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Renewable Energy and Lucas Aerospace "Workers Plans"

By Dave Elliot and Hilary Wainwright - The Multicultural Politic, October 28, 2011

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Over the years the trade union movement has often led radical challenges to existing ways of doing things, including initiatives to improve not just the health and safety of the workforce, but also, during a period of increased worker militancy in the 1970’s, campaigns to change the direction of technological development.

One epic struggle was the Workers Plan movement in the late 1970’s, led off by shop stewards at the 17 plants around the UK run by Lucas Aerospace – which employed around 13,000 people making aircraft systems, many of them defence related. The trade unionists were concerned about job security at a time of recession in the industry- and also cuts defence spending (which they supported in principal).

They involved the workforce in a two year process of developing a detailed plan for switching to what they called ‘socially useful work’. The Plan drew on the expertise of the workforce and the skills they had, and outlined a range of new products they could work on, including medical aids, new transport systems and several renewable energy technologies, like wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells and heat pumps. They even managed to get some prototypes built.

This was long before these technologies were familiar, and the company was not impressed by trade unionist trying to tell them what to produce. They ignored the plan insisting that only they had the right to manage. The cross-plant shop stewards ‘Combine’ committee was also seen as ‘unofficial’, so it proved hard to get support from the TUC and union bureaucracy, or even from the Labour government.

And when the political climate changed with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, most of the leading Lucas activists were sacked. Some of them went on to work for left wing local councils, developing similar ideas.

The AFL-CIO's Keystone Pipeline Dreams

By x344543, x356039, x362102, and x363464 - February 9, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The IWW maintains that we must not only abolish wage slavery, we must also, "live in harmony with the Earth". The same economic forces that subject the working class to wage slavery are those that are destroying the planet on which we all live. Logically, if the business unions are not fighting to abolish wage slavery, it follows that they will be unable to take a meaningful stand on environmental issues.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that the AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka has officially declared his support for the Keystone XL Pipeline, specifically stating, “there’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs.”

He has further gone on to speak in favor of increasing natural gas exports, opining,

“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at…all facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”

Do we really need to elaborate on the foolishness in suggesting that Keystone XL is either good for the environment or creating jobs, because it most certainly is neither, and we can readily prove that.

To begin with, it’s not the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline itself that’s the primary issue, but what will inevitably be transported through it that is the bone of contention. Nobody disputes that it will transport oil extracted from Canadian tar sands mining, and such oil will be anything but green.

Cole Strangler's article in In These Times, Angering Environmentalists, AFL-CIO Pushes Fossil-Fuel Investment Labor’s Richard Trumka has gone on record praising the Keystone pipeline and natural gas export terminals, lays out a fairly strong case that Trumka’s claims are false, stating:

The anti-KXL camp has long argued that construction of the pipeline will facilitate the extraction of Alberta’s tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Many also oppose Keystone XL on the grounds that its route crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water. “We invite President Trumka to come to Nebraska and visit with farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are directly put at risk with the Keystone XL pipeline,” says Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, which has organized local opposition against the pipeline. “To say the pipeline will not harm our water is ignoring real-life tragedies witnessed by all of us with the BP explosion, the Enbridge burst pipe into the Kalamazoo River and tar sands flowing down the street in Mayflower, Arkansas.”

“Brendan Smith, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, a group that works with labor unions and environmental groups to fight climate change, took issue with Trumka’s argument that Keystone would create jobs.  “There is plenty of work that needs to done in this country, and we can create far more jobs fixing infrastructure and transitioning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” says Smith. “Why build a pipeline that will significantly increase carbon emissions and will hurt our economy when there is a more robust and sustainable jobs agenda on the table?”

However, the author’s critique barely scratches the surface.

BART Strike Facts – 1% vs. the 99% – Again

By Armineh Megroian - Solidarity in Motion, October 6, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

BART workers and their Unions are being forced into a strike which will begin on Thursday Oct. 11th.  This will cause congestion on roadways and bridges of Bay Area. But while you’re sitting in heavy traffic and stewing, don’t curse the so called overpaid, lazy Union workers. Acquaint yourself with a few facts first. Of course you know, that you will not get actual facts from the corporate media, only melodrama.

Fact: For BART workers, a strike is a last resort. They are more than willing to sit down and negotiate. It is the Board of Directors who refuses to negotiate.

Fact: BART’s General Manager Grace Crunican sits on the Board of directors of the “Bay Area Council”. A group of CEOs and managers dedicated to lowering wages and deteriorating working conditions for all workers. In short, to put profit before people.

Fact: The Board has spent $400,000 to hire a consultant turned negotiator from a private corporation named Veolia Transportation Services. Thomas Hock was brought in through the back door in an underhanded way. He has a reputation for Union-busting. His general strategy is to push Unions into a strike, provoke public anger and frustration against them, forcing them into taking concessions and pay cuts. That is 400K not spent on safety measures and upgrades for the paying public.

Fact:  Managements’ proposed “raise”, is actually a pay cut:

“According to BART’s analysis of its own proposal, utility workers, who currently take home $36,000 a year on average after taxes, would only see their pay increase to about $39,000 by 2017, after contributions to retirement and medical care are factored in. Train operators, who on average earn $44,000 a year after taxes, would only see their pay increase to $48,000 by 2017… That’s about an 8- to 9-percent increase in take-home pay for utility workers and train operators under the four-year BART contract proposal. But when you factor in an annual inflation rate of 2.5 percent, BART’s offer actually represents a pay cut of 1 to 2 percent over four years.” (Darwin BondGraham, “Why BART’s Wage Offer Doesn’t Include a Raise,East Bay Express.

Why Environmentalists Need to Support Transit Workers' Struggles - Solidarity With Bay Area Transit Workers!

By x344543 and x363464 - October 1, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the San Francisco Bay Area union workers at BART and AC Transit are embroiled in bitter contract fights with their bosses. Details on these struggles can be found at the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC) site: transportworkers.org

Without going into a long analysis why we know this to be true (TWSC has already done that) we simply assert that the demands for concessions by the BART and AC Transit bosses is a result of the austerity measures being demanded of the 99% by the employing class in order for the latter to shore up their sinking capitalist ship.

Rank and file transit workers are organizing a militant response in the face of repression from their bosses (and the wider capitalist class in general) as well as the class collaborationist bureaucrats in their AFL-CIO unions, who simply cannot accept that this assault on the basic rights and livelihoods of trhese workers is happening.

Environmentalists should support the transit workers and oppose the bosses for the following reasons:

  • (1) Contrary to the information you might get from the capitalist media, these workers are not greedy and overpaid. In the Bay Area, an urban megalopolis with one of the highest costs of living in the US, these workers--on average--are barely making enough to survive.
  • (2) The bosses' latest contract offers are full of concessionary demands, and their wage offer amount to a pay cut.
  • (3) The transit bosses are following a pattern being followed by public agencies around the US of funding cuts, union busting, service cutbacks, outsourcing, and privatization.
  • (4) All of these are linked and are part of the systemic functions of capitalism which demands that wealth be continually transferred from the working class to the employing class.
  • (5) Capitalism cannot be reformed and cannot be effectively regulated. Even if temporarily constrained as it was in the Keynesian era, it ultimately seeks a way out of those constraints. Only working class solidarity and organization can effectively check and overcome the power of the employing class.
  • (6) Capitalism is inherently anti-ecological.
  • (7) Because an attack on the transit workers by the employing class enables the latter further, the bosses' actions are also an attack on the environment.
  • Negative consequences to the environment from the bosses actions have and will continue to manifest themselves thusly:

    • Cuts in service (resulting in lower ridership and increased use of personal automobile usage);
    • Cuts in maintenance which risks the safety of workers and commuters as well as causing increased long term wear and tear;
    • Less expansion of service to much needed areas;
    • Anti environmental practices within each agency.
  • (9) The arguments made by the bosses that the above conditions are caused by "workers' greed" are bogus. The bosses make far more by comparison and the real issue is one of allocation of adequate public funds.

1976: The fight for useful work at Lucas Aerospace

by Kevin Doyle - Based on an article first published by Workers Solidarity in the Summer of 1988, Workers Solidarity Movement

In the 1970s workers at the Lucas Aerospace Company in Britain set out to defeat the bosses plans to axe jobs. They produced their own alternative "Corporate Plan" for the company's future. In doing so they attacked some of the underlying priorities of capitalism. Their proposals were radical, arguing for an end to the wasteful production of military goods and for people’s needs to be put before the owners’ profits.

Bay Area IWW Endorses August 3rd "Summer Heat" Action in Richmond, California!

At its July business meeting, the Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW endorsed the following event:

This May marked an ominous milestone on our rush past the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  As CO2 exceeds 400 parts per million, the moment has come to do “hard, important, powerful things” to stop the large-scale burning of fossil fuels. These are the words of the organizers of 350.org’s national Summer Heat campaign—Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Sandra Steingraber, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, who are asking that we turn up the heat, show up and speak out “to the industry that’s wrecking our future.”

As part of Summer Heat events all across the country (see JoinSummerHeat.org), 350.org and its allies invite you to come together in a momentous West Coast mass action to declare our collective resistance to fossil fuels. We hope this will be one of the largest climate justice protests ever. Please join 350 Bay Area, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, No Keystone Action Council, Idle No More, San Francisco Solidarity, Urban Tilth, and Gathering Tribes on August 3rd and 6th to stand with the people of Richmond, California who are in the frontlines in our common fight for the health and safety of our communities, and against accelerating climate change.

On August 3rd, three days before the one-year anniversary of the Chevron refinery explosion and fire, we will gather at 10am at the Richmond BART to march to a spirited rally with national and regional leaders in the fight against climate catastrophe.  (Full schedule is at JoinSummerHeat.org/bay; bus available for non-walkers.) The rally will be followed by a march to the gates of the Chevron refinery with the following demands:

  • NO KEYSTONE XL TAR SANDS PIPELINE.
  • NO MORE LIFE-THREATENING HAZARDS. Chevron and other Bay Area refineries shall prevent future spills, fires and explosions by retrofitting with the best and safest technology available.
  • NO REFINING OF DIRTY CRUDE.  Refining high-sulfur, low-quality tar sands and fracked oil increases greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants. It also seriously corrodes refinery machinery, which contributes to major industrial accidents.
  • NO MORE CORPORATE TAX EVASION.  Chevron shall pay its fair share of taxes to City, County, State and Federal agencies, and stop all frivolous litigation relating to these matters.
  • NO MORE POLLUTING OUR DEMOCRACY.  Chevron invests more in lobbying and manipulating elections with outrageous campaign contributions than it does in plant safety. Big Oil’s injection of mega-bucks into the political process ensures its continuing domination of energy policy.
  • A JUST TRANSITION FROM DIRTY FOSSIL FUELS TO UNION JOBS IN CLEAN ENERGY.              Government and Big Oil shall invest in high-quality union jobs in clean energy for local residents. Chevron needs to support Richmond’s long-term transition to a renewable energy-based economy that’s good for people and the planet.

Reinventing the Wheel - The REAL Green Jobs Story

By x356039 - May 2, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the accepted limits of debate in Washington and Wall Street the main argument by proponents of the fossil fuel industry is the same as its always been: do you want to protect the environment or create more jobs? They argue expanding fossil fuel exploitation, in spite of the proven risks to the environment and public health, is necessary for the sake of job creation. By building Keystone XL across the Great Plains, opening the Powder River Basin to coal interests, expanding offshore drilling, and opening up new lands to fracking the fossil fuel dinosaurs claim our economy will recover & energy independence will be achieved. When confronted with the facts on clean energy sources like wind and solar power fossil fuel proponents argue clean energy is too expensive. They claim it would not be cost-effective to build a green energy economy and that it would lead to a decline in standard of living.

Quite contrary to the boldest of claims made by those dinosaurs the facts show shifting to a clean energy economy would create more jobs, cost less money, and easily exceed all performance needs. Research by the Renewable & Appropriate Energy Laboratory at University of California, Berkeley shows the fossil fuel industry's claims of better job creation rates compared to green, clean energy are vastly overblown. As shown in this chart below renewable energy sources produce as many if not more jobs per megawatt of capacity as traditional dirty sources of electricity:

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