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Greens must back striking British Airways workers to build the coalition we need for a just transition

By Matthew Hull - Bright Green, July 3, 2022

A quiet revolution is underway. Across two weeks and through three days of industrial action by the RMT trade union, the British public may have rediscovered what it feels like to take the side of organised workers against a recalcitrant UK government.

Amid soaring bills and prices, and with the Tory government steadfastly refusing to put people’s lives before profits, it is easy to understand why sympathy for striking workers is growing.

Of course it would be easy to overstate this case. Trade unionism never left these shores, and the power of militant unions like the RMT has been built up over years of hard organising work.

Equally, it would be presumptuous in the extreme to argue that one still-ongoing dispute could undo decades of neoliberal policies designed to mute and muzzle trade unions.

Nevertheless, something is taking hold. Polls revealed that striking railway workers have the undisputed support of a majority of people in the UK, should they opt for further industrial action. What’s more, that support has grown with every media performance by the RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch, whose directness and refusal to pander to the nonsense so typical of broadcast media has proved a winning combination.

This progress is precious, and it is our responsibility as trade unionists and the broader Left to preserve and expand it.

For Greens and environmentalists, the response to the RMT strikes so far has an additional, special resonance.

In June, hundreds of environmental justice campaigners joined RMT members on picket lines, raised money for their national dispute fund, and made their public support for the strikes impossible to ignore. This included many Greens across England and Wales, led by the party’s Trade Union Group. The Greens were the only UK parliamentary party to be unambiguously supportive of the RMT’s actions.

Defending and expanding national and municipal railway networks is centrally important to winning a just transition to a zero-carbon economy. Without massively increasing our capacity to move around using collective and sustainable modes of transport, the work of the environmental justice movement is over before it has begun.

In this process, protecting jobs and improving the pay, conditions and security of workers on our railways is key. There can be no just and fair transition to a zero-carbon world without worker empowerment.

Environmental justice campaigners and Greens should take this insight and apply it to workers’ struggles across all
sectors.

Firings, Evictions, Broken Promises: How Yellowstone Tour Guides Are Building Momentum for Change

By Ted Franklin - Capital and Main, July 1, 2022

Recently, former President Obama launched a Netflix series celebrating national parks and their breathtaking views. One of the parks he zoomed in on was the 2.2 million acre Yellowstone National Park, describing it as a park that is “fundamental to our national identity.”

But underneath the beauty of Yellowstone lies an ugly history of union-busting and intimidation by government contractors of National Park Service workers, the ones who labor to keep the park beautiful — a legacy that Obama failed to curb as president and one that Joe Biden has yet to address as the current occupant of the White House.

“I never had anyone spit or threaten to beat me up until I tried to unionize at Yellowstone,” says former Yellowstone tour guide Ty Wheeler.

In February of 2020, Wheeler and six of his co-workers were fired when they attempted to organize a group of 80 tour guides at Yellowstone National Park employed by the giant contractor Delaware North. Workers were paid only $12 an hour plus tips with infrequent scheduling, leading some into poverty while trying to get by in an area known for its generally high prices and expensive housing. In addition, Yellowstone had begun reporting cases of COVID, and workers were concerned about what they claim was the lack of training and personal protective equipment.

However, when the workers attempted to unionize, they claim they were not only fired but kicked out of company housing in West Yellowstone, Montana, during the middle of a frigid Yellowstone winter. The next month, the workers filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which ruled in a settlement that all of the workers should be rehired and that organizing activities should not be prevented in the park.

But Delaware North broke the agreement and to this day has never rehired the workers, say the former employees, who are currently appealing to the NLRB about the failure to enforce the settlement.

Union organizers are citing their firings and forced eviction from company housing to help build momentum for Biden to take executive action and strip companies like Delaware North of federal contracts for violating the National Labor Relations Act, now that the PRO Act — which would penalize employers for violating workers’ rights, and force employers to disclose how much they spend on union busting — is stalled in the Senate. Similar rules, including the High Road policy, which would boost labor-friendly companies’ chances of winning federal contracts, and an order that federal contractors disclose two years of political donations, faltered during the Obama administration.

Union organizers are pushing Biden to call out Delaware North’s union-busting activity in the national park, just as he did recently with Kellogg’s and Amazon’s efforts to halt organizing efforts by their workers.

“Biden should get directly involved and do something about this,” says union organizer Wheeler. “These are our national parks, our national treasures, and these private contractors are treating them like company towns.”

Prof. Ahmed White on the Industrial Workers of the World

Why Climate campaigners should support the rail unions

By Paul Atkin and Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 23, 2022

What is the link between climate action and stopping the decline of public transport?

From the RMT: “We want a transport system that operates for the interests of the people, for the needs of society, and our environment – not for private profit”.

This government is failing on the climate crisis. It has no integrated transport plan, is not realising the need to address aviation and motoring and to prioritise public transport. It favours private companies which make vast profits rather than making transport affordable and our air breathable.

Why are our railways being subjected to a ‘managed decline’ just when we need them the most?

From the TUC “Network Rail plans to cut annual expenditure by £100 million, mainly through the loss of 2,500 rail maintenance jobs. RMT analysis of Network Rail data finds that this will lead to 670,000 fewer hours of maintenance work annually. Network Rail responsibilities include track maintenance – essential to avoiding fatal accidents like Hatfield, which was the result of the metal tracks fatiguing”. 

The government is committed to following free market ideology, the ‘logic’ of which produces a managed decline of much-needed rail services, imposing a 10% annual cut to the running costs of the railways (and even more on the buses in London, with 20% of services threatened).

Meanwhile £27Bn is planned to be spent on roads. This can only increase car use, with negative effects on air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, accidents, inhibition of active travel and hitting commuters hard in the pocket while boosting the profits of the fossil fuel companies.

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.”

On Inflation and Working Class Struggle

By anonymous - angryworkers.org, June 17, 2022

On Saturday 18th of June, (there was) a national TUC demo in London, and as part of the build up, we were invited to sit on a panel hosted by the People’s Assembly called ‘Wages Up, Bills Down, Tories Out’. We were joined by six other panelists from the RMT, Bristol Co-operative Alliance and the Tribune, Bristol Trades Council and the NEU, the TUC and PCS, the Green and Labour Councillors for Ashley Ward, and the Secretary for Unite South West, who chaired the meeting.

Below is the transcript of the input from one AngryWorkers comrade about the current crisis, followed by a report from a comrade on the meeting in general.

I work as a housekeeper at Southmead hospital and I am a GMB rep there. I previously worked for several years in warehouses and food factories. I can see every day how people who earn around the minimum wage are struggling more.

I think we’re in a crisis in more ways than one. It’s a cost of living crisis, yes. It’s also coinciding with a long-running crisis of working class organisation and militancy (e.g. the fact that NHS workers can’t even enforce an actual pay rise, despite all the public support and the fact that we slogged our guts out in the pandemic, says a lot). And it’s also a crisis of the system where there aren’t any obvious answers.

Shell sends ‘thug’ to stop industrial strike action on Prelude FLNG, says labor union

By Damon Evans - Energy Voice, June 2, 2022

In response to the formal notice served by lawyers representing the Offshore Alliance, a labor union, as well as the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), issued on 30 May, Shell has “now resorted to industrial thuggery in a desperate effort to try and stop protected industrial action on Prelude,” the Offshore Alliance claimed in a post on Facebook today.

“One of the Shell leads, who has been parachuted onto Prelude, is throwing his weight around like he’s some sort of big king dick…this self-styled hero tough guy has been doing his best to intimidate some of the younger female tech’s by demanding they tell him whether they are in the Union and whether they intend to take Protected Industrial Action,” claimed the Offshore Alliance.

“Shell’s senior management need to pull this idiot into line as the Offshore Alliance will bang both him and Shell into the Federal Court for breach of Freedom of Association provisions if he doesn’t pull his head in. Pull off your management thugs, Shell,” added the union.

A Shell spokesperson told Energy Voice that “Shell recognises the entitlement of all workers to exercise their rights, including the right to participate in industrial action.”

The Offshore Alliance has listed 19 activities that will be banned at various times from June 10 to June 21, as part of their plan to implement “rolling stoppages of work and work bans.”

“Shell have had two years to sort out our key bargaining claims and nothing less than tier 1 rates and conditions and job security are going to cut it,” said the union, which combines the industrial and organisational resources of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), to provide effective representation of offshore construction, maintenance, catering, and rig workers in Western Australia.

Multiplying Labor's Power

A shorter workweek may increase worker productivity: but that’s not why we need one

By Robert Raymond - Sharable, May 19, 2022

Studies show that a shorter workweek is healthier for people and the planet — but much of the conversation is focused on its impact on worker productivity or efficiency. This is a big mistake.

With the average worker in the United States clocking 47 hours a week, Americans are among the most overworked populations in the world — in fact, they work more hours per year than workers in almost any other industrialized country. 

Advocates of a shorter work week had a brief moment of excitement in California last month when state Democrats proposed a bill that would have required private-sector employers with more than 500 employees to pay hourly workers overtime after logging more than 32 hours a week

Unfortunately, the proposal didn’t make it very far through the legislative bill-making machine before it stalled out in committee. For the foreseeable future, the bill will remain in legislative purgatory. 

However, despite a disappointing outcome, the mere existence of the proposed bill in the state legislature is an important step toward shortening the Californian workweek — something that would be a boon to workers.

There are many benefits of working shorter hours. One that has been particularly compelling to employers is the fact that shorter hours have been linked to increased worker efficiency and productivity. For example, a 2021 study from Japan empirically determined that “when long working hours are reduced, individual productivity increases, and fewer mistakes are made at work.” 

Studies have also shown that working fewer hours actually increases worker happiness — leaving employees feeling more energized and giving them more free time to pursue their interests outside of work. 

I’d hazard a guess that the majority of us would drool over the prospect of fewer hours of wage labor and more hours in our day for rest, leisure, or — as the 19th-century slogan of the 8-hour day movement advocated — more hours to do with “what we will.

In fact, re-framing this discussion around the needs of labor rather than the needs of employers is critical for getting us on a path towards a healthier, more sustainable world where workers thrive.

Solidarity with the Workers at Kavala Oil

By Staff - Earth Strike UK, May 8, 2022

A joint statement initiated by Earth Strike UK, IWW Environmental Committee and the Pan-Hellenic Energy Federation (PEF).

Διαβάστε τη δήλωση στα ελληνικά: www.earth-strike.co.uk/kavala-solidarity-greek

Kavala Oil, owned by London based Energean, owns and operates the only oil field in Greece. In April 2021, Energean announced a unilateral restructuring program which in mass layoffs with the intention to replacing highly skilled and experienced permanent workers with unskilled contract workers. Energean also announced €6 million cuts in workers’ salaries and allowances. All of this is despite company received €100 million of Covid relief funding from the European Union specifically to maintain employment during the pandemic.

In December 2021 the Greek State chose to side with the employer and sent riot police to attack the union workers, who remained at the facility to defend their jobs and ensure the safe operation of the site. Police dangerously used flash grenades at an oil facility – one of the grenades hit a power supply and caused a power cut at the site. Seventeen workers were arrested.

In January 2022, the workers went on work retention (a form of strike) against the insufficient safety measures taken by the company and against the mass layoffs. Despite the incredible effort of the union workers, the layoffs have continued and all 185 workers at the plant have now been dismissed, leaving the facility unstaffed.

The Union of Workers of Kavala Oil have continuously pointed out the dangers arising from the unacceptable decisions of Energean’s management, which lead to unsafe operation of the Facilities with impacts on employees and the local community as well as on the environment. Energean refused to listen.

The workers’ fears about safety proved to be well founded. On Saturday the 9th of April 2022, an explosion occurred, and a large fire broke out in a tank of the Kavala Oil facilities, which contained water and residues of oils and petroleum products. It took the firefighters more than 5 hours to extinguish the fire. The facility was not in operation and fortunately there were no injuries. The fire confirms the union’s concerns that without the necessary and qualified workforce; the safe operation of the facility cannot be achieved, risking not only the safety of the staff but also the environmental contamination.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels is necessary if we are to halt the climate crisis. But it must be a just transition, based on fundamental principles of justice and prosperity for workers and communities, maintaining jobs through education and retraining where required. A Just Transition must be lead and carried out by the Unions and the workers themselves. The sacking of 185 workers is not a just transition! Energean themselves admit they will only end oil extraction once it stops being profitable.

The sacking of 185 highly skilled and experienced workers is not a just transition. It does nothing to protect the environment and in fact only creates further danger. These layoffs only serve the interests of the bosses, whose goal is to boost profit and break the power of the union. It is against the interests of all for these workers to be dismissed and their experience wasted.

We stand in solidarity with the workers of Kavala Oil and call on all workers and environmental activists to support their struggle! We demand the re-employment of the 185 skilled workers with many years of experience who were illegally dismissed, to ensure the safe operation of the facilities at Kavala Oil. An injury to one is an injury to all!

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