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North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU)

North Dakota Protest and Organized Labor

By John Reimann - Oakland Socialist,September 8, 2016

Many on the left have been inspired by the protest of Native Americans and their supporters against the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been horrified at the recent use of police dogs by private security to attack these protesters.

Not so much the union leadership. Look at this letter they sent the governor of North Dakota, urging him to “enforce the letter of the law”. What a disgrace!

But what can you expect from a union leadership that brings out the likes of Mark Breslin or “Chef Bob” to preach to members about how they should work harder, a union leadership which honors a top capitalist as “union person of the year”, a union leadership which on a daily basis sides with management when they have a dispute with a rank and file member? (See here.)

Meanwhile, all too many socialists try to ignore or minimize the significance of this approach of the union leaders in the hopes of getting some support from these same leaders for some campaign the socialists are working on.

Years ago, Daniel deLeon called these leaders “the labor lieutenants of capital” – in other words, that they represented – were the lieutenants of – capital (the employers) within the labor movement. That is ever more so today. Socialists should be leading the effort to build opposition groups within the unions, not trying to curry favor with these lieutenants.

Call in the National Guard to Protect Against Native American People in North Dakota?

By Steve Zeltser - CounterPunch, September 13, 2016

When do unions call in the National Guard to protect workers? It happened this past week in North Dakota where Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of nearly 200 more tribes from across the U.S. and Canada brought 4,000 mostly Native people from throughout the United States to stop the desecration of their ancestor graves and the threat to their water resources by Dakota Access LLC. Dakota Access LLC is building a $3.8 billion dollar pipeline that would take 500,000 barrels a day through their lands on the way to Chicago. It is being built with 3,000 unionized operating engineers, plumbers, laborers and teamsters along the 1200 mile route. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe saw their ancestors burial grounds being desecrated and were concerned that their water supply would be contaminated in any possible spill going into the Missouri river which runs close to the pipeline.

The company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) which controls Dakota Access LLC  is owned by Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren. During Hurricane Warren through ETP stockpiled gas to gouge on prices after the hurricane passed and had to pay a $10 million fine for illegal manipulation of the energy industry.

The reaction by the unions to the growing protest was that there needed to be protection for their members so they could do their jobs. Glen Johnson, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers IUOE, said the unions had asked to meet with North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple to” find out what the state intends to do about protesters causing workers to fear for their lives.”

Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA who makes over $663,000 a year had previously lauded the project “The men and women of LIUNA applaud the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its fair and thorough review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. … For the highly skilled and trained men and women of LIUNA, projects like the Dakota Access are more than just pipelines. They are crucial lifelines to family-supporting jobs,”

IUOE leader Johnson said that the governor might have to ” call out the National Guard, “so we can get through this volatile area. It’s appalling what’s going on.”

“Why isn’t the state protecting these workers from people throwing rocks, chasing them and wearing masks? If they’re not going to do anything and the company has to hire protective security and there are dogs out there, if they get bit, or whatever, hey, reality is reality,” he said. “Unions have supported peaceful protest, and we do it ourselves. When it’s violent, is when the law needs to step in — what, are we all supposed to be vigilantes and take the law into our hands?”

According to reporter Lauren Donovan of the Bismarck Tribune, the National Guard have already been deployed last week and was being used on Highway 1806 to shutdown the road with an information point. Some people were arrested and the action freed up the local police for other duties.

Native American activist Winona Laduke, who was a former Green Party vice presidential candidate, was clear about where the piping should be going. In an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Laduke said “Flint, Michigan, has a problem. That’s why everything is eroding in this country. And what we need is those skilled laborers to be put to work, pipelines for people. I’m saying take those pipes that are sitting there in northern Minnesota, and send them to Flint, Michigan.”

Johnson’s support for the use of trained dogs who bit dozens of people including children and even a pregnant women. The frenzy was so wild that some of the dogs were even biting each other. This  raises the question about who Johnson is really representing. The use of dogs to bite civil rights protesters fighting segregation and racism in the south is notorious in US history and his open support for the use of these attack dogs by private security forces raises the question of what some unions would do to “protect” their jobs.

While these same unions and the AFL-CIO refuse to call for an end to the trillions of dollars that the US is spending on 700 bases overseas and at war and spending that money on the direly needed infrastructure in the US they are quite happy to support the use of the National Guard and attack dogs to protect their jobs.

Other unions spoke out in support of the Native peoples and against the threat to their lands. Larry Hanley the president of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union ATU issued a statement condemning the attacks on Standing Rock Sioux and Opposes Dakota Access Pipeline.

“The Amalgamated Transit Union joins others in the Labor movement in condemnation of the ongoing violent attacks on the Standing Rock Sioux and others who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. These attacks by a private security company bring back horrific memories of the notorious Pinkertons, who used clubs, dogs and bullets to break up peaceful worker protests.

“Union members understand that today the greatest threat to jobs, health and decent living standards is climate change. We support the National Day of Action on September 13th, and we urge President Obama to stop construction of this destructive pipeline and keep dangerous fossil fuels in the ground.”

This capitulation to business interests and their agenda for “jobs” of course is not new for the history of business unionism in the US. In Oakland, the California Teamsters Union supported the development of shipping coal into the Port Oakland despite the health and safety dangers particularly in the African American and Latino communities. The ILWU which works the ship and the Alameda Labor Council opposed the coal port and they were successful in stopping it.

EcoUnionist News #119 - #NoDAPL Update

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 31, 2016

Statement from Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, August 15, 2016:

The United States via the Army Corps of Engineers is in the mist of moving ahead with an oil pipeline that officials are claiming is not potentially harmful to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. I am here to advise anyone that will listen, that the Dakota Access Pipeline Project is harmful. It will not be just harmful to my people but its intent and construction will harm the water in the Missouri River, which is one of the cleanest and safest river tributary left in the United States.

We have been told by the officials that there will be breaches in the pipe line, but they claim that the situations are generally never very bad. This is unacceptable.

Our Mother Earth is sacred. All things evolve and work together. To poison the water, is to poison the substance of life. Everything that moves must have water. How can we talk about and knowingly poison water?

I’ve been told and taught that it is our responsibility to stand for our relatives, the ones that crawl, the ones that fly, the ones that burrow, the ones that swim, the ones that flower. Relatives that cannot speak for themselves. Who will speak for them? We have to speak for those who are not here – our ancestors, for those children who are not yet born. Our ancestors left sacred sites for us. We have to speak for them. Children not yet born will not live without water. We have to speak for them.

Several of our Lakota and Dakota relatives have had visions and dreams. They have been visited in a spiritual sense and have been told that there is a black poisonous snake trying to come among us. Our relatives have said this.

Our instructions say snakes are good – they serve a great purpose in the web of life. Our elders and the elders before them have given us wonderful teachings and a beautiful way to live and co-exist with all that is, however, the black poisonous snake we are being warned about does not come from the Creator. It is man-made and the creature is made of nothing but Greed. There is nothing good that has ever come from Greed. Greed is pure poison. It blinds and twists thinking. It is what my people have endured and continue to endure.

Right now the Rosebud reservation, the Cheyenne River reservation, the Pine Ridge reservation and my Standing Rock reservation represent five of the 10 poorest places or counties in the United States, according to the 2010 Census. Our state of being is not our fault. We did not cause this. United States lawmakers and their policies caused this. Why?? Greed – and now again, even what little we have left is under attack.

Is it too much to respectfully and peaceably request that we not live in fear of being bitten by this creature of eminent harm? Isn’t living in fear and terror unacceptable in the United States?

The United States should use all its will and power to be a real great world leader. It should swear off oil production because we all know it is harmful to it is to our planet. The United States should use all its wisdom and technology to develop alternative sources of power. It should be a great wise leader to preserve and enhance this earth, not knowingly destroy the webs of life.

What I ask is that my fellow American citizens stand with my people to stand with us. I ask you to please call or write your Senators and Representative to stop this blindness and this greed.

And, if nothing else, please, offer a prayer for my people and all the people who are standing with us in prayer. Just offer some thoughts of protection for us. We ask that you offer a prayer for sensibility and common sense on behalf of all the two-legged that walk as this is not just a Lakota/Dakota issue, this is a human issue.

This land that is being disturbed was once ours. Our people, our Indian Nations lived and governed our peoples all over this territory. This land across the Cannonball River that is now threatened was forcibly taken from us and there was nothing that we could do about it then and now.

Nonetheless, we still believe that we are the keepers of this beautiful land. Although it was taken from us, we know, we must stand and speak on this land’s behalf. We want everyone and the federal government to respect this land and take care of it. That is why our people are standing up and standing with the land and water. We have to be here. It is instructions that the Creator has given us. We have to be here. We have to stand to protect ourselves and those cannot speak for themselves.

When the President of the United States came to Cannonball, I did not ask him for anything. I tried to let his wife, Michelle and him, see for themselves a little of our reality. They saw our people in our happiest times, singing and dancing, but they also heard the tough reality of life for so many of our youth.

I believe both were impacted but knowing what I know now, I wish I would have asked President Obama to help us in this struggle.

I will pass away someday, which is all part of the Creator’s plan, but I have a son and daughter. I have no doubt that they will give me grandchildren. What will we leave for our grandchildren? Poisoned water? The substance of Life! In my language, we describe water as the source of Life. We say Mni Wiconi!

My Tribe asks how can we live with ourselves if we don’t respect the rights and needs of our future generations?

Today I realize that everything happens for a reason. Although I didn’t ask the President for a dime, I see our people are peacefully speaking out in a good way now. This is hugely important to my Tribe and all of our Tribal Nations. This peaceful demonstration is a cry to stop the desecration of land and water.

I pray that the powers that be, hear our prayer because all this behavior we are exhibiting is a prayer on our part.

Thank you for listening and enjoy your families, your children and grandchildren.

To Join in the Struggle

EcoUnionist News #118 - #NoDAPL Resistance

Compiled by x344543 and x378016 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 24, 2016

From Democracy Now: "In North Dakota, more than a thousand indigenous activists from different tribes have converged at the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, where protesters are blocking construction of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Protesters say the pipeline would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River, which provides water not only for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, but for millions of people downstream.

Native Activist Winona LaDuke: Pipeline Company Enbridge Has No Right to Destroy Our Future – Winona LaDuke interviewed by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, August 23, 2016

Excerpt from the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Last month, Winona, the Laborers’ International Union of North America endorsed the Dakota Access pipeline. Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA, said in a statement, quote, "The men and women of LIUNA applaud the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its fair and thorough review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. ... For the highly skilled and trained men and women of LIUNA, projects like the Dakota Access are more than just pipelines. They are crucial lifelines to family-supporting jobs," they said. Laborers Local 563 business agent Cory Bryson said, quote, "We’ve been inundated with calls from all over the country from people wanting to work on this pipeline project. Mainline pipeline projects like Dakota Access provide excellent working opportunities for our members and tremendous wages." Your response, Winona LaDuke?

WINONA LADUKE: My response is that the United States has a D in infrastructure. That’s why bridges collapse. That’s why Flint, Michigan, has a problem. That’s why everything is eroding in this country. And what we need is those skilled laborers to be put to work, pipelines for people. I’m saying take those pipes that are sitting there in northern Minnesota, and send them to Flint, Michigan. They need billions of dollars’ worth of pipe infrastructure out there. We don’t need any pipes in northern Minnesota. I say that most of our Indian reservations don’t have adequate infrastructure. We’d like a little help with our water and sewer systems there. I am all for organized labor, but what I want is I want pipelines, I want infrastructure, for people, not for fossil fuels, not for oil companies. So I am all for that. There are plenty of people that could be put to work. And it’s five times as many jobs doing infrastructure for communities, doing for people, than one shot throw a pipe down and hope it works out for you. So I’m asking American labor to stand with us and to say we want pipelines, we want infrastructure, that goes for people, that goes for communities, and not for oil companies that are going to destroy our environment and cause more climate change destruction to our planet.

LaDuke is correct, as the folks at Labor Network for Sustainability pointed three years ago in reference to the Keystone XL Pipeline (see The Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy - by Kristen Sheeran, et. al., Labor Network for Sustainability, 2013). There's absolutely no reason for the Building Trades to needlessly hitch their wagons to this extractivist capitalist boondoggle.

Iww member and camper and organizer against the pipeline had this to say:

"we need the support of people now more than ever and there are numerous ways you can support. The health of the land is a human rights issue and a labor issue. The labor movement must stand firmly against the attempts of the capitalist class to pull the people into false solutions that only mean unsustainable jobs and practices that will do nothing to alleviate the hardships of working people during this current economic downturn. We should be pushing alternatives for ways to improve our communities and heal the land, not destroy the very land base we depend on for survival. There are no jobs on a dead planet."

To Join in the Struggle

No Coal in Oakland: a Report on the Campaign

By Margaret Rossoff - No Coal in Oakland, August 2016; image by Brooke Anderson

Many activists have expressed interest in an account of how the No Coal in Oakland campaign was organized.  This article is a response, but is not a history.  It is structured thematically rather than chronologically, and the many amazing activists and organizers are not identified by name.  Some of our initiatives came from organizations and some came from individual activists, but this account does not attempt to credit them, as every idea became a shared project.  Unlike just about every document during the campaign, this is not a collectively written piece.  It was significantly improved by careful readings by several people, for which I am very grateful, but I am responsible for all errors and omissions.  I expect—and hope–others will be writing their own accounts from a variety of perspectives.

I have included many links for documents referred to in this account.  For general background about the campaign, go to NoCoalinOakland.info.  A guide to acronyms is at the end of the article.

Margaret Rossoff
margaretmft@gmail.com

Strategy

No Coal in Oakland’s campaign was focused on persuading the members of the Oakland City Council to ban storage and handling of coal at a bulk export marine terminal to be built on City-owned land.  This would effectively prevent the transport of coal through Oakland and other cities along the rail lines as well as the shipment of coal overseas.

  • Our campaign to get the council members to vote for the ban had several components.  The primary ones were:
  • Direct lobbying with council members.
  • Outreach to Oakland residents, including particularly West Oakland residents and participants in community groups.  This was intended both to influence elected officials through popular opposition, and because we saw our campaign as part of building the larger movement for environmental justice and to contain climate disruption.
  • Insuring that evidence of the dangers of coal was adequately documented and presented to the council, including rebutting misleading claims by the developers.
  • Exploring other routes that might also lead to keeping coal out of Oakland.

This article focuses primarily on the first two aspects of our campaign. 

California’s Clean Energy Revolution: More Than Just Jobs; Study finds Renewables Portfolio Standard brings worker training, living wages, good benefits

By Betony Jones, Dr. Carol Zabin, and Jeremy Smith - UC Labor Center, July 12, 2016

California’s leadership on climate policy solutions has brought much attention to the quantity of jobs created in the state’s renewable energy industry. Yet the quality of those jobs has largely remained a mystery, and clean energy jobs aren’t automatically good jobs. A new UC Berkeley report released this morning at a press conference at the IBEW-NECA Sacramento Area Electrical Training Center finds that California’s principal climate policy, the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), has created good jobs with a career path for non-college bound workers. This is a virtuous cycle: the renewable projects create paid training for workers through state-certified apprenticeship programs, and they help fund the training of future workers through joint employer and employee contributions made for every hour worked.

The report finds that the RPS has created a “high road” renewable energy industry, which contrasts markedly with “low road” strategies of states such as Texas in which job training is rare, wages are low and benefits often nonexistent.

What’s more, the high-quality jobs resulting from California’s RPS largely have been created in regions of the state where they are most needed, with high unemployment and low income.

The report, “The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future,” was published by the Donald Vial Center for Employment in the Green Economy, part of the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

“What’s unique about California is that the boom in renewables has created quality jobs that lead to real careers,” said Betony Jones, Associate Chair of the Donald Vial Center and a co-author of the report. “These are not just jobs to get by. Workers on these projects are getting health care, pension contributions, and paid comprehensive training that leads to career stability,” she said.

“This benefit package helps maintain a skilled workforce that benefits not only the construction industry but also the state’s broader economy,” said Dr. Carol Zabin, co-author of the report.

Senator Kevin de León remarked, “This research offers powerful new evidence of the positive economic impact California’s climate policies are having for blue-collar working families across our state, especially in our most disadvantaged communities. California is poised to build on this success over the coming years with even more ambitious goals for clean energy generation established under Senate Bill 350.”

Jose Muñoz, a journeyman electrician and father of three from Calexico, has worked on several commercial-scale solar projects, wind farms and energy storage projects in San Diego and Imperial Counties since 2006. “The benefits and training that come with these jobs are the most important things,” he said. “One job site can have about 600 electricians and lot of those are local guys who come from fast food jobs or working in the fields,” said Muñoz. “They have never had benefits for themselves and their families before.”

Key Findings:
The report calculated the following effects of California’s RPS from 2002-2015:

  • Creation of 25,500 blue-collar job-years (about 53 million hours of blue-collar construction work), with greatest job gains in counties such as Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial, where unemployment rates are far above the state average and income is far below average.
  • California’s Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley together have seen 65% of these jobs.
  • Almost all the large-scale renewable projects are built under project labor agreements, which provide union pay rates, health insurance and pension programs for all workers, whether or not their employers are union.
  • Utility-scale photovoltaic construction projects have funded 1,700 apprentices, providing them with earn-while-you learn classroom and on-the-job training, and putting them on a pathway to mastery of their trade and a middle-class career.
  • This high-road construction industry not only provides full family health care and retirement benefits, but also is the primary funder of the apprenticeship training system, with the state paying only a portion of the classroom training.
  • In contrast, the renewable energy construction industries in other states such as Texas or Arizona are more commonly non-union, provide lower wages, do not participate in apprenticeships, and lack health care and retirement benefits.

More Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 26, 2016

Author's note: this article is an update to an earlier piece, titled Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland.

Update: The City of Oakland voted 7-0, with one member absent, to ban coal handling, storage, and exports in the Port of Oakland on Monday, June 27, 2016. Over 50 union members supporting the ban on coal were present, and many spoke in favor of the ban.

As the No Coal in Oakland campaign comes to its climax, a vote by the Oakland City Council on whether or not to ban the storage and handling of coal exports (originating from coal mined in Utah) through the Port of Oakland, the developers who had hoped to sneak this plan through unnoticed by all, are pulling out all of the stops to try and salvage their failing schemes that have, thus far, blown up in their faces.

(Rather than recap all of the numerous details of this campaign here, readers are encouraged to visit the official No Coal in Oakland site as well as the No Coal in Oakland archives, maintained by members of the Sunflower Alliance, one of the No Coal in Oakland coalition members.)

One of the persistent lies, regurgitated again and again by the developers, is the claim that those of us who oppose coal exports are anti-jobs, anti-worker, and anti-union. This is complete nonsense.

For the record, many of the principal organizers with No Coal in Oakland are current or retired union members themselves. Additionally, a total of twenty-one Bay Area unions have gone on record opposing coal exports through this proposed facility (but these same unions are not opposed to an export terminal itself, or the exports of non-fossil fuel commodities, of which there are several tens of thousand potential options, all of which would create just as many jobs, if not more so, than coal exports).

These 21 unions include two unions to which this author belongs (the Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW and the San Francisco Region of the Inland Boatman's Union (IBU), an affiliate of the ILWU).

They also include unions representing workers in the port of Oakland, including the aforementioned IBU as well as ILWU Locals 6, 10, and 34, and SEIU 1021. (For a complete list of those that have pledged their opposition to coal exports, see this page, but note that some of the unions are listed in categories other than "Labor Unions"), and many more.

Furthermore, in September of 2015, the Alameda County Central Labor Council passed a resolution opposing coal exports.

Various union members and officials--in coalition with residents, environmentalists, public health providers, faith leaders, community leaders, small business owners, educators, and students--have spoken out against coal at City Council meeting after City Council meeting. They've lead canvassing efforts to raise awareness about the environmental and public health dangers of coal among Oakland's neighborhoods. They've organized several events to drum up support for the No Coal campaign, including a very successful and well attended picnic and community forum at a neighborhood park on May 21, 2016.

The coalition has demonstrated its dedication to intersectionality by supporting Black Lives Matter, the Anti-displacement coalition, and the Fight For $15 campaigns. The No Coal in Oakland campaign is composed predominantly of working people and working class retirees (though there are some small business people involved in the campaign as well). The coalition members share a commitment to a clean, livable, affordable, multi-ethnic and inclusive Oakland with good paying union jobs.

In fact, the No Coal in Oakland campaign has been nothing short of exemplary in the matter of green unionism.

It is the height of hypocrisy and cynicism for the project developers to claim that the No Coal in Oakland campaign is anti-jobs.

Meanwhile, the supposed "union" and "worker" support for coal exports, in classic yellow unionism fashion, is nothing more than an astroturf front group for the capitalist developers profiteering ambitions. The few unions whose officials support the project (namely the Teamsters and Building Trades) are hardly bastions of democratic, rank and file driven unionism. The Teamsters remain highly divided, with the local leadership (which is largely aligned with Jimmy Hoffa Jr's faction) opposed by a sizable Teamsters for a Democratic Union opposition faction (though this faction has not taken a stand on the matter of coal).

As detailed in the previous installment in this series, Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland, the developer has already attempted to create the illusion of grassroots rank and file union member "support" (mostly from non-English speaking Laborers' Union members) for coal exports at a City Council meeting on September 21, 2015, timed deliberately to undermine the Alameda County Central Labor Council's resolution against coal exports, but the attempt failed miserably, as the rank and file workers admitted to the assembled media reporters that they were being used. (The pro-coal developers later also tried the same stunt with a small group of faith leaders--who, as it turns out, has essentially taken bribes from the developer to support coal exports--when a much larger group of faith leaders spoke out against coal).

None of the developer's subterfuge should be surprising, given the amount of dirt and conflicts of interest the No Coal in Oakland campaign has been able to dig up--including the fact that the developer has a direct financial connection to Bowie Resources, the (non union) mining company that will be extracting the coal in the first place, or that California Governor Jerry Brown, himself, has a deeply entwined financial relationship with Phil Tagami, the speculator driving this project. (again, for the sake of brevity, all of these details are left to the readers to explore for themselves on the No Coal in Oakland site).

Furthermore, it's not surprising that the developer is still trying to create the illusion of community and worker support for coal exports.

Communities Unite to Fight Coal in Oakland

By Eric K. Arnold - Reimagine, March 2016

Coal, once the staple of American industrial production, may be on its last legs. With domestic production showing a long-term decline, the fossil fuel’s days appear to be numbered.

According to the most recent annual report [1] of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2013, U.S. coal production fell below two billion short tons for the first time in two decades; coal mining capacity decreased, as did the average number of coal mine employees, the average sales price of coal, and total U.S. coal stocks. In April of 2015, the EIA projected coal would hit a 28-year low, reflecting significant drops in domestic demand and exports. In August, Goldman Sachs divested itself of its coal holdings; a month later, it issued a gloomy forecast[2] for coal’s future, stating, “the industry does not require new investment,” dashing hopes for a miraculous upturn in the coal market. A report[3] by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) noted that 26 domestic coal companies have recently gone into bankruptcy proceedings; and coal’s value on the Dow Jones index dropped by 76 percent between 2009-14 (a period when the overall Dow index went up 69 percent).

According to CTI, domestic energy generation has remained flat for the past decade but energy sources have shifted: coal and oil are down, but natural gas and renewable energy are up. America’s largest coal producers are recording annual losses in the billions of dollars, while Chinese coal demand has slumped and new environmental regulations[4] aimed at significantly reducing air pollution and increasing wind and solar consumption are being phased in by the Chinese government. Additionally, all federal coal leasing is currently under moratorium until a comprehensive review can be completed. As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted[5] in its online magazine, OnEarth, “it would be difficult to overstate the industry’s current distress.”

This is scary news for the coal industry, yet a welcome announcement for environmentalists who have waged national campaigns against coal for decades. These desperate times for coal producers have led to desperate measures. Their last hope, it would seem, is to increase coal’s export capacity by transporting the black gunk through West Coast ports. But even there the pro-coal forces have met with unexpected resistance, as city after city in Oregon and Washington have mounted grassroots campaigns to deliver an emphatic message: “Say no to coal.”

The Farce of Democratic Party Climate Change Policy

By Andrew Stewart - CounterPunch, January 1, 2016

As the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak continues to spew into the air, Rhode Island’s small hamlet of Burrillvillle is now facing the chance to be the future site of such a catastrophe. With the help of a key Democratic Party endorsement and accession from labor union bosses who should know better, Rhode Island may soon host a fracked natural gas plant rather than the saner move of a sustainable electric plant.

Recently, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who is lovingly nicknamed ‘Wheldon Shitehouse’ by constituents in the know, has posed and postured around the Senate regarding climate change, browbeating and hectoring the Republican denialists with all the pomp and circumstance of the pontificating charlatan he is. One of Sen. Whitehouse’s claims to fame is going after the paint corporations in a lawsuit regarding lead poisoning in children, yet his recent behavior makes one wonder if he in fact consumed a fair share of paint chips in his youth.

What makes this such a joke is his adamant support of the construction of a Spectra Energy natural gas plant in Burriville. My colleague Steve Ahlquist at RIFuture.org, a better journalist and investigative reporter than I will ever be, has done a truly amazing amount of muckraking on this issue that shows the calamity in construction, reporting I would highly encourage CounterPunch readers to peruse at their leisure, including ones about whistleblowing regarding corporate pollution and protests by residents willing to go to jail. What I offer here is a mere summary.

Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 11, 2015

Author's Note: This article is a sequel of sorts to my previous piece, Unions and the Climate Justice Movement, which briefly mentions the No Coal in Oakland campaign. The image, depicted at the right, compares a pro-capitalist-logging poster (yellow, near right) ostensibly created by timber workers (but actually crafted by the employers) to mobilize support for a counter-demonstration to a rally and march, held in Fort Bragg in July 1990, organized by the Redwood Summer coalition (which included timber workers). The green poster (far right), represents the Redwood Summer coalition's response, and accurately summarizes their position on timber workers and timber jobs.

At first glance, the Oakland City Council meeting, held on September 21, 2015 looked much like many public hearings where public opposition had organized in response to the plans, practices, or proposals of capitalist interests that threatened the environment. For most of the evening, and well into the night, council members and the Mayor watched and listened as speaker after speaker (out of a total of over 500) either spoke in favor (or against) coal exports or ceded their time to their allies. On one side were a widely diverse group of activists, organized by a coalition known as No Coal in Oakland-- adorned in red (union made and printed) T-shirts--opposed to plans to export coal through a proposed Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), as part of the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center (or Oakland Global), and on the other were the project's supporters, dressed in business attire accompanied by several dozen union workers, many of them from the Laborers' Union, dressed in yellow.  As is often the case, the project's supporters tried to frame the opposition as being composed of insensitive outsiders, and themselves and the supporting "workers" as placing the economic interests of Oakland and its residents above all else. "We support good paying union jobs that will help the struggling, predominantly African-American residents of west Oakland" opined the supporters, trying to suggest that those in opposition didn't.

This is an old, and shopworn script, that has been trotted out numerous times in the past quarter century or more. Anyone who has experienced or studied the "Timber Wars" that took place in the Pacific Northwest during the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s will recall the armies of loggers and mill-workers decked out in yellow shirts, sporting yellow foam car radio antennae balls or yellow ribbons who would show up en massé (at the behest of their employers, often with pay) to oppose limits to clear-cutting or protections for the Northern Spotted Owl and to denounce (often) green shirted environmentalists as "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" and/or upper middle class "elitists" (or--defying logic--both). Sometimes, in drawn out campaigns, the employers have often furthered this illusion by creating false front "Astroturf" groups, ostensibly composed of workers, to distract attention away from themselves.

The truth is far much more complex and nuanced, of course. Usually the "jobs" promised by the projects' supporters often don't materialize (indeed, the opposite--namely automation, downsizing, and outsourcing--usually occurs). Those in opposition to environmentally destructive practices and proposals are usually composed of and led by locals, most of whom are, themselves, gainfully employed, and sympathetic to the needs and concerns of the affected workers (in fact, the opposition's counter proposals, if well thought out, do more to create "jobs" and job security than those in support of the project). Meanwhile, the actual level of support among the rank and file workers purportedly backing up the capitalists interests could accurately be described as a mile wide and an inch deep, at best. And the bosses? When they speak of jobs, they actually refer to profits. Nevertheless, in the past, the capitalist media has typically and dutifully reported that these projects are opposed by "green clad environmentalists" (or red in this particular case) and supported by "yellow clad workers" (often neglecting to draw any distinction between the workers and their employers).

Therefore, it is both surprising and refreshing, that in spite of the attempts by the employing class to replay that same script on September 21, 2015 in Oakland, the attempt backfired, due to the diligent and tireless organizing by their grassroots opposition. A closer examination of what happened, and how the opposition organized, will illustrate why this is so and how others can duplicate the organizers' efforts to defeat further attempts by capitalist interests to use divide and conquer tactics to push their climate and environment (not-to-mention job) destroying projects through.

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