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Interview - The Politics of Going Green

Chris Williams and Robert Pollin interviewed by Jessica Desvarieux - The Real News Network, July 30, 2014

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

Biography

Chris Williams is a long-time environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University, in the Department of Chemistry and Physical Science. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, including TruthOut, Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateAndCapitalism, ClimateStoryTellers, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Socialist Worker, and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima in 2011 and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas over the summer of 2012, where he began work on his second book. He was awarded the Lannan 2013-4 Cultural Freedom Fellowship to continue this work. He has just returned from four months in Vietnam, Morocco and Bolivia, examining the impact of economic development and climate change in relation to energy, food and water issues.

Robert Pollin is professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI). His research centers on macroeconomics, conditions for low-wage workers in the US and globally, the analysis of financial markets, and the economics of building a clean-energy economy in the US. His latest book is Back to Full Employment. Other books include A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States and Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity.

Public Transit Still isn’t Safe for Women, but we Can Change That

By Eve Andrews - Grist, July 3, 2014

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

The other day, I was talking to my dad on the phone about an essay I wrote about sexual harassment in a warming world.

“Honey,” he said, “I thought it was great – but where did you get the idea to write about something like that?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Personal experience, I guess.”

“You mean men say things like that to you? Just walking down the street?”

Well, no — not just walking down the street, but also on the bus, in parks, and even in the Twittersphere. I suppose no father wants to think of his little girl being talked to that way, but I was shocked that it had never occurred to him because for me and billions of other women all over the world, it’s such a constant reality. I started thinking more about how, as a woman, my right to exist peacefully and safely in public spaces is compromised on a fairly regular basis. And I know that I’m not alone, which is why I’m still writing about it.

US Workers Demand Investment in Urban Public Transport

Statement from the International Transportworker Federation (ITF) - May 21, 2014

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

Around 1,000 public transport workers from 40 states gathered in Washington DC, USA on 20 May to demand more investment in metros and buses in the country’s cities and towns.

At the rally, leaders of two ITF affiliates – the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) – joined their members, legislators in the US Senate and Congress and other ‘Fund Transit’ campaign supporters to demand that the federal puts more money into better, safer transport for workers and passengers.

It was the centerpiece of a series of national activities for the ATU’s May Transit Action Month.

Afterwards campaigners descended on Capitol Hill offices to visit Members of Congress to urge increased funding for public transport in the nation’s transportation funding law, which is set to expire 1 October. The trust fund enabled by the legislation will run out of money to pay for highway and transit projects in August.

Addressing the workers at the rally, Mac Urata, ITF inland transport section secretary, said: “You are not alone in your fight.

Public transit systems and their workers are under attack all over the world because of privatisation and deregulation.

Workers’ rights and working conditions are being undermined and the travelling public see multinationals making profits while integrated transport systems are broken up.

The ITF and its affiliates stand together with you in your campaign.

Transit Irony: The More You Rely on It, the More They Cut

By Samantha Winslow - LaborNotes, May 1, 2014

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

On the other side of town, workers wait at bus stops. The buses that carry them to work come less and less frequently, thanks to service cuts. Drivers struggle to get through their routes in less time.

Both scenarios are part of a promising trend: transit ridership is at its highest since 1956, with 10.7 million trips in 2013, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

This is despite widespread cuts to bus and rail service—and rising fares. The 2008 economic crisis started the pinch, but federal and local officials have continued to squeeze.

Yet “young people are rejecting cars in record numbers; they are moving to urban America,” Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley said at the recent Labor Notes Conference.

Whether the spike in rider numbers is caused by environmental consciousness, urbanization, or belt-tightening, clearly it calls for more transit funds, both for more frequent service and for infrastructure—not for cutbacks.

And the spending needs to be spread across our communities—not target one area at the expense of another.

Why Passengers Cheered a Vermont Bus Strike

By Ellen David Friedman - Labor Notes, April 22, 2014

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

An 18-day bus drivers’ strike in Burlington, Vermont, ended in a win April 3 when drivers ratified a new contract 53-6.

Strikes are rare these days, and fewer still result in victories—so why was this one different? What generated public support for the strike, despite management’s aggressive plan to blame drivers for the loss of bus service for nearly three weeks?

This strike succeeded through a powerful combination of workers organizing on the job and organized community solidarity, the roots of which go back to at least 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By x344543 and x363464 - October 1, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labor’s Route to a New Transportation System: How Federal Transportation Policy Can Create Good Jobs, First-Rate Mobility, and Environmentally Sustainable Communities

By staff - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, July 2011

Federal transportation policy is set every five to six years through the Surface Transportation Authorization Act. This policy largely shapes investment in our nation’s transportation system. Currently, only unions whose members are employed in the transport sector play a role in trying to influence federal transportation legislation, but the Reauthorization Act is hugely important to all union members and working people. The current legislation, Safe, Accountable, Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA -LU ) expires September 30, 2011. The reauthorization of federal transportation policy presents an important opportunity for union leaders and members to advocate for key policy reforms that will create good union jobs, defend and expand the role of the public sector in transportation, provide safe and affordable mobility to working families and reduce the transport sector’s contribution to air pollution and climate change.

The state of the U.S. transportation system determines working families’ access to affordable, high-quality mobility and, in turn, their ability to meet essential needs such as getting to work, school, medical services, recreation and more. The maintenance and operation of private vehicles consumes a growing portion of working families’ household budgets and puts owning and operating a vehicle completely out of reach for some. The impact of rising gas prices on working families’ mobility exacerbates the fact that only 50% of Americans have access to public transit. (need citation) Furthermore, in response to budget shortfalls, local governments have increased fares, laid off workers, reduced transit services and offered up public transit systems to privatization.

Read the text (PDF).

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