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Safe and Sustainable Rail

No Climate Justice Without Workplace Justice!

By Tahir Latif Secretary, Greener Jobs Alliance - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 23, 2022

The industrial action currently being taken by the RMT is a source of hope and inspiration for workers across the country. But it is also action aimed at a more sustainable transport system that works for people and planet. The Greener Jobs Alliance fully endorses the statement set out here, produced by the Climate Justice Coalition.

“The Climate Justice Coalition stands in solidarity with RMT members taking industrial action to protect their pay, jobs and working conditions, and the wider fight to protect a public transport system for people – social need – not private greed. Billions are being cut from our transport system at a time when we should be increasing investment to ensure a fully public, affordable, and integrated transport system. Rail is critical to decarbonising the transport sector; £27 billion for more new roads and cutting duty on domestic aviation is the wrong way round.

Our railways are already being impacted by the effects of climate change, putting additional demands on a stretched workforce providing an essential public service. This action by the Government is symptomatic of their disregard for the concerns of climate, environment and workers.

As a coalition representing groups within climate and environmental campaigns, faith, race and social justice groups, and trade unions, we call on you all to support this struggle. This includes adding our voices to resist the anti-trade union and worker narrative being driven by the Government in the mainstream media and publicise that it is their inaction and behaviour that is detrimental to people, not workers seeking justice.

Inaction on climate change is harming innocent people across the globe. Protecting the rights of workers and living standards must be a priority for the climate justice movement in fighting for a Just Transition to a zero-carbon economy.

We stand with the RMT to fight for their aims, and to campaign for a better deal for workers and a fairer, climate just, society.”

For a Living Wage and a Habitable Planet, We Need Climate Jobs Programs

By Paul Prescod - Jacobin, June 2, 2022

Climate and labor activists are coming together to hammer out ambitious but realistic plans for massively expanding the clean-energy sector in a way that also creates good union jobs. For both paychecks and the planet, it’s the only path forward.

The stalling of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda raises serious concerns for those looking to the federal government for strong action on climate change. Much of the more ambitious climate-related aspects of the legislation have already been gutted — and the fact that it still can’t pass a Congress with a Democratic majority is a worrying sign for the future.

But despite the dysfunction at the federal level, there are encouraging developments occurring at the state level. Increasingly, climate and labor activists are coming together to hammer out ambitious but realistic plans for massively expanding the clean-energy sector in a way that creates family-sustaining union jobs.

These state-based efforts are often facilitated by the Climate Jobs National Resource Center. States like New York, Connecticut and Maine have managed to get real buy-in from the building trades on a vision that defies the false jobs versus environment dichotomy. Recently, the Illinois legislature passed landmark climate legislation that puts the state on a path to reaching 100 percent clean energy by 2050, all with the full support of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Rhode Island has now joined the party. Earlier this year Climate Jobs Rhode Island, a broad labor-environmental coalition, released a report titled “Building a Just Transition for a Resilient Future: A Climate Jobs Program for Rhode Island.” The report, compiled in partnership with the Worker Institute at Cornell, takes a comprehensive approach to limiting carbon emissions — containing recommendations on retrofits, public transportation, renewable energy, and climate resilience.

The Rhode Island initiative is a good model for activists in other states to consider. In addition to meaningfully addressing climate change, there’s no doubt that this program would result in the creation of tens of thousands union jobs. It points the way forward for both the climate and labor movements, which must join together in order for the working class to have any hope of a sustainable future.

Building Our New Electric Fleet

By Harold Meyerson - Resistance Committee, May 31, 2022

Today on TAP: In a signal victory last week, an activist group prevailed on a major bus manufacturer to hire its workers from local, historically disadvantaged communities.

In 1997, after a campaign of several years’ duration, the Los Angeles City Council voted to establish the nation’s first living wage ordinance. Under its terms, businesses with which the city had contracted to do its work—for which the city’s taxpayers were footing the bill—were required to pay their employees a specified, decent wage, as well as offering them a modicum of benefits.

The ordinance, and the campaign that pressured the council to enact it, were the brainstorm of Madeline Janis, the attorney who’d founded and led the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “Taxpayers should not be subsidizing poverty-wage jobs,” Janis argued.

At roughly the same time, in tandem with another progressive community organization, LAANE also persuaded a number of local developers to sign community benefits agreements (CBAs), which obligated those developers to hire local residents—in effect, disproportionately minorities and women—on major construction projects. Previously, such projects were built by a heavily white male workforce that lived nowhere near the city’s center, even as those projects uprooted the self-same minority communities who’d lived and worked there. With the coming of CBAs, minorities began to gain much greater entry to union construction jobs that offered pay and benefits that otherwise would have remained out of reach.

Texas Union Activists Fight 'Microtransit' Privatization

By Joe DeManuelle-Hall - Labor Notes, March 8, 2022

When “microtransit,” the new rage in transit privatization, showed up in Denton, Texas, union activists decided to fight back.

Microtransit is a loosely defined term that combines on-demand service with flexible scheduling and routes—imagine replacing a bus system with shared Ubers. It is presented as a high-tech alternative to public transit, but in reality it’s an extension of the drive to privatize.

Some local governments around the country have already handed off operations of their public transit systems to large private operators like Keolis and MV Transportation. This move takes it one step further: dumping the buses and bus drivers altogether.

MICRO-PRIVATIZATION

Denton is a small city in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, home to two universities. The Denton County Transportation Authority operates buses and a light rail line in Denton and two neighboring cities.

The mayor and the transit agency began exploring alternatives to the existing transit system several years ago, nominally to save money. In 2020, Dallas’s transit system adopted a microtransit pilot, contracting with Uber to provide the service. Following their lead, Denton sought out microtransit and decided to go with a company called Via, a former competitor to Uber and Lyft that got iced out of the rideshare market and rebranded itself as a microtransit company. It has since chased after cities and counties, offering to supplant their public transit systems.

And that’s exactly what Via set out to do in Denton: replace all fixed-route bus service with on-demand vehicles driven by independent contractors who are hailed by an app. Drivers operate rented vehicles that they’re responsible for. For the DCTA, this comes with the benefit of getting rid of the existing unionized workforce and the capital investment that comes with maintaining and operating a bus system.

(Video) A Climate Jobs Plan for Rhode Island

By various - ILR Worker Institute - March 4, 2022

On Friday, March 4, researchers from Cornell University joined with leaders of the Climate Jobs RI coalition, a group of labor, climate, and community groups in Rhode Island, and discussed a new report unveiled last month that outlined a comprehensive action plan to put RI on the path to becoming the first fully decarbonized state and building an equitable, pro-worker, clean energy economy.

Watch the panel here:

Shopfloor Ecosocialism: Pumping the Brakes on Fossil Fuels

By Nicole A. Murray - Partisan, March 3, 2022

How organized labor can shift us away from dominant car culture and turn the tides of climate crisis at the point of production:

Organized labor is currently faced with the most consequential question of its life: are oil and gas commodities that workers have a right to burn for their own material benefit; or should they be left in the ground?

As an ecosocialist, the answer is clear: no more burning fossil fuels. Organized labor is in the unique position to both disrupt the deep systems that perpetuate dependence on fossil fuels and the products that run on them, while also ensuring production pivots towards the greater public good over individual personal luxury.

One system ripe for disruption is car dependence. Car-centric living requires millions of gallons of fossil fuels be burned into the air, every day, just so people can participate in society. It is a structural problem that requires a large-scale, organized solution that is clear-eyed on both the source and the results of car dependency. 

The existing pattern of development in the US in our urban, suburban and peri-urban spaces reflects an intentional plan by petro-capitalists and the state to center life around the automobile. The Federal Housing Administration subsidized low-density suburban development from the 1930s through the post-war years. Ex-urban homeownership, largely enjoyed exclusively by white families, boosted demand for automobiles, consumer durables, and energy consumption, thereby absorbing overproduction from some of the biggest industries of the time: the oil and automotive industries.1 Indeed, the self-reinforcing and self-reproducing system of sprawl, cars, and gas make this system difficult to disrupt on a systemic level when the petro-capitalists are still many regions’ top employers and tax payers.

Today, car-centric systems seem fair and normal. Yet Americans collectively owe $1.37 trillion in auto loan debt — 10 times that of medical debt — to collectively burn about 350 millions gallons of finished motor gasoline into the air per day,2 dwarfing China in terms of both per capita and total gasoline use.3 Unlike in other sectors such as energy production, global emissions in road transportation are projected to grow, and grow fast.

Make no mistake: it’s the system of automobility as a whole that is unsustainable, not individual use and consumption. Even advances in efficiency, including electrification (electric vehicles) will be wiped out by more widespread adoption especially as auto manufacturers open up markets in the global south.

Workers and Riders Unite for Transit Equity Day

By Bakari Height - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 2022

For the past four years on February 4, Labor Network for Sustainability and a network of transit rider unions, community organizations, environmental groups and labor unions have organized Transit Equity Day (TED)–a national day of action to commemorate the birthday of Rosa Parks by declaring public transit a civil right. This year, TED made a big splash. Two states (Wisconsin and Minnesota) passed formal proclamations that declared February 4th Transit Equity Day—as did dozens of cities. Local transit activists organized more than 60 events across the country, LNS hosted a massive livestream, and we launched a transit equity workforce investment report with some of our partners!

This year, Transit Equity Day showcased many of the local transit organizers and their heroic efforts in making sure that Transit Equity remains a top priority in planning and maintaining our transit systems. Whether it was Fort Wayne, Indiana, Buffalo, New York, Atlanta, or Wisconsin, our network put Transit Equity front and center. And thanks for special guest appearances by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Department of Transportation Administrator Nuria Fernandez – see the Secretary interview the Administrator at https://twitter.com/SecretaryPete/status/1489634427630141444?s=20&t=EJ9WFljXJeUkxa35CtziSg

Let’s continue to make our voices louder and our presence stronger.

Jobs not Planes

By Brendan Montague - The Ecologist - February 23, 2022

Investment in reducing emissions from aviation and expanding green transport in the UK would create hundreds of thousands more jobs and cost less than the support given to the industry during the covid crisis, according to a new report from climate charity Possible and employment think tank Autonomy.

An annual cost of £9.5bn would allow investment in technological developments to reduce emissions from aviation, along with an expansion in the rail network to allow people to travel without flying.

A move to rail, low-emissions ferries, domestic tourism, aviation research and development and cleaner fuels generated from electricity to reduce emissions from flights could create a net increase of between 280,000 and 340,000 jobs.

Retrain

Despite receiving a £12bn bailout, including £750m from the Covid Jobs Retention Scheme, the aviation industry cut more than 46,000 jobs during the pandemic.

The report calls on the UK Government to stop giving taxpayer-backed handouts to the industry, and instead put in place policies to reduce flights to protect the climate and start creating environmentally sustainable jobs for the future, given the aviation industry’s poor record on protecting jobs as well as increasing emissions.

A new survey of more than 1,000 people working in aviation also included in the report found that just 21 percent of respondents thought that the industry offered them secure employment for the future.

Possible is also calling for a “right to retrain” scheme to support people working in aviation who would like to move into lower-carbon sectors, and a frequent flyer levy to fairly reduce demand for flights while raising funds to invest in low-carbon transport.

Transit Workers Deserve Hazard Pay

By Joty Dhaliwal and Nathan Swedlow - Labor Notes, February 15, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, transit workers have kept our cities in motion. In California’s East Bay, even when most residents were isolating at home, AC Transit bus operators were on the front lines ensuring that people could get where they needed to go, including to other essential jobs.

Bus operators spend hours every day in close contact with strangers. More than 200 transit workers have perished from Covid, including members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union.

Despite this tragedy, and while it has touted their essential work in the press, AC Transit has yet to award hazard pay to front-line employees. The agency currently has a budget surplus of well over $66 million dollars, thanks to the federal relief money it received.

The following photographs and testimonials are taken from four interviews where members of East Bay Democratic Socialists of America spoke with AC Transit bus operators about their experiences on the front lines of the pandemic and the largely unacknowledged sacrifices and risks that come with the job.

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