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TUED Bulletin #68: The Invisible Crisis of Wind and Solar Energy–and the Urgent Need for a Public Approach

By Sean Sweeney and John Treat - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, December 5, 2017

Why, in a world awash with “idle capital” and in desperate need for a just energy transition to renewables-based energy systems, are global investment levels in renewable energy so obviously out of sync with climate targets?

According to a 2016 report released by the International Energy Agency, “Market-based, unsubsidised low-carbon investments have been negligable.” Without public money, the levels of modern renewable energy would be abysmally low. The tenth TUED Working Paper, Preparing a Public Pathway: Confronting the Investment Crisis in Renewable Energy describes how public money is papering over the fundamental failures of so-called “competitive” electricity markets. Public financing is increasingly being used to provide “certainties” for private companies and investors in the form of “power purchase agreements” or PPAs. PPAs make renewable energy expensive and vulnerable to the kind of political backlash we’ve seen across Europe and elsewhere. As a result, the entire energy sector becomes starved of investment and saturated in “political risk.”

“Preparing a Public Pathway” is available for download now (PDF)

From the Working Paper:

The dominant policy institutions have concluded that the market model that emerged from privatization and liberalization has proven to be an impediment to the kind of energy transition that is required. These same institutions instruct governments to increase their role as enablers of investment, by absorbing risk, providing support, and guaranteeing revenues and returns through P3s and PPAs.

The introduction of “capacity payments” speaks to the extent to which the “competitive market” is not only no longer competitive, it can no longer be usefully described as a market. Rather, we see governments, trying to ensure the energy-demand needs of the entire system are met, paying for unused electrical power—from both incumbent utilities and renewables companies—in order to ensure that all providers walk away with “returns on investment” that they (and the investors behind them) consider “satisfactory.”

One of the main goals of Preparing a Public Pathway is to provoke discussion among unions and their allies about the need to further cultivate a pro-public trade union counter-narrative that is clear, bold and persuasive, and—given the formidable nature of the challenge—offers some hope of decisively interceding in the global energy system’s worrying trajectories. Such a narrative must be able to assert, confidently and from an informed perspective, that only a planned, coordinated, publicly driven approach to investment has a credible chance of delivering the dramatically scaled up deployment of renewable power that we urgently need.

Twin Cities IWW Resolution in Solidarity with Camp Makwa and the movement for environmental justice

Adopted Unanimously by the Twin Cities IWW General Membership Branch - December 5, 2017

Whereas: On March 3rd 1991 the Line 3 pipeline caused the largest inland oil spill in US history, rupturing in Grand Rapids, Minnesota spilling 1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River; and

Whereas: In July 2010, Enbridge also spilled about a million gallons of Dilbit Oil in the Kalamazoo River when the Line 6B pipeline burst and flowed into the Talmadge Creek and then the Kalamazoo before the the spill was contained. On 29 July 2010, the Calhoun County Health Department asked 30 to 50 thousand households to evacuate, and twice as many were advised not to drink their water. Union workers cleaning up the Kalamazoo Spill have spoken against Enbridge for insufficiently cleaning up the spill which has resulted in birth defects, illness, cancer and death of both humans and animals in the area of the disaster; and

Whereas: In 2007, 2 Enbridge workers were killed in Clearbrook, Minnesota when a pinhole leak explosion sparked a huge fire and spilled 15,000 gallons of oil. Enbridge let the spill burn for three days poisoning the air of the surrounding community; and

Whereas: The Oil Industry and many other unsustainable industries sacrifice the health and safety of the working class and poor communities, especially many indigenous and communities of color. These communities are subject to environmental racism and classism and often ignored and violated during the permitting process of such projects; and

Whereas: These communities often are forced to defend themselves with direct action which puts them at greater risk of violence and incarceration from the state and private security; and

Whereas: The construction of these pipelines will contribute to the acceleration of already dangerous levels of currently existing greenhouse gas emissions which are contributing to the already dangerous effects of climate change, which could lead to a dead planet with no jobs; and

Whereas: Camp Makwa was established in August of 2017 to resist the pipeline using direct action to protect the water and natural resources such as the wild rice lakes, fishing and hunting, and farming that the Anishinaabe Tribe and working class in the area depend on. They have taken several direct actions to shut down construction of the Line 3 pipeline in Superior, Wisconsin and will resist the possible expansion in the spring. They are currently still camping during the harsh Minnesota winter.

Whereas: Neither the Line 3 Pipeline Dakota Access Pipeline, or the Keystone XL Pipeline will provide anywhere near the number of permanent union jobs the promoters of these projects promise they will, and

Whereas: More permanent union jobs can be created at union wages by decommissioning oil pipelines and upgrading water pipeline infrastructure, such as in Flint, Michigan. LIUNA and many labor unions currently have jobs working in the renewable energy sector such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric and could organize for a rapid transition of energy production and manufacturing to be safe for the workers, the surrounding communities and the environment. Though these renewable energy jobs are currently, typically non-union, trade unions if so determined, could easily develop a successful green energy organizing program, using solidarity unionism, that would revitalize the currently struggling labor movement. Far more jobs currently exist in the growing renewable energy sector than in the declining fossil fuel sector. Also these pipeline projects will not deliver the promised "energy security" or "energy independence" promised by their promoters, including the Building Trades and AFL-CIO Union officials among them and;

Whereas: Many unions, including the IWW, ILWU, ATU, APWU, LIUNA-City Employees Local 236, CWA, UE, SEIU, NNU, Pride at Work, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Labor for Standing Rock, and many members of other Labor organizations have already publicly stated opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and or the Keystone XL Pipeline; and

Whereas: President Donald Trump's executive orders that dismantle environmental regulation and ostensibly "clear a path" for the completion of the aforementioned pipelines are contradictory in nature and are designed primarily to divide workers and environmentalists over the false dichotomy of "jobs versus the environment"; and

Be Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW reaffirms the IWW’s opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as officially declares its opposition to the construction of the Line 3 Pipeline; and

Be it Also Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW donates $100 each to both Camp Makwa’s legal and supply fund (Legal | CAMP SUPPLIES FUND) and urges our Union’s members, the Labor Movement, and working class to pass resolutions like this one, donate, join, and organize in solidarity with Camp Makwa, the resistance to Line 3, and the movement for environmental justice, locally and abroad.

Be it also Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW endorses Black Snake Killaz Circuit, a collection of benefit shows created by organizers, artists, and eco-activists who are standing in solidarity with indigenous water protectors and their accomplices fighting Line 3 to defend Anishinaabe land and water from the extractive industry; and

Be it Further Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW calls on rank and file members of the Building Trades, Teamsters, and other unions who have declared support for these pipelines and other unsustainable projects to implement Green Bans and take direct action by striking and or slowing down in solidarity with the communities resisting Line 3, additional pipelines, and other projects that are exploitive of the working class and the plant we inhabit.

Be it Additionally Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW calls on the working class, unions, and the unsustainable companies that employee them, such as Enbridge, as well as their financial supporters to develop and rapidly implement a "Just Transition" plan for workers in unsustainable industries, such as pipeline and oil industry workers, to be trained in and given union jobs in the green energy sector. ; and

Be it Finally Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW reaffirms our belief and commitment to revolutionary industrial unionism, environmental justice, and community self-defense with our goal to “organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”

Why Redneck Revolt Says Deal With Racism First, Then Economics

By Zenobia Jeffries - Yes! Magazine, November 29, 2017

Moved by the need for control, for an unchallenged top tier, the power elite in American history has thrived by placating the vulnerable and creating for them a false sense of identification—denying real class differences where possible.
—Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

There is no shortage of media commentary discrediting “identity politics,” particularly the focus on Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities calling for justice and equity. Economics is our real problem, a counter argument goes, not race, sex, gender, citizenship. But as author Nancy Isenberg points out in White Trash, “identity has always been a part of politics.”

Laws have been written to oppress and exploit particular identities—Native Americans, Black Americans, Asians, homosexuals, transgender, and women—in a successful effort to maintain a system of White supremacy. Yet, members of these communities have worked for the rights and equality of everyone. In turn, White allies have joined in these anti-racism fights.

The Redneck Revolt is one such organization. The self-described anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-fascist group challenges working-class White people to stand against White supremacy.

I recently talked to Brett, one of the members who heads up the network’s Southeast Michigan Chapter. (Because of hostilities toward the organization, Redneck Revolt members use only their first names publicly.) There are about 40 chapters nationwide. He explained why the group focuses on anti-racism rather than economics even though it seeks out white working-class and poor people in economically struggling rural areas.

¿Quién le puso una bomba a Judi Bari? / Who Bombed Judi Bari? (Spanish Subtitles)

By Darryl Cherney - YouTube, November 27, 2017

Premiering on youtube and winner of 6 awards, this feature documentary filled with music, humor, and inspiration is a blueprint for activism in these more than urgent times. The Martin Luther King of the Redwoods, Judi Bari was an Earth First!er, AFL-CIO and IWW labor organizer, radical feminist, world class orator, author of Timber Wars, fiddler and songwriter, fundraiser, mother of two girls and a force of nature. See why she was car bombed and arrested by the FBI and Oakland Police for the deed done against her. Then learn how to save the forests, forge alliances and beat the feds. Foreign subtitles coming soon. Produced by her organizing partner and fellow car-bomb victim and litigant, Darryl Cherney. Directed and edited by Mary Liz Thomson. You can learn more and purchase DVD's, t-shirts and bumper stickers here: http://whobombedjudibari.com/ You can "like" us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Who-Bombed-J...

Olympia Stand Blockade Raided on the Twelfth Day

By Libertarian Socialist Caucus (LSC) of the Olympia Stand Blockade - It's Going Down, November 28, 2017

On the morning of Wednesday November 29th, 2017, at approximately 5:30 AM, a joint force of SWAT officers, Olympia police, the Washington State Patrol, Thurston County sheriffs, and Union Pacific police broke up the Olympia Stand blockade on occupied indigenous land of the Medicine Creek Treaty nations, specifically the Nisqually and Squaxin Island Tribes.

We were made aware of the impending raid the day before by an anonymous tip off from within the city, allowing us enough time to evacuate everyone safely from the camp before police arrival without injury or arrests. Nonetheless, the police raid was accompanied by officers in full riot gear and an MRAP (an armored military vehicle used by the U.S. military). Police officers marched through the abandoned camp, supposedly looking for more protesters, tearing down the tents, tarps and temporary structures that were built and maintained throughout the twelve days that the blockade stood. Police with the sheriff’s office were also seen destroying and removing valuables from a nearby homeless encampment that had nothing to do with the blockade. Throughout the morning, people suspected of participating in the blockade were followed and harassed by police and a local non-profit was surveilled.

This raid came on the very same morning that the Olympia Stand Indigenous Caucus was scheduled to meet with the Olympia City Council and the Port of Olympia. The police raid of last year’s Olympia Stand Blockade likewise took place the morning the Indigenous Caucus was scheduled to meet with a representative from Union Pacific Railroad. These are just two more examples of the countless betrayals that indigenous people in North America have faced in the last centuries.

The Spotted Owl or: How the Right Won the Working Class

By staff - Cited, November 17, 2017

Judi Bari’s effort to ally forest workers and environmentalists could have changed the course of climate activism forever. Could her parable help us today? 

Cited teams up with Dissent’s Hot and Bothered podcast and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions to tell the story of tree spiking, a Texas millionaire, and the Northern Spotted Owl.

In this hour we look at the jobs vs. environment problem and explore how forest management might be able to mitigate climate change on a massive scale. with documentary filmmaker Mary Liz Thomson, University of Oregon sociology professor John Bellamy Foster, and independent forester Herb Hammond.

On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest

By Peter Linebaugh - CounterPunch, November 20, 2017

A Keynote Address, Delivered in the State Rooms at the House of Commons, 7 November 2017.

Two winds have propelled me here to you, to this House of Commons.

One wind, a hurricane and diabalo, brought flood and fire threatening the destruction of petrochemial civilization, call it capitalism. Homelessness or prison accompany the wind from, Detroit, Michigan, to Houston, Texas, from Puerto Rico in the Caribbean to northern California at the Pacific edge.

A second gentler, softer wind, a zephyr, has renewed my spirit from the Lacandón jungle in Chiapas where the Zapatistas have vowed to protect the forest and reclaim the land, or from the Great Plains of the American continent where pipe lines of oil and gas endanger the pollution of land and the rivers.  Encampments of indigenous people and their allies by prayer and by protest have become, in their words, “water protectors.”

Then, day before yesterday on Guy Fawkes Day, with some merry companio

An old oak tree in Sherwood Forest gave Robin Hood a safe house.  He told Little John that he and his merry companions (here I quote the 14th century Geste of Robin Hood) shall not rob the “husbonde that tylleth with his plough” or the “gode yeman that walketh by grene wode shawe.”ns of the indigenous people of these islands, I visited Sherwood Forest and Laxton parish in Nottinghamshire.

Laxton with its common and open fields, you know, is the oldest surviving system of agriculture based on the commons, similar to the ejido, or commons, of Mexican villages.  One of its commoners, Stuart Rose by name, took us ‘round.  By curious historical coincidence Laxton lent its name to the town of Lexington in Massachusetts where in 1775 the “shot was fired that was heard around the world.”

This was day before yesterday and since then revolutionary thoughts perforce have come to mind as I have journied at last to you here in this House.  Actually, your House provided me, a stranger, with a kind of home, because it was in its public gallery that my mother and father visited regularly in the years between 1947 and 1953 to listen to you.  Through the blinding pea soup fogs and in the pinching system of food rationing they were nourished by crystal clear words, both soft and gentle – that zephyr again – of Aneurin Bevan on behalf of housing and health care for all.  I was old enough to feel their passions and to identify with the protagonist of these words, the common people, because, as I was informed by my upper class school chums, as an American I, too, was “common.”

So, propelled by these winds of disaster and memories of defense I have become one of the scholarly vectors of a planetary discussion of the commons that began before 6 November 1217 when the Charter of the Forest was sealed and has continued ever since.  We do that work again for commons of housing and health care for all as we commemorate the Charter of the Forest, the little companion to the bigger, Magna Carta.

“It will be noticed how the word ‘common’ and its derivatives … appear and re-appear like a theme throughout the centuries,” wrote Edgell Rickword in The Handbook of Freedom, a book found in the kit of the boys going off to war in 1939.  “It was for the once vast common lands that the peasants took up arms; it was as the ‘true commons’ that they spoke of themselves when they assembled, and it was the aspiration of men not corrupted by petty proprietorship ‘that all things should be common.’”

William Blake said that “the whole duty of man is art and all things common.”

Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking

By Pete Dolack - CounterPunch, November 24, 2017

The world’s governments got together in Germany over the past two weeks to discuss global warming, and as a result, they, well, talked. And issued some nice press releases.

Discussing an existential threat to the environment, and all who are dependent on it, certainly is better than not discussing it. Agreeing to do something about it is also good, as is reiterating that something will be done.

None of the above, however, should be confused with implementing, and mandating, measures that would reverse global warming and begin to deal concretely with the wrenching changes necessary to avoid flooded cities, a climate going out of control, mass species die-offs and the other rather serious problems that have only begun to manifest themselves in an already warming world.

The 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP23, wrapped up on November 17 in Bonn. Fiji was actually the presiding country, but the conference was held in Bonn because Fiji was not seen as able to accommodate the 25,000 people expected to attend. The formal hosting by Fiji, as a small Pacific island country, was symbolic of a wish to highlight the problems of low-lying countries, but that this was merely symbolic was perhaps most fitting of all.

These conferences have been held yearly since the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. Two years ago, at COP21 in Paris, the world’s governments negotiated the Paris Accord, committing to specific targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Although capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (as measured from the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution took off around the world) has been considered the outer limit of “safe” warming, a goal of halting global warming at 1.5 degrees was adopted at Paris. The catch here is that the goals adopted are far from the strength necessary to achieve the 2-degree goals, much less 1.5 degrees.

Before we explore that contradiction, let’s take a brief look at the self-congratulatory statements issued at the Bonn conference’s conclusion.

Keep your fracking sand out of our port

By Brian Huseby - Socialist Worker, November 27, 2017

SUPPORTERS OF Olympia Stand, a climate justice coalition in Olympia, Washington, has constructed an encampment blocking the railroad tracks to the Port of Olympia--under a banner reading "No Fracking Sand in Our Port."

The purpose of the blockade is to prevent fracking sands, known as ceramic proppants, from being shipped from the port to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and other places.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of extracting oil and natural gas from source rock, primarily shale. This is done by pumping a mixture of fracking sands, and large amounts of water and chemicals into the veins of the source rock to open them and extract the oil and natural gas.

Each time a well is fracked, between 2 million and 8 million gallons of fresh water is used. Fracking fluid goes through the aquifers, contaminating drinking water with chemicals, many of which are cancerous. Fracking can lead to local drinking water becoming undrinkable and even flammable. Recent research has found further evidence that fracking is causing earthquakes.

As one activist at the blockade said in an interview: "We are here because we reject the port's complicity with the fossil fuel industry. For example, they have a bad contract with Rainbow Ceramics [the Houston-based company that produces the proppants] that allows the proppants to be stored at the port for free."

At about the same time last year and at the same place, a similar blockade was built to stop the trains then shipping fracking sands to North Dakota. The same activist added, "We are here to celebrate the anniversary of last year's blockade and also the 10-year anniversary of the attempt to prevent the port from sending military equipment to [Joint Base Lewis McCord]."

In 2007, members and supporters of Port Military Resistance engaged in a protest that included street battles with police over transporting military equipment between the port and Joint Base Lewis McCord. The equipment consisted mostly of motor vehicles that were returning from Iraq for maintenance and repair and were then scheduled to be returned to Iraq.

Nature Lovers May #OptOutside on Black Friday, but They Consume Resources Year-Round

By Matthew Klingle - Common Dreams, November 26, 2017

While shoppers scramble for Black Friday bargains this year, outdoor retailer REI is closing its 154 U.S. stores. This is the third consecutive year that the Seattle-based company will ignore the frenzy that traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season. REI’s nearly 12,000 employees will get a paid holiday and will not process any online orders.

Instead, REI exhorts workers and customers to get outside with family and friends. #OptOutside, a Twitter hashtag that REI coined to promote its anti-Black Friday, has been widely adopted by outdoor lovers, as well as environmental groups and businesses that partner with REI to promote this event.

The campaign has drawn international praise from the advertising industry and has become a yearly phenomenon. State parks from Oregon to Indiana, often in concert with local nonprofits, offer free admission and other perks on Black Friday. This year REI is launching an “experiential search engine” where users can share photos and video of their favorite outdoor destinations, augmented with information such as directions to trailheads or events celebrating our nation’s public lands.

Many observers have praised REI for mixing business savvy with crunchy acumen. But how did REI and other outdoor companies align themselves with conservation? How do they square selling expensive apparel and promoting carbon-spewing tourism with their customers’ love for the outdoors? And how radical is “Green Friday,” especially if the OptOutsiders are carrying backpacks stuffed with the latest gear made from precious petroleum, rare metals and pricey fibers?

The answer is that shoppers have long expressed their affection for nature in what they buy. Consumption and environmental concerns, past and present, fit together as snugly as a foot in a beloved hiking boot.

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