kenny Rocker promised that closing the facility would bring “more consistent, reliable and predictable service” to shippers who depend on rail. Union Pacific was cutting costs by consolidating its unloading facilities in Chicago, a national center of transshipment for goods that come by rail from ports.

Two years later, as the supply chain crisis gripped the country, the railroad had to abruptly reopen Global 3. In the meantime, Union Pacific stopped service between the all-important shipping hubs of Los Angeles and Chicago for one week last July while the company reconfigured its operations. Union Pacific’s remaining facilities in Chicago couldn’t keep up with the volume, nor could Union Pacific find enough workers or equipment to handle the goods. Industry analyst Larry Gross told that Union Pacific “sacrificed surge capacity” when it closed Global 3. “If you don’t have any additional capacity in your hip pocket, even moderate disruptions put you in a world of hurt.” Gross estimated that Union Pacific’s weeklong suspension of service would keep roughly 40,000 containers stranded on the West Coast.

Every other major railroad suffered from supply chain snags in 2021. Another overwhelmed rail company, BNSF, ordered a slowdown of shipments into its Chicago facility. Two other remaining large rail companies, Norfolk Southern and CSX, received sharply worded letters from the head of their primary regulator, Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin Oberman. In his letters, Chairman Oberman asked each railroad to respond to complaints from shippers—across different types of goods—of worsened service delays and higher costs.

But the freight railroads’ poor operational performance has not impaired their spectacular financial performance. If anything, the bottlenecks create more pricing power. Less than a week after his company reversed its 2019 decision and reopened Global 3, Union Pacific executive Rocker optimistically predicted on an earnings call that Union Pacific would be able to “take some pretty robust pricing on the market”—in other words, keep its prices high. The stock market shared Rocker’s optimism for all Class I railroads, whose stock prices rose in 2021, many by 20 percent or more. The last year was one more of a decade of financial prosperity for the industry as the stock price and total return of every publicly traded Class I railroad from the end of 2011 to the end of 2021, except for Canadian National, grew faster than the S&P 500. Union Pacific earned the second-highest total return in that period, getting investors an almost sixfold return on their money and beating the S&P 500 by over 100 points.

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

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 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

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).

Romanian Power Move: Retraining for a Just Transition from coal

By L. Michael Buchsbaum - Energy Transition, January 27, 2022

Following advice from the World Bank, most of Romania’s coal mines started shuttering in 1997. But this pivotal sector’s collapse left hundreds of thousands unemployed with few resources to help them transition to new careers. Only now, as the nation’s last underground mines prepare to close and Bucharest plots their lignite phase-out, are so-called “Just Transition” retraining programs and other projects finally being implemented. Next in the on-going Romanian Power Move series, lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, reviews the nation’s rocky steps towards a “just” coal transition.

Romania’s black heart: Jiu Valley

After more than a century of mining, by the late 1970s some 180,000 miners were still busy wringing coal out of 14 mining complexes throughout Romania’s Jiu Valley. That changed dramatically beginning in 1997 when – following the restructuring programs imposed by the World Bank – many of the nation’s mines started closing. In a short time, some 90% of the region’s jobs were gone.

Though older and mid-career miners could retire early, as the sprawling mining operations closed, many young people fled. Since the region’s mono-industrial towns were built to house the coal miners who fueled the local economy: good work for most meant getting out. Some 40% of Jiu’s population did just that in the decade before Romania joined the EU in 2007.

“This lack of alternatives was the main issue that brought about negative consequences in the community,” related Roxana Bucata, a journalist and first year PhD candidate at the Central European University in Vienna focusing on energy transitions.

Throughout 2019 and 2020, as a Master’s student studying Just Transitions, Bucata traveled to the region to research how coal’s continuing demise was impacting the Jiu’s population.

Her interviews with local residents found “a general lack of trust towards any kind of authority or regional national union trade management. There’s been a lot of damage here,” she continued.

Now at the end of 2021, less than 4,000 miners are still pulling coal out of the valley’s four struggling deep mines. And with at least two more closures looming in 2022, most remaining workers are just hoping to stay on long enough to qualify for pensions or early buy-outs.

“We need something to replace mining jobs with,” Lucian Enculescu, the leader of the Livezeni ‘Libertatea 2008’ union said to the Guardian recently. “Anything.”

From Biscuits To Steel: Ohio Valley Organizing Goes Beyond Coal

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


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.

5 things Canada could defund to pay for an epic just transition: We could raise $180 billion a year to fund life-giving public goods by defunding five destructive areas of government spending

By Angele Alook, Emily Eaton, David Gray-Donald, Joël Laforest, Crystal Lameman, and Bronwen Tucker - The Breach, January 20, 2023

These days, anyone proposing ambitious new social programs—not to mention a generation-defining agenda like the Green New Deal—is bound to be met with a particular refrain of concern-trolling: “but how are you gonna pay for it?”

The most effective way to combat this is to point to tangible and truly giant expenditures that actively harm our communities—and which too often remain politically invisible. 

For decades, Canadian neoliberalism has ushered in an era of austerity, but the impacts haven’t landed equally. We’ve seen budget cuts for working people and the environment—borne most disproportionately by Black, Indigenous, and other racialized people and communities that are made vulnerable in our society. On the other hand, fossil fuel companies, the military, police, large corporations, and the wealthiest families have all actually received more support from the government. 

We have starved public goods, land, and life in order to feed Big Oil, corporate profits, and the security that capitalist growth requires.

But there are plenty of options to pay for a new direction: taxes on high earners and polluting firms, cutting military expenditure, long-term investment in green infrastructure, to name a few. The real issue is political will and political power. 

The money is there we just need to seize it

Just think about the impressive government policies put in place in the span of weeks when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. This crisis has shown us that, when it comes down to it, the money and policy tools are there. And it is worth pointing out to anyone who asks this question that what we do not spend on climate action, adaptation, and upholding Indigenous sovereignty today will make this work much more expensive later on.

Including the large flows of public money as part of what’s up for debate helps to open up an accessible and potentially transformative conversation about what we could build instead. By asking tangibly what it would look like for the police to have less power over our communities—and particularly Black and Indigenous communities—we can start a public conversation about imagining and building a truly safe world.

The “refund” part of this strategy would include supporting many solutions, from universal public transit, to direct Treaty-based funding for Indigenous Nations, to affordable energy-efficient public housing, to community-owned renewable energy, to Canada forgiving illegitimate debts and paying reparations abroad to make space for a globally just transition. 

The exact demands can and should be made more specific to communities as they organize. In most of these cases, as we phase out funding for programs that are not serving communities, there are also other programs that will need to be built up at the same time. For example, we need mental health support and public housing alongside the defunding of police and prisons, as many abolitionist groups like Movement for Black Lives and The Red Nation have sketched in more detail.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of $180 billion a year in public money in Canada that could be cut, shifted, and phased out to lessen harm and free up both money and the public imagination towards a decolonial and just transition. 

Winning even one-quarter of this amount in the next few years would free up more than five times what the federal government was planning to spend each year on climate- related infrastructure and programs as of 2021. 

These figures are taken from a 2017 to 2019 average where possible to avoid potential anomalies in government spending during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. For context, in 2019 the federal, provincial, and municipal governments together spent a total of $750 billion a year.

Unions and Climate Change: Toward Global Public Goods


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