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New Analysis Destroys Fossil Fuel Industry's Misleading US Job Claims

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, September 19, 2022

"Their false claims do not add up and cannot be allowed to stall a rapid transition to 100% clean, renewable energy," says the Food & Water Watch report.

A Food & Water Watch report released Monday undermines the fossil fuel industry's claims about its positive impact on employment, showing that as oil and gas giants ramped up production and raked in record profits at the planet's expense, jobs have declined.

The advocacy group's fact sheet—titled Oil Profits and Production Grow at the Expense of Jobs, Consumers, and the Environment—comes as scientists continue to call for a swift transition to clean energy and critics around the world accuse the fossil fuel industry of war profiteering.

"The oil and gas industry would rather pay shareholders than workers," said Food & Water Watch (FWW) senior researcher Oakley Shelton-Thomas. "It should be clear by now that more production means more pollution, but it hasn't meant lower prices or more jobs."

Illegal fishing, worker abuse claims leave a bad taste for Bumble Bee Seafood

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts - Mongabay, September 2, 2022

  • A new report published by Greenpeace East Asia has found that Bumble Bee Seafoods and its parent company, Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (FCF) of Taiwan, are sourcing seafood from vessels involved in human rights abuses as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.
  • It found that 13 vessels supplying seafood to Bumble Bee violated Taiwanese fishery regulations, and were even on the Taiwan Fisheries Agency’s (TFA) list of vessels involved in IUU fishing, and that many supply vessels were involved in issues of forced labor and human trafficking.
  • Both Bumble Bee and FCF have sustainability and corporate social responsibility policies in place.

On April 10, 2019, a fishing vessel known as Da Wang left Taiwan to sail out into distant waters in search of tuna. Two months into the voyage, a disturbance occurred: the first mate reportedly beat one of the crew members so badly that he died from his injuries. The following year, another crew member was injured while working on the same vessel — but according to reports, his superiors forced him to continue working, and he eventually suffered a stroke.

Yet tuna sourced from this very vessel continues to be packaged and sold for the Bumble Bee Seafood Company and sold in grocery stores in the U.S., according to a new report.

The report, published Sept. 1 by Greenpeace East Asia, suggests that Bumble Bee Seafood and its parent company, Taiwan-based Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (or FCF) — one of the top tuna traders in the world — are sourcing seafood from vessels involved not only in human rights abuses, but also in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. This is despite both companies having corporate social responsibility and sustainability policies in place.

The authors found that 13 vessels supplying seafood to Bumble Bee violated Taiwanese fishery regulations, and were even on the Taiwan Fisheries Agency’s (TFA) list of vessels involved in IUU fishing. Moreover, they identified issues of forced labor and human trafficking on six Taiwanese vessels that supply seafood to Bumble Bee and FCF after conducting interviews with crew members.

Fake My Catch: The Unreliable Traceability in our Tuna Cans

By staff - Greenpeace East Asia, September 2022

US seafood company Bumble Bee, one of the leading companies in the canned tuna market with nearly 90% consumer awareness levels,1 and its Taiwanese parent company Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (hereinafter referred to as FCF), one of the top three global tuna traders, play an important role in the global tuna industry, and thus hold responsibility over the health of our ocean, the treatment of those working in the tuna supply chain and consumer choices. Both companies have policies on sustainability and corporate social responsibility that are supposed to extend through their supply chain, but according to the analysis in this report, neither are meeting their responsibilities.

This report finds that the information on Bumble Bee’s “Trace My Catch” website, which enables consumers to track the source of their tuna product from catch to can, is insufficient and in some cases incorrect. In a number of cases Greenpeace East Asia's analysis found that the company was sourcing fish from vessels that had engaged in or were suspected of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, forced labor, and/or human rights abuses. Therefore, Bumble Bee may not be fulfilling its responsibility and commitment to environmental sustainability and human rights, and without consumers’ knowledge seafood tainted with IUU and forced labor may have already entered the US market.

Based on 732 valid Bumble Bee tuna product codes, this report finds that Bumble Bee tuna was sourced from 290 different vessels, almost half of which are Taiwanese-flagged (119) or owned (22) distant water fishing vessels according to the information on Trace My Catch. In addition, some information on their Trace My Catch website contradicts official information from the Taiwan Fisheries Agency about where the supply vessel was authorized to fish. Verifying the vessel's location against a third data source- Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from Global Fishing Watch, revealed that 28 fishing vessels’ fishing area information provided by Bumble Bee’s traceability tool was incorrect. In addition, 13 fishing vessels that supplied tuna to Bumble Bee were listed on TFA’s website for IUU fishing.

Based on interviews with nine fishers on six Taiwanese vessels that supplied Bumble Bee, it was found that all nine fishers had experienced or observed at least one of the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicators of forced labor,3 and six out of those nine fishers had experienced or observed four or more of the 11 indicators. All of the fishers interviewed said they have experienced excessive overtime and retention of identity documents, and over two-thirds of them had their wages withheld.

Greenpeace East Asia research found that Bumble Bee canned tuna collected from Harris Teeter (a wholly owned subsidiary of Kroger Co.) in Arlington, Virginia on April 12, 2022 was sourced from DA WANG, a Taiwanese-owned vessel confirmed to use forced labor by US Customs and Border Protection.4 In April 2022, Taiwanese authorities indicted the vessel captain, first mate, and seven others for their involvement for forced labor and human trafficking. Bumble Bee's Trace My Catch website lists the source of this tuna as DA WANG on a trip in 2019, during which a fisher was reportedly beaten and died at sea. This leads to strong inference that seafood tainted with forced labor has already been sold in the US market.

On another Taiwanese fishing vessel, DE CHAN NO.116 evidence was revealed from Greenpeace East Asia interviews with fishers as well as Global Fishing Watch AIS data of suspected IUU fishing, including alleged shark finning and illegal transshipment at sea. The alleged illegal activities took place during a period when the ship was supplying tuna to Bumble Bee according to Trace My Catch.

Greenpeace East Asia urges immediate action from Bumble Bee and FCF, including issuing an apology to the exploited fishers, retailers and consumers, removing products suspected of IUU and forced labor-tainted tuna from the market, disclosure of their supplying vessels list, and establishment of an independent investigation committee for the flaw of Trace My Catch, to address issues of sustainability, legality and forced labor in their supply chain.

Read the text (Link).

Why Labor Leader Tefere Gebre Has Brought His Organizing Talents to Greenpeace

By Jessica Goodheart - Capital & Main, May 16, 2022

Tefere Gebre’s biography has touched on the major crises affecting the planet: the massive rise in refugees, skyrocketing economic inequality and climate change. The first of those cataclysms was thrust upon him when he was just a teenager. He fled the civil war in Ethiopia, enduring a perilous 2½ week journey through the desert. “Sometimes you’d find yourself where you were a week ago,” he told Orange Coast magazine in 2014. He spent five months in a refugee camp in Sudan before arriving in Los Angeles, where he attended high school.

As an adult, Gebre became active in the labor movement, organizing trash sorters in Anaheim and holding leadership positions at the Orange County Labor Federation and the AFL-CIO, where he served as executive vice president. In February, he took the position as chief program officer at Greenpeace USA, the 3 million-member direct action organization known for its high-profile banner drops, opposition to whale hunting and campaign against plastic waste.

Capital & Main spoke to Gebre two days before Greenpeace held its first-ever protest in solidarity with fossil fuel workers. Two boats with activists from Greenpeace USA and United Steel Workers Local 5 members formed a picket line from land into San Francisco Bay as an oil tanker headed to Chevron’s Richmond refinery in what Gebre described as “a genuine attempt to build a transformational relationship” with the striking workers. Nearly 500 refinery employees went on strike over safety and salary concerns in March. The two sides have yet to come to an agreement. The oil tanker crossed the picket line, according to sources at Greenpeace.

The Chevron Strike Continues

By Shiva Mishek - Richmond Progressive Alliance, May 4, 2022

“To strike at a man's food and shelter is to strike at his life, and in a society organized on a tooth-and-nail basis, such an act, performed though it may be under the guise of generosity, is none the less menacing and terrible.”

—Jack London, The Scab, 1904

This week, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 5 enters its seventh week on strike at the Richmond Chevron refinery. Over 500 Chevron employees have been on strike since March 21, rejecting a contract that would codify a meager raise, unsafe working conditions, and Chevron’s so-called “standby” policy.

Chevron would also like to drastically reduce death benefits and pay for the Lubrications plant refinery workers, thereby creating a two-tier wage system and offering wages that do not keep pace with inflation (a reduction from an annual 3% wage increase to .6%).

Refinery operations have continued by employing strikebreakers. Advertisements placed by Chevron offer pay of $70 an hour for non-union workers lacking adequate refinery experience, with the explicit mention of possible work for up to 5 months. Meanwhile, inflation has soared across the United States, and refinery workers must also contend with the skyrocketing costs of basic needs.

Unsurprisingly, the high cost of gas prices in California has been somewhat attributed to the labor action. The day the strike began, the Guardian wrote, “But if the strike were to halt operations at the refinery, that could negatively affect fuel prices in California, which already has the highest gas prices in the US at $5.86 a gallon, according to the American Automobile Association.” Meanwhile, Chevron just reported earnings of $6.3 billion for the first quarter (Q1) of 2022, compared with $1.4 billion in earnings during Q1 of 2021. 

It’s typical to see workers villainized when they go on strike—teachers are depriving students of needed support; nurses and doctors are leaving patients to die in their hospital beds. But it is Chevron, not the workers, that has put Richmond at risk for decades. 

Enviros Protect Steelworkers’ Backs

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

On April 29, activists from the environmental group Greenpeace USA and oil workers and Steelworkers Local 5 deployed a “boat picket” at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA composed of three Greenpeace boats floating in formation near the oil tanker delivery dock, with striking refinery workers, banners and picket signs on board.

According to Greenpeace Co-Executive Director Annie Leonard, “The boats intend to notify all incoming and outgoing tankers and tugs of their presence as a “picket line” and ask that they do not cross it by refusing to arrive at or leave the refinery’s dock.”

Why were Greenpeace boats and activists, famous for blocking whale hunts, supporting a strike by oil refinery workers? Annie Leonard explains:

Fossil fuel executives and their lobbyists have maintained their dominance by pretending to have the best interest of workers and communities at heart. But while they are raking in record profits (just this morning Chevron announced they brought in $6.3 billion in just the first quarter this year), they are holding out on fair pay and safe working conditions. That’s why we chose to show up for fossil fuel workers. The only way we can break these companies’ stranglehold on our wallets, our communities, and the planet is by standing together in the call for a livable future.

She adds,

Nearly 500 workers from Chevron’s Richmond refinery have been on strike for over a month as they demand a fair contract from Chevron’s greedy executives. Greenpeace believes that walking our walk in our commitment to a just economic future for all communities means that in the meantime, we must be dedicated to struggle alongside oil workers against the industry that is not giving them a fair shake. Today’s protest is the next step in displaying a powerful front of environmentalists and workers united against fossil fuel corporations. If we stand (or sometimes float) together, we can win.

Greenpeace activist Ben Smith tweeted from a floating picket boat, “We’re also out here to walk the walk. It’s past time for the workers movement and the environmental movement to build bonds of solidarity because our fates are bound up together.”

USW Striking Oil Workers And Supporters Speakout For Health And Safety At Tesoro Refinery

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, April 30, 2022

In an act of solidarity with Chevron workers fighting for a new labor contract as executives boast of a record-breaking quarter, Greenpeace USA campaigners joined United Steelworkers Local 5 union members on Friday to expand the picket line onto the waters of San Francisco Bay.

Nearly 500 workers from Chevron's oil refinery in Richmond, California have been on strike for more than a month in what USW Local 5 vice president B.K. White calls "a movement of working people rising up to challenge a corporation." 

Chevron announced Friday that its profits surged to $6.3 billion during the first three months of 2022—four times as much as the fossil fuel giant pulled in over the same period last year, as Common Dreams reported. That prompted fresh calls from progressives for a windfall tax to prevent further price gouging and war profiteering by Big Oil and underscored one of the reasons why workers are demanding better pay.

"What's the answer to corporate greed?" Greenpeace asked on social media. "Solidarity!"

Climate Youth Fill the World's Streets to #StandWithUkraine

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, March 3, 2022

"This is an eye-opening moment for humanity to see that the world is aflame with new and old wars caused by fossil fuels," said Fridays for Future. "People only desire to live and exist safely."

Young climate campaigners with Fridays for Future took to the streets across the globe Thursday to stand with the people of Ukraine—whose country was invaded last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin—and call for a world that prioritizes peace and freedom from fossil fuels for all.

As Ukrainian forces and civilians fought Russian invaders who have been accused of war crimes, members of the youth-led movement—who generally hold school strikes on Fridays, inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg—carried signs that said #StandWithUkraine and #NoMoreWars.

Demonstrators also used the hashtags to share updates on social media.

Workers Say They Breathe Polluted Air at “Green” Insulation Facility

By Mindy Isser - In These Times - March 3, 2022

As the acceptance of climate change becomes increasingly commonplace, more and more companies will be created or adapted to ​“fight” or ​“solve” it — or, at the very least, minimize its effects. Kingspan Group, which began as an engineering and contracting business in 1965 in Ireland, has since grown into a global company with more than 15,000 employees focused on green insulation and other sustainable building materials. Its mission is to ​“accelerate a zero emissions future with the wellbeing of people and planet at its heart.” 

But workers at the Kingspan Light + Air factory in Santa Ana, Calif. don’t feel that the company has their wellbeing at its heart — and they say they have documented the indoor air pollution in their workplace to prove it. Differences between Kingspan’s mission and its true impact don’t stop there, workers charge: One of its products was used in the flammable cladding system on Grenfell Tower, a 24-floor public housing tower in London that went up in flames in June 2017, killing 72 people. Kingspan has been the target of protests in the United Kingdom and Ireland for its role in the disaster. Both Kingspan workers and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have called on the company to put public safety over profits.

Since the 1990s, union organizers say there have been multiple attempts from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) union to organize employees at Kingspan, but none were successful. The company says its North America branch employs ​“1,600 staff across 16 manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout the United States and Canada.” Workers at the Santa Ana plant are tasked with welding, spray painting and assembling fiberglass to produce energy-efficient skylights. During the pandemic, when workers say Covid-19 swept through the facility, employees reached back out to SMART — not just because they wanted to form a union, but because they grew concerned about what they say is poor air quality in the facility. 

While SMART provided support for their campaign for clean air, the workers took control: In the summer of 2021, the Santa Ana workers came into work armed with monitors to measure indoor air pollution. Their goal was to measure airborne particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM 2.5). Such fine particulate matter constitutes a form of air pollution that is associated with health problems like respiratory and cardiovascular issues, along with increased mortality. The workers found that the average PM 2.5 concentration inside the facility was nearly seven times higher than outdoors. (To put that in perspective, wildfires usually result in a two- to four-fold increase in PM 2.5.) The majority of monitors found PM 2.5 levels that would rank between ​“unhealthy” and ​“very unhealthy” if measured outdoors, according to Environmental Protection Agency standards, the workers reported. 

Because this is the air workers were breathing in for 40 hours per week, in October 2021, they went public with both their campaign to form a union and their fight for a safe workplace — a campaign that continues to this day. 

Environmental Groups Call on Green Building Community to Stop Partnering With Kingspan Group, Global Manufacturer of Building Materials

By Lauren Burke and Meredith Schafer - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 3, 2022

Santa Ana, Calif. — Forty-five (45) local and national groups organizing against climate change and for environmental justice have signed a statement calling on the green building community to reconsider partnerships with Kingspan Group, an Ireland-based global manufacturer of insulation and other building materials that markets its products as “green.” Led by the Labor Network for Sustainability, local groups including Orange County Environmental Justice, Madison Park Neighborhood Association, The River Project and others were joined by national groups including Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Earth, Climate Justice Alliance, Sunrise Movement, the Climate Advocacy Lab and 36 others. The green building community includes architects, specifiers, the US Green Building Council, and trade associations such as the American Institute of Architects.

“We call on those who deal with Kingspan to reconsider rewarding it for behavior that weakens the credibility of the green building community, and that goes against the values of safe and sustainable buildings and communities,” reads the statement co-signed by the 45 organizations.

Read the full statement and list of signatory organizations here

The groups are calling on the green building community to stop allowing Kingspan representatives to sponsor or speak at trade shows and conferences, and to discontinue offering continuing education courses taught by Kingspan until the Grenfell Inquiry is finished and changes are made to its Santa Ana factory. The statement points to whistleblower complaints by Kingspan workers on health, safety and stormwater pollution issues at its Santa Ana, CA factory filed in October 2021, as well as the revelations from the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry regarding its UK insulation business that came out in 2020-2021.

Read the CalEPA and CalOSHA complaints, and the Indoor Air Quality study

The 2020-21 testimony and evidence from the UK Government Inquiry into the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire revealed how Kingspan’s UK insulation division misrepresented and mis-marketed Kooltherm K15’s fire safety testing and certifications from 2006-2020. (Kooltherm K15 made up five percent of the insulation in the tower, which is why Kingspan is a core participant of the Inquiry.) The company began marketing K15 in the US in 2018, after the fire.

“Kingspan is not an appropriate source for continuing education courses or sponsorships of events for the green building community, including those that touch on fire safety.” Read about Kingspan and the Grenfell Inquiry here

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The Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) engages workers and communities in building a transition to a society that is ecologically sustainable and economically just. We work to foster deep relationships that help the labor movement engage in the climate movement and the climate movement understand the economics of climate change and the importance of organized labor as a key partner in confronting the climate crisis.

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), AFL-CIO, is an international union whose affiliates represent sheet metal workers throughout the United States and Canada, as well as workers in transportation industries. Our members manufacture and install heating, ventilation, and air handling systems (HVAC), as well as architectural components such as metal roofing, facades, and other building envelope products.

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