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Trade unions welcome UN HLPF Ministerial Declaration, but demand action

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, July 19, 2021

Trade unions have welcomed the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration by the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) as it recognises decent work, social protection and climate resilient investments with just transitions as key pillars for recovery. But this must now be translated into government action.

This year’s HLPF focused on ways to ensure a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19 in line with the SDGs. This included a review of progress on SDG 8.

The Ministerial Declaration reaffirms governments’ commitment to the SDGs as the “global blueprint” to respond to the pandemic and build “a better future for all”.

Trade unions welcomed:

  • references to the decent work agenda;
  • a commitment to protection of labour rights and occupational health and safety for all;
  • a pledge to eradicate forced and child labour;
  • the creation of “conditions for decent work for all, including for those in the informal economy”;
  • the promotion of sustainable business practices;
  • the call for investments in the care economy;
  • the recognition of women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work;
  • and the need to close the gender gap in the labour market.

Even though the Declaration misses the opportunity to explicitly refer to universal social protection, it is vocal on the need for all countries to extend social protection coverage, including social protection floors.

Oil well clean-up can create jobs; but not the way Alberta spent Green Recovery funding

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, July 15, 2021

The Big Cleanup: How enforcing the Polluter Pay principle can unlock Alberta’s next great jobs boom was released in June by the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project . It makes thirteen recommendations, including the creation of an independent, non-profit Reclamation Trust to wind down end-of-life companies and use their remaining revenue to fund the cleanup of their wells. The report states that implementing all its recommendations will create 10,400 jobs and generate $750 million in wages, and contribute nearly $2 billion Alberta’s Gross Domestic Product annually for the next 25 years. The report also includes new calculations and analysis on the growing crisis of Alberta’s oil and gas well liabilities, stating that the average projected cost of cleaning up Alberta’s over 300,000 unreclaimed oil and gas wells is $55 billion dollars, with the top 20 Alberta municipalities alone facing $34 billion in cleanup liabilities in their boundaries.

In April 2020, the government of Canada announced its Covid-19 Economic Response Plan, including $1.72 billion directed toward the cleanup of inactive and abandoned oil and gas infrastructure across the western provinces. $1 billion of this funding was directed to Alberta. Dianne Saxe, the former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, had been one of the early critics of this program, for example in “Canada’s murky bail-out deal for oil and gas will cost us all” ( National Observer, April 21). In early July, a further evaluation was published by Oxfam Canada, the Parkland Institute, and the Corporate Mapping Project : Not Well Spent: A review of $1-billion federal funding to clean up Alberta’s inactive oil and gas wells . The report finds some alarming failures on many fronts – including that the program is not tracking methane emissions, so it is impossible to determine the emissions reduction impact. Author Megan Egler also cautiously argues that the public funds were used to accomplish what industry should have been responsible for, according to a polluter pays principle.

One of the stated goals of Alberta’s $1 Billion Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP) was to create 5,300 jobs. However, Not Well Spent states: “ If this is met, funding of $1billion will create 5,300 jobs at $188,680 per job. This is $41,800 more per job than money injected into the industry through the Orphaned Well Association to do similar work in 2018. There has been no clear explanation from the Government of Alberta why the public dollars to create one job are higher in the SRP program.” The report also notes that 23% of the total amount of funds disbursed went to only five companies out of the 363; only 10% was allocated to clean-ups on Indigenous lands. The author makes recommendations for improvement in future funding, to ensure better accountability and transparency, which would be more consistent with a “polluter pays” objective.

Labor-Backed Report on Path to Equitable Green California

By Staff - Sunflower Alliance, June 10, 2021

Nineteen labor organizations—including unions representing refinery workers in Northern and Southern California and the Alameda Labor Council— have endorsed a detailed plan for an equitable transition to a clean-energy economy in California.

This major new report, A Program for Economic Recovery and Clean Energy Transition in California, details programs for meeting California’s 2030 climate goal (40 percent economy-wide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s 1990 level) by creating roughly 418,000 jobs. It argues that state policy should ensure that the jobs created are good-paying jobs with full labor rights and access by historically excluded people.

The same strategies, the report says, could be continued to meet California’s longer-term goal of being carbon-neutral by 2045.

The report was commissioned by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the California Federation of Teachers, and the United Steelworkers Local 675. Its authors are faculty members of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, including Robert Pollin, a leading expert on just transition.

The report provides detailed calculations for strategies outlined in an earlier report, Putting California on the High Road, from the UC Labor Center. Both reports emphasize the need for measures to protect fossil fuel industry workers including:

  • Pension guarantee for all workers.
  • Re-employment and income-level guarantees for all displaced workers.
  • Retraining and relocation support as needed.
  • “Glide-path income support” for workers 60 – 64.

The report comes as the Newsom administration is developing a report on Just Transition in California.

Just Transition in California: Robert Pollin in Conversation with Robert Kuttner

Labor Unions Rally Behind California’s Zero-Emissions Climate Plan

Robert Pollin interviewed by C.J. Polychroniou - Truthout, June 10, 2021

Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has been spearheading national and international efforts to tackle the climate crisis for more than a decade. Over the past few years, he and a group of his colleagues at PERI have produced green economy transition programs for numerous states. The latest such program is for California, and it is being released today.

The massive study — nearly 200 pages long — shows how California can become a zero emissions economy by 2045 while expanding good job opportunities throughout the state. Nineteen unions have already endorsed the green transition plan, making clear that they reject frameworks that falsely pit labor priorities and the environment against each other, and more are expected to do so in the days and weeks ahead.

In this interview for Truthout, Pollin, co-author with Noam Chomsky of Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet (Verso 2020), talks about the climate stabilization project for California and the national implications of union support for a green economy transition.

C.J. Polychroniou: California has been at the forefront of the climate fight for years now, but the truth of the matter is that its efforts have fallen short. Now, you and some colleagues of yours at PERI have just completed a commissioned climate stabilization project for California. How does the project envision the clean energy transition to take place in a manner consistent with the emission targets set out by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, and how will it be financed?

Robert Pollin: This study presents a recovery program for California that will also build a durable foundation for an economically robust and ecologically sustainable longer-term growth trajectory. California has long been a national and global leader in implementing robust climate stabilization policies. This includes the 2018 Executive Order B-55-18 by then Gov. Jerry Brown. This measure committed the state to cut CO2 emissions by 50 percent as of 2030, to become carbon neutral no later than 2045, and to produce net negative emissions thereafter. These goals are somewhat more ambitious than those set out by the IPCC in 2018. Our study outlines a program through which the state can achieve its own established goals.

Our study shows how these 2030 and 2045 emissions reduction targets can be accomplished in California through phasing out the consumption of oil, coal and natural gas to generate energy in the state, since burning fossil fuels to produce energy is, by far, the primary source of CO2 emissions, and thereby, the single greatest factor causing climate change. The project we propose is to build a clean energy infrastructure to replace the existing fossil fuel-dominant infrastructure. The clean energy infrastructure will require large-scale investments to, first, dramatically raise energy efficiency standards in the state and, second, to equally dramatically expand the supply of clean renewable energy supplies, including solar and wind primarily, with supplemental supplies from low-emissions bioenergy, geothermal and small-scale hydro power. We show how this climate stabilization program for California can also serve as a major new engine of job creation and economic well-being throughout the state, both in the short- and longer run.

A Program for Economic Recovery and Clean Energy Transition in California

By Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty,Caitlin Kline, and Gregor Semieniuk - Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI); University of Massachusetts-Amherst, June 10, 2021

This study presents a robust climate stabilization project for California. It demonstrates that achieving the state’s official CO2 emissions reduction targets—a 50 percent emissions cut by 2030 and reaching zero emissions by 2045—is a realistic prospect. This climate stabilization project can also serve as a major engine of economic recovery and expanding economic opportunities throughout the state. This includes an increase of over 1 million jobs in the state through investment programs in energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, public infrastructure, land restoration and agriculture. The study also develops a detailed just transition program for workers and communities in California that are currently dependent on the state’s fossil fuel industries for their livelihoods. In particular, we focus here on condi­tions in Kern, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles counties.

The study is divided into nine sections:

  1. Pandemic, Economic Collapse, and Conditions for Recovery
  2. California’s Clean Energy Transition Project
  3. Clean Energy Investments and Job Creation
  4. Investment Programs for Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Land Restoration and Agri­culture
  5. Total Job Creation in California through Combined Investment Programs
  6. Contraction of California’s Fossil Fuel Industries and Just Transition for Fossil Fuel Workers
  7. County-level Job Creation, Job Displacement, and Just Transition
  8. Achieving a Zero Emissions California Economy by 2045
  9. Financing California’s Recovery and Sustainable Transition Programs

Nineteen labor unions throughout California have endorsed this study and its findings.

Read the text (PDF).

The path of Peasant and Popular Feminism in La Via Campesina

By various - La Via Campesina, June 8, 2021

La Via Campesina, presents the publication “The Path of Peasant and Popular Feminism in La Via Campesina” with the aim of strengthening the training processes of the Movement and to build Peasant and Popular Feminism as a political tool against oppression and violence. This document compiles the historical knowledge accumulated by Peasant and Popular Feminism in identifying the political challenges that exist in the historical moment that we live in, and thus contribute to the analysis and collective reflections to build a plural movement that respects diversities.

The publication is split into four parts: the first one looks back at the conquests of women inside LVC, up to Peasant and Popular Feminism as something to be built collectively. The second chapter highlights the role of women in the Peasants’ Rights Declaration adopted at the UN and highlights the rights achieved with this tool. The third chapter focuses on La Via Campesina’s Global Campaign “End Violence against Women”, the way the campaign is organized and its experience in different territories. Finally, in the last chapter in order to further expand reflections and discussions, we provide a virtual toolbox that will facilitate training and communication processes.

Since its very beginning La Via Campesina has sought to encourage the participation of rural women at all levels of action, power and representation in the building of an international movement that is broad, democratic, politically and socially committed to the defense of peasant agriculture, Food Sovereignty, the struggle for land, justice, equality and to eradicate all forms of gender discrimination and violence.

Recognizing the contribution and participation of women in member organizations has not been an easy task, notably because of patriarchy and the sexism rooted in societies. These have a negative impact even on the practices of comrades and of the organizations that belong to the movement. LVC’s women speak of two revolutions: one that burdens problems with gender relations within the movement, and a broader one aimed at making a revolution inside societies for justice, equity and the emancipation of human beings.

Read the text (PDF).

Anti-imperialist Manifesto in Defense of the Environment

Turbulence Ahead: What LAX’s Expansion Means for the City of Los Angeles’ Legacy on Racial Equity and Environmental Justice

By staff, editor, et. al - SEIU United Service Workers West, June 2021

Right now, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is charging ahead on an expansion project of a scale not seen for decades. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the organization that owns and operates LAX, quietly released a draft Environmental Impact Report late last year that reveals a project with a host of alarming implications for communities near the airport. If the City of Los Angeles and its elected officials are serious about leadership on environmental justice and equity, resolving the issues presented by this project will be critically important.

As it stands, the proposed development is poised to worsen traffic in an area already infamous for it, expose thousands of new residents to the noise of one of the busiest airports in the world, and intensify the air quality impact of a facility that is already a statewide leader in air pollution. Worse still, these outcomes are set to be concentrated within Black and Brown communities near LAX that already grapple with a longstanding history of environmental racism—communities that have suffered disproportionately from the health and economic fallout of the COVID pandemic.

LAWA’s current approach signals that the airport is not only failing to adequately protect the community from the consequences of LAX’s largest expansion in decades, but is, in effect, concealing the real, long-term effects of that expansion as it rushes toward approval as early as this year. The City of Los Angeles, LAWA, and the airlines that will occupy the new terminals have an obligation to do better and ensure that this project is carried out equitably, that it will not become another sad chapter in the story of environmental injustice in South Los Angeles and the continued exploitation of essential workers as the city emerges from the pandemic.

In this report, we take a deeper look at the proposed development and what the draft Environmental Impact Report does and doesn’t reveal about the consequences of LAWA’s plans for the airport. We will contextualize this project and what it means for workers, families and communities—particularly communities of color—as well as the direction of the City of Los Angeles as a whole. Finally, we will lay down a foundation for how the airport can approach this project as a real, positive opportunity for the region, and not a cautionary tale of corporate greed and bureaucratic complicity in the making. In the coming years, the City of Los Angeles will prepare to host major events—the Super Bowl, the 2028 Summer Olympics, the World Cup—and enjoy global attention. It is critical that the city and its leaders take every opportunity to be a leading model for an equitable and just economy. With the whole world watching, showing how LAX’s development can be done without harm to communities of color will be an excellent place to start.

Read the text (PDF).

Grieving Transit Local Has Been Leading Fights for Safety and Service Restoration

By Staff - Labor Notes, May 28, 2021

We join the whole labor movement in mourning the nine brothers and sisters from Transit (ATU) Local 265 and SEIU Local 521 who were killed on May 26 in a mass shooting at a workplace union meeting.

At an emotional candlelight vigil last night at San Jose city hall, Local 265 President John Courtney—who was meeting with members when the shooting broke out—told the crowd: “Hold each other, love each other, hug each other. Kiss each other when you get home from the end of the day. We’re all we’ve got.

“These aren’t names to us. These are people we know, and we love, and we’ve seen every single day of our working lives, and it really, really hurts down to the very core of our souls. So please, ATU, let’s do what we do and stand with each other, for each other, by each other.”

Nationally it’s the third workplace shooting in two months, which is unusually high.

This particular local has been important in waging fights on behalf of transit workers and riders across the entire San Francisco Bay Area. The union fought with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to restore fare-free rear-door boarding in January, when Covid cases were spiking in San Jose. Rank-and-file bus drivers forced management’s hand when they started planning to stop boarding at the front door whether the agency agreed or not.

After that victory, Courtney said his union’s 1,500 members had “seen with their own eyes how important it is to be unified within our union, and to have the support of other unions and the community to win what we need.”

That victory inspired a bigger current campaign that has united six Bay Area transit locals with their riders to fight for the immediate release of $1.7 billion in transit rescue funds. Courtney told Labor Notes after a May 6 rally, “It means a lot that the community has our back.”

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