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Back to the future for work

By Andrew Curry - The Next Wave, August 20, 2015

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.

Most discussion of the future of work assumes that the work, or the lack of it, is our coming problem. But what if we’ve got the question the wrong way around? What if we’re slowly, or not so slowly, giving up on the idea of work? After all, we all know that most work is dull. And even the interesting stuff is exploitative, somewhere along the line.

The thought struck me while reading Dan Hancox’ book The Village Against The World, about the anarcho-syndicalist village of Marinaleda, in Andalusia. After 20 years of intense political struggle, the village won some land for itself, and later added some food processing plants. Unemployment there is five or six per cent, a fraction of the level in other parts of Andalusia. But the young people, generally, are less willing to work in either. Work in the fields is hard; work in the processing plants is boring. And this is, pretty much, a universal truth.

In The Village Against The World, a young woman called Christina who lives part-time in the village and part time in the larger town of Estapa explains it to Hancox this way:

“A thousand euros a month is fine – 1,200 euros a month is pretty good.” We were talking about the mileuristas, her generation, so called because they had learned to get by on a one thousand euros a month. Christina was living with her mother in Marinaleda while also renting a room in a flat in Estapa, where she works as a teacher some of the week.

A thousand euros a month is about £750 or $1,400; not a lot, in other words. Spain, of course, has an acute version of this problem. But even if it an outlier, it is not unusual. The labour contract with capitalism is breaking down.

How to Support Clean Energy and Not Be a Jerk; As the nation turns away from coal, what do we owe coal workers?

By Jonathan Tasini - Sierra, July-August 2015

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.

Michael Phillippi makes $28.50 per hour working as a mechanic at Murray Energy's Monongalia County coal mine in West Virginia. That's almost double what he made as a crane operator before snagging this coveted job four years ago. With healthcare and pension, that figure is close to $60 per hour, all because he's a member of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW). That's a hefty paycheck in a state where the minimum wage is $8 per hour and the poverty rate is one of the highest in the nation.

The amiable, broad-shouldered Phillippi brings home more than twice what his wife makes as a teacher's assistant. He puts 10 percent of his paycheck into a 401(k) and invests another chunk in education savings for his three kids. He pays the bills and still has enough left over for a boat and a little camp where his family spends time in the summer. "I know guys making eighteen, twenty thousand," he says. "We had a banker start a few months ago—he was in charge of loans at a bank. He makes more money and has better benefits as a coal miner."

If the mine closed, Phillippi says, he'd have to learn to live off $15 an hour or less. To find a salary comparable to his current job's, he'd have to drive 75 miles north to Pittsburgh. But he probably wouldn't. "I won't move," he says. "I am from here. My family is from here. My grandparents are from here. My wife and her family. This is our community. I want to raise my children here. I plan on dying here. It's the sad truth that the good jobs aren't here."

Phillippi's paycheck also matters to the small businesses he sprinkles money on, like the mom-and-pops he stops at on his 35-minute drive from his home in Morgantown to the mine. Sitting in a small conference room in the UMW regional office in Fairmont, Phillippi points across the table to Mark Dorsey, who worked underground for 34 years before retiring in 2010: "For every hour I work, I'm helping to pay his pension." 

There are hundreds of thousands of Michael Phillippis spread out across the nation, from the coalfields of West Virginia and Kentucky to the more than 500 coal-generating power stations located in virtually every state. These workers now face the loss of their good-paying jobs due to the declining competitiveness of coal compared to other energy sources and new Environmental Protection Agency regulations intended to address air pollution and climate change. 

Those regulations, of course, have clear benefits for Phillippi, Dorsey, and everyone who breathes. Stronger soot standards alone would prevent 35,700 premature deaths per year and 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma. Shifting to renewable energy, says the Union of Concerned Scientists, would create three times as many jobs—although likely not as well paid—as an equivalent investment in fossil fuels. And the value of avoiding catastrophic climate change is incalculable. 

But it won't pay the mortgage. As the coal industry withers, what will happen to Phillippi, Dorsey, and the communities they live in? The classic free market answer: That's life. Economies change, so suck it up. When the car replaced the horse and cart, buggy manufacturers moved on. 

That is not the only answer. Slowly, tentatively, unions and environmentalists are beginning to talk about an entirely different option called Just Transition, a guarantee that the cost of bringing down the curtain on the coal industry will not be paid by coal workers alone, but will be spread across society. It would be a huge undertaking, ideally encompassing the tens of thousands of workers directly employed in coal, from mining to electric-power generation, plus the communities that depend on their spending and taxes.

Railroad Workers United's Jen Wallis and Greenpeace's Kim Marks on We Do The Work radio

By Jen Wallis and Kim Marks - We Do the Work Radio, July 28, 2015

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.

Sid Ryan on the unstoppable alliance of labour, environment and Indigenous groups

Sid Ryan Interviewed by Steve Cornwell - Rabble.Ca, July 16, 2015

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 recent March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate brought together -- among others -- Indigenous, labour, and environmentalist groups. What do you expect to arise out of such a diverse movement of groups and communities?

The march is a way to announce to the world that there is a very powerful coalition coming together. I think people are beginning to believe that a lot of what we need to be doing is dealing with the climate. We know that all of our different groups, labour, First Nations, environmentalists, if we don't come together to put the pressure on, we're not going to be successful.

I was at the Battle in Seattle. You had the community activists, environmentalists, and you had a lot people from around the world and different organizations coming into Seattle. The labour movement had its own separate demonstration in a football stadium five miles out of town in a football field. There were all these wonderful speeches taking place in this football field.

But downtown Seattle was erupting with running battles between police, environmentalists, students and activists from around the world. We were completely disconnected. I thought "wow, now I can see why sometimes these other organizations say to the labour movement that we don't see you guys involved in the fight." Even though we think we're supportive of all of their issues, we seem to be doing it apart from them.

I see the July 5 march as a coming out of a new movement -- the beginnings of us saying that we're willing to work together. We know that shifting away from a carbon-based economy is a difficult decision, certainly for labour. But we're going to be there and we're going to be a part of it, and the hope is to build something much much bigger.

The aim is to say to the world that there is a new game in town, and keep your eye on it because it can build into something very powerful.

A world beyond tar sands: the fight for climate jobs

By Jesse McLaren - Socialist Worker, June 17, 2015

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 IPCC report from last year said that climate change would produce “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” if not reduced, and a report in the journal Nature this year showed that 85 per cent of tar sands must remain in the ground to avoid a 2 degree rise.

As the Globe and Mail explained, “Domestic estimates of Alberta’s oil reserves come in at about 168 billion barrels, with hundreds of billions more available for extraction if future oil prices make the resource more attractive. The study uses a more conservative estimate of 48 billion barrels as the current reserve and then finds that only 7.5 billion barrels of that, or about 15 per cent, can be used by 2050 as part of the global allotment of fossil-fuel use in a two-degree scenario." The Council of Canadians have done the math: “The proposed Keystone XL, Northern Gateway, Energy East, Trans Mountain and Arctic Gateway pipelines. Together, those pipelines would move about 3.45 million barrels of oil per day or about 1.26 billion barrels a year. If all of these pipelines were to become operational, they would exceed the 7.5 billion barrel limit noted in this British study in less than six years.”

So this is an urgent question, and what happens in Canada will have a major impact on the global climate. As NASA scientist James Hansen explained: “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” But this risk is not evenly distributed. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans it disproportionately affected poor and racialized communities. Hurricane Sandy and typhoon Haiyan’s destruction in Haiti/Philippines is linked to the history of colonialism and imperialism in the region. Tar sands disproportionately affect indigenous communities, including the Athabasca Chippewyan First Nation at ground zero, Aamjiwnaang First Nation surrounded by refineries in Chemical Valley, and Chippewas of the Thames whose territory Line 9 crosses (and who are appealing its reversal).

Trade Union Climate Summit: Registration Extended

Announcement - Global Climate Jobs, June 29, 2015

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.

No jobs on a dead planet!

Trade Union Climate Summit #unions4climate 14 & 15 September, 2015 Paris

You can download a flyer for the summit here: flyer_climate

• Join trade union leaders, experts & activists campaigning to mobilise for a zerocarbon future
• Showcase how the union movement is working to de-carbonise our workplaces and industries
• Campaign to secure jobs with a Just Transition as industries transform
• Let’s ensure workers have a right to know about how employers plan for a zerocarbon future and what governments can do.

Guest speakers include: Laurent Fabius (French Minister of Foreign Affairs & upcoming COP21 President); Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber CBE (tbc) (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact); an interview with Naomi Klein (Canadian author This Changes Everything); Hassan Yussuff (CLC Canada President) and Jerry Dias (Unifor Canada President); Guy Ryder (tbc) (ILO Director General); Sharan Burrow (ITUC General Secretary), and Global Union Federation and National Union leaders.

PLACES LIMITED TO 250 PARTICIPANTS REGISTRATION CLOSES 15 JULY

Does this sound like you?
• Are you passionate about climate change and concerned for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy?
• Has your union committed to support climate action?
• Do you have plans or ideas for union actions on climate?

Join the Trade Union Climate Summit on 14 & 15 September in Paris

Agenda: Industrial Transformation – Opportunities for growing decent jobs out of an ambitious climate agenda – Just transition – Building alliances – Mobilisation towards COP21 and beyond, and more.
Show-cases: Experiences from unions working to secure jobs and save the planet. Panellists from unions, environmental and development NGOs, employers, experts & activists will take part in debates demonstrating how unions are ensuring a zero-carbon world.

Language: The meeting will be conducted in English, French and Spanish.

Where: French Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) Paris, France

Registrations: Places are limited – the deadline for applications is 15th July

Send nomination to Anabella.rosemberg@ituc-csi.org with your name, union, country
 and an indication that your union leadership supports this nomination.

We have limited funds, but let us know if you’re from a developing country
and need some support to come.

This meeting is organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in cooperation with Global Union Federations, Sustainlabour, the One Million Climate Jobs campaign, and French national trade union centres CFDT, CGT and FO. It is supported by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

Contact: Anabella Rosemberg, Anabella.rosemberg@ituc

Mark Serwotka: Trade Unions and the Environmental Movement are Natural Allies

By Mark Serwotka - DeSmog UK, April 9, 2015

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 trade union movement and the environmental movement should be “together like hand in glove, they should be allies,” argues Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) – the trade union for British civil servants.

We should watch out for those who try to divide us and try to get their way by getting us at each other’s throats: it makes life easier for them and worse for us.

We should be absolutely, naturally allies. And that means starting to recognise that capitalism attacks workers who are members of trade unions, and it attacks the environment.

For us, at the moment, we’re dealing with tens of thousands of people being laid off, living standards have dropped at a faster rate than any time since Queen Victoria, and, for the environmental movement, we see a lack of investment in renewables, in public transport, [and] pollution seems to be something the capitalists can get away with willy-nilly.

REGISTER NOW!: The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment

By Railroad Workers United and Others - railroadconference.org, March 1, 2015

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 Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment is the title of two back-to-back conferences; the first on Saturday, March 14, 2015 in Richmond, California; the second on Saturday, March 21 in Olympia, Washington.

Everyday a tragic trail derailment occurs, often transporting highly flammable Bakken Shale or Tar Sand, from North Dakota or Alberta, to refineries across North America. The 47 -- preventable-- deaths in Lac-Mégantic has wakened people to the dangers of oil trains and the movement of trains in general through their communities. Environmental activists are up-in-arms about the amounts of fossil fuels moving by rail. Farmers and other shippers are concerned about the congestion that has occurred in recent months, but in part to the oil boom. The rail networks in the U.S. and Canada and clogged with crude-by-rail, displacing the already heavy traffic of grains headed to port for export.

The public generally has no idea what goes on daily on America’s railroads. Chronic crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, draconian availability policies, short staffing, limited time off work create challenging safety issues of concern not just to railroaders, but to the entire population.

Please join us at this cutting edge conference that brings together railroad workers, environmentalists, community activists and concerned workers from other sectors, in order to build the movement for a safer and greener railroad, on that is more responsive to the needs of workers, trackside communities, citizens in general, and society as a whole.

Richmond is a perfect confluence for this conference as it has always been a company town, first for Santa Fe Railroad as the western terminus of its transcontinental railroad in 1900, then for Standard Oil (later becoming Chevron) in 1901 and its massive refinery complex, and again for Kaiser Industries with its four assembly line-like shipyards in the late 1930s through World War II. From 1910 until 1959 the Pullman Company located its largest West Coast rail car repair shop adjacent to the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe lines in the center of Richmond. It also fronts the San Francisco Bay with access to a channel of 40-60 feet deep, allowing the largest seagoing ships (mostly oil tankers these days) to call its ports. Despite still being the location of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe rail yard and Chevron's massive refinery, Richmond is a bottomed out deindustrialized city that puts its largely working class people of color population in the toxic shadow of oil, chemical and other polluting heavy industries.

In adjacent cities of Rodeo there is the Conoco Phillips Refinery, Benecia has Valero Refinery, and Martinez has both Shell and Tesoro Refineries (the latter currently on strike). They are served by both BNSF and Union Pacific Railroads and maritime wharfs. This area along the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays is statistically known as a "cancer cluster."

EcoUnionist News #26

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 1, 2015

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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Crude by Rail:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

EcoUnionist News #25

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 26, 2015

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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Crude by Rail:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

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