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Momentive strikers bring their message to NYC

By Tim Goulet - Socialist Worker, January 19, 2017

BUSLOADS OF striking workers from Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, New York, arrived in New York City on January 13 to rally outside the offices of Apollo Global Management, the billionaire hedge fund that owns a majority of the company.

Workers hand-delivered a petition with 4,000 signatures from their community demanding Apollo negotiate a fair contract immediately.

The 700 workers at Momentive, members of IUE-CWA Local 81359, have been on strike since November 2, when the company tried to impose steep cuts in pay and medical and retirement benefits. Some 86 percent of the workers rejected the company's offer. Two days into the strike, management tried to offer a similar deal, which was rejected again by a similarly lopsided vote of 476 to 190.

Mike Harrington was one of the strikers who took the trip to Manhattan. "I went Friday to hopefully get the attention of the executives at Apollo, so they can see the faces of the people that their decisions affect," Harrington said. "I have also been overwhelmed by the support of others standing with us. So standing united with them was great."

The approximately 60 Momentive strikers who made the trip were joined by hundreds of people protesting in solidarity. Among them were local trade unionists--many of them from CWA District One--individual activists, and socialist organizations such as the International Socialist Organization and Democratic Socialists of America.

When a nearby rally for health care justice called by National Nurses United converged with the strikers, the protest nearly doubled in size.

Union leaders led chants such as "What's disgusting? Union busting," while strikers held signs calling out Apollo CEO Leon Black, who is worth an estimated $5.1 billion and is ranked 45th on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.

There is also a notable political dynamic to the strike. The Blackstone Group, another New York City-based hedge fund, holds a 7-percent ownership stake in Momentive. Blackstone, one of the largest hedge funds in the world, holding assets valued at over $300 billion, is run by Steve Schwarzman, President-elect Donald Trump's hand-picked chairman of a new council of strategic advisers that will aid the president on jobs, growth and productivity.

The Momentive strike should undoubtedly be seen in the context of an impending attack on unions and working-class living standards that will most certainly be the policy of a Trump administration. Schwarzman himself has stated that the Trump White House will likely pursue corporate tax cuts and further deregulation of industry.

The problem is not glyphosate, or DDT, or BPA; we must challenge the entire system!

By Jonathan Latham, PhD - The Ecologist, May 20, 2016

Piecemeal, and at long last, chemical manufacturers have begun removing the endocrine-disrupting plastic bisphenol-A (BPA) from products they sell.

Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned BPA from baby bottles.

These bans and associated product withdrawals are the result of epic scientific research and some intensive environmental campaigning. But in truth these restrictions are not victories for human health. Nor are they even losses for the chemical industry.

For one thing, the chemical industry now profits from selling premium-priced BPA-free products. These are usually made with the chemical substitute BPS, which current research suggests is even more of a health hazard than BPA. But since BPS is far less studied, it will likely take many years to build a sufficient case for a new ban.

But the true scandal of BPA is that such sagas have been repeated many times. Time and again, synthetic chemicals have been banned or withdrawn only to be replaced by others that are equally harmful, and sometimes are worse.

Neonicotinoids, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) credits with creating a global ecological catastrophe, are modern replacements for long-targeted organophosphate pesticides. Organophosphates had previously supplanted DDT and the other organochlorine pesticides from whose effects many bird species are only now recovering.

The same is likely to happen with glyphosate - whose authorisation the EU notably failed to renew yesterday. If the EU does ban the herbicide in the next few months, the most likely outcome by far is that farmers will reach for another bottle. They will only spray 2,4-D, dicamba and glufosinate (phosphinothricin) instead.

EcoUnionist News #52

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 16, 2015

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

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

Lead Stories:

Fracking the EPA:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

1267-Watch:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

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

Chemical Plant Where 4 Workers Died Hadn’t Had Workplace Safety Inspection In 7 Years

By Bryce Covett - Think Progress, November 17, 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 Saturday morning, four workers died at a DuPont chemical plant that manufactures the pesticide Lannate in La Porte, Texas after a leak of the poisonous gas methyl mercaptan. A fifth was hospitalized but later released. The plant hasn’t been visited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2007.

Such a deadly accident without an explosion or fire is unusual, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Methyl mercaptan is subject to a number of federal environmental and safety regulations. But those regulations did not ensure that the plant was a safe place to work. It was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) seven years ago, when it was issued two serious violations for the safe management of highly hazardous chemicals, which could result in toxic or explosive risks. It was fined $1,700 for one and $1,800 for the other, although the latter was later reduced to $1,700.

The plant is also out of compliance with hazardous waste management and air emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The agency brought formal enforcement actions against it for violations in 2012 and 2014, resulting in $117,375 in penalties. DuPont is also in discussions with the EPA and Justice Department about these issues at the La Porte plant, which began after a 2008 inspection.

And over the last five years, the plant was cited for violating state law at least two dozen times by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, according to a review of state records by the Texas Tribune, for failures related to performing routine safety inspections, keeping equipment in working order, and preventing pollution leaks. Most recently, it released 36,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide over the course of three hours in September, well above the allowed limit, and in August last year it leaked 40 pounds of chlorine. Some of the more serious citations resulted in fines of a few thousand dollars.

Four Killed After Dupont Plant Leaks Chemical Found in Pesticides and Insecticides

Staff Report - Russia Times, November 17, 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.

Four DuPont employees were killed and another injured when a toxic chemical was spilled at its plant in La Porte, Texas, on Saturday morning. Residents of the city complained of a persistent “funny smell” after the incident.

The company would not immediately identify the victims of the spill [they've since been identified as Crystal Rae Wise, brothers Gilbert and Robert Tisnado, and Wade Baker; for details see the link, below]. The emergency started at around 4 a.m. local time. It took repair crews two hours to replace a ruptured valve in the crop protection unit and contain the chemical. The confirmation of fatalities was released 12 hours after the incident.

The chemical spilled was methyl mercaptan, or methanethiol,which is used to make feed stock for insecticides and fungicides. It is more commonly known for being added to naturally odorless propane and natural gas to give them a distinctive rotten egg smell, making leaks detectable. In high concentration it can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coma, and death.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the employees,” plant manager Randall Clements said in a statement. “There are no words to fully express the loss we feel or the concern and sympathy we extend to the families of the employees and their co-workers.”

“We will continue to cooperate with all the local authorities, and make sure that we investigate this fully and we will find the cause of this, at this point, we don’t know why this happened,” he added.

The workers were exposed to the chemical as they responded to the leak. DuPont insists that at no time were people living in the vicinity of the plant in danger.

Local residents, however, complained of a foul odor on Saturday morning.

“We are used to funny smells around here, especially when the wind is out of the north,” La Porte resident Dudley Crittendon told Click2Houston.com. “We thought something had died in the house. We started burning candles but it didn’t go away.”

La Porte is located in Harris County, about 20 miles east of Houston. DuPont’s chemical plant employs 320 people. Four other companies are also tenants at the same complex, according to AP.

For a more detailed investigation of this incident, please see Victims of DuPont in Texas, Socialist Worker, November 18, 2014

U.S. INDUSTRIAL SAFETY LAGS ALARMINGLY BEHIND DEVELOPED WORLD: U.S. Industrial Loss Burden 3 Times European Union and Gap Is Growing

Press Release - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), July 9, 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.

Washington, DC — America’s industrial infrastructure is substantially more susceptible to catastrophic failure than those in other industrialized countries, according to reports posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In certain key sectors, such as petrochemicals, aging U.S. refineries are become more dangerous with each passing month.

The combined losses from the fires, explosions and spills regularly plaguing U.S. chemical plants takes a proportionately greater toll than in the rest of the world. For example, the reinsurance giant, Swiss Re, concludes that the sum of all reinsurance losses (the “loss burden”) in refining, petrochemical processing and gas processing industry in the U.S. is approximately three times that of the comparably sized sector in the European Union (EU), with the rest of the world similar to the EU cluster.

Beyond economic losses, the toll on American workers is also higher. A study entitled “Occupational Fatality Risks in the United States and the United Kingdom” published earlier this year in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found the fatality rate of U.S. workers approximately three times that of workers in the U.K. American worker deaths from chemical exposure were more than 10 times higher than their U.K. counterparts; death by fire nearly 5 times and by explosion nearly 4 times as likely.

Rather than improving, some key U.S. industrial sectors are declining.

A Tale Of Two Explosions

By Andy Piascik - Industrial Worker, June 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.

On April 17, two days after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the West Fertilizer plant in Texas exploded. Fourteen people are known to have been killed and close to 200 were injured. Approximately 150 buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed.

For days, we were witness to nonstop media coverage of the events in Massachusetts, culminating in the arrest of Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Once Tsarnaev was in custody, our television screens were alight with footage of local residents celebrating happily in the streets, complete with chants of “USA!” Though media coverage of the events in Texas was extensive, it was nowhere near that of the pursuit and killing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the arrest of Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

The possibility that the bombing in Boston was the work of international terrorists was a major theme from the outset and the primary reason for the huge disparity in coverage of the two events. U.S. officials and media pundits have besieged us for years with the notion that we are at war, surrounded by enemies—they’re even in our midst!—so let’s be sure those SWAT teams have plenty of firepower, and by the way, let’s find another country to invade.

The explosion in Texas, on the other hand, was far less newsworthy because it was a workplace accident and workplace accidents happen all the time. And that’s precisely the point: they happen all the time. The massive BP oil spill is just three years in the past, yet it is largely forgotten by the punditocracy.

Never mind the massive ecological destruction and the 11 people who died as a result, or that not one single high-ranking BP executive or U.S. government official has been charged, let alone tried or convicted, for their deadly negligence. It’s old news and, more importantly, it’s business as usual. Similarly relegated to the “no longer newsworthy” file is Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia, which also occurred three short years ago and killed 29 miners. As with BP, no high-ranking Massey executives or government officials have been brought to trial or convicted, though the trail of deceit, cover-up, documented negligence and possible bribery is long enough to fill a phone book. Some degree of justice is still possible in the Texas case but it certainly won’t come as a result of any government or judicial vigilance. In all of these cases, as in hundreds if not thousands of others of similar magnitude, so-called oversight bodies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are so weak as to be a joke. Higher-ups who underfund and obstruct the work of such agencies are thus complicit each time a workplace blows up or burns to the ground.

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