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The Nightmare In East Palestine Ohio: East Palestine Residents Speak About Their Fight For Healthcare

Alabama Mercedes-Benz Workers Accuse Company of Union-Busting in NLRB Complaint

By Julia Conley - Common Dreams, March 26, 2024

A month after the United Auto Workers announced that a majority of workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama had signed union cards, employees struck a defiant tone Tuesday as they filed official complaints of union-busting by the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

Workers detailed the illegal disciplinary measures management has taken against them for taking leave and objecting to anti-union materials that have been shown in captive-audience meetings since most of the plant's 6,000 workers indicated they want to join the UAW.

"Since we started organizing, I put in my [Family and Medical Leave Act] leave with management multiple times and every time they said they lost the paperwork," Lakeisha Carter, who works in the company's battery plant, told the UAW. "It's just plain retaliation from Mercedes, but I'm not going to be intimidated."

‘If I don’t talk no one’s going to know’: Stories of pain from East Palestine move coalition members to action

By Steve Mellon - Pittsburg Union Progress, March 24, 2024

Laurie Harmon stepped from the crowd gathered in a community hall at the East Palestine Country Club around 2:30 on Saturday afternoon and told her story to a hushed crowd of about 80 people. Many had traveled from as far as California and Texas to hear stories like hers, and to offer their support.

Laurie, 48, a retired registered nurse, lives three blocks from the site of the Feb. 3, 2023, toxic train derailment that many residents believe poisoned the town.

“On the 12th, I started getting rashes,” she said, her tone matter-of-fact. “On May 1st, about the time they started digging up a pit and cleaning up, I started getting second-, third- and fourth-degree chemical burns. I had burns over 80% of my body. They burrow deep down in. It’s horrible. I was going to doctors, trying to get it figured out. Nobody knows; no one can tell me. I was diagnosed with systemic contact dermatitis due to chemical exposure. I have now lesions on my spine, cysts on my kidneys; I have kidney stones. On March 4, I had a heart attack. …”

She’s scheduled for heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic. She’s seeing seven doctors. Her medical bills total $500,000. She’s on Medicare and says she’ll have to pay 20% of that. To avoid the rashes, she quit going outside in September.

“I’m losing everything. I’m losing my home; I lost my relationship; I’m a foster parent. I lost my kids. This is more than one person can take. I just don’t even know what to say. I want to thank you guys for coming here. I wasn’t even going to come, because sometimes I feel I’m defeated, but I can’t feel that way, because if I don’t talk no one’s going to know. No one is going to know.”

Laurie’s story, and the stories of other East Palestine residents in attendance, moved the crowd, which included organizers and members from a number of unions, as well as several environmental activists, academics and some people who simply wanted to offer help to a community in crisis. Hours later, after a number of panel discussions and the performance of a song written about the East Palestine disaster by musician Mike Stout, they voted to take action.

We don’t need a “Plethora of tactics”, We need a climate strategy

By Anarchy Nouveau - Freedom, February 21, 2024

In the spirit of starting a debate and dialogue, we republish this article from Conspiracy of the People in response to Matthew Azoulay’s article in Freedom:

In Freedom Anarchist Journal’s Winter 2023-2024 issue, Matthew Azoulay submitted an article introducing readers to Murray Bookchin’s ideas of the communalist assembly, which disturbed and surprised me because of how outdated it was. The means it proposes to achieve ecologically revolutionary ends are lacking, stagnant, and fall back on modes of thinking that seem directly inherited from the anti-globalisation and Occupy era, which the anarchist movement cannot afford to normalise as we continue to enter an exponentially growing ecological collapse. While there are decent ideas to take from both Murray Bookchin and Peter Gelderloos, as Matthew Azoulay has, they are both rather flawed in their own ways. There are some well thought out points and ideas within the article, so my criticisms are entirely constructive, and I aim to avoid sectarianism. But that this is what Freedom News is publishing in their own journal on climate struggle has me very concerned, to say the least.

The lack of revolutionary strategic thinking on ecological struggles will be both humanity and the planet’s downfall if the revolutionary movement doesn’t get its act together soon. If a diversity of tactics was all it took to overcome the limits of social movements, as Matthew Azoulay suggests in this article (and Peter Gelderloos in The Solutions are Already Here), then comrades worldwide would not be facing defeat after defeat in what are ultimately defensive struggles for the ecology. These insurrectionary limits are visible internationally, from the massive years-long and ongoing fight to defend Weelaunee/Atlanta forest from destruction in the “Stop Cop City” movement, the French struggles in the ZAD’s and against the ecocidal Basin megaprojects, German struggles for forest defence and against ecocidal development such as the Tesla “gigafactory” and the mass movement against coal mining. In the global South, anti-extractivist movements have similarly hit wall after wall since the global descent into neoliberalism and fascism from the 70s to today. Many valiant stands have been made against imperialist extraction projects, but the power of capital has more often than not prevailed against the power of the organised and rebellious masses, except where said rebellion has reached every layer of the popular masses and turned into an all-out insurrection. For example, the recent social explosion in Panama against a proposed mining project, the Zapatista movement’s struggle for autonomy across indigenous territories in so-called Mexico, or the 1991 struggle from revolutionaries in Bougainvillea against the Papua New Guinea government, the Rio Tinto mining corporation and the “Australian” navy.

Florida blocks heat standards from being passed across the state

By Alexandra Martinez - Prism, March 21, 2024

Florida legislators dealt a blow to outdoor workers this month by passing a law that bans local governments from implementing heat standards. Starting July 1, it will be illegal for local governments to pass health and safety measures for outdoor workers in extreme heat. The decision comes after Florida experienced its hottest summer on record. 

“In just a few months, as Florida temperatures soar to triple digits, outdoor workers will face increasingly dangerous conditions,” said Esteban Wood, the policy director at WeCount!, a nonprofit that helps immigrant workers in South Florida. “Workers will suffer heat stroke, businesses will lose out on billions in lost worker productivity, and local emergency rooms will become overwhelmed with heat related hospitalizations.” 

Miami-Dade County’s outdoor worker activists with WeCount! had been organizing for the nation’s first county-wide heat standard since 2017. The coalition of workers officially launched their Que Calor! Campaign in 2021 and came close to getting the Board of County Commissioners to approve the proposed heat standard in September, but by November, commissioners buckled under lobbyist pressure, and the final vote was postponed until March 2024 in the hopes of gaining support. 

Less than a week later, state Rep. Tiffany Esposito filed House Bill 433, which was designed to prevent cities and counties across Florida from enacting workplace heat standards. The bill was passed on March 8, just weeks before the county was set to determine the local decision.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average annual heat-related deaths have risen 95% from 2010 to 2022. The ¡Que Calor! Heat Standard originally included a heat exposure safety program for workers and their supervisors about the risks of heat exposure and best practices for minimizing heat-related illness. The standard also stated that on days with a heat index of at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit, workers have a right to 10 minutes of paid rest and a water break every two hours to cool down under shade and avoid heat stroke. The standard has now been raised to 95 degrees.

Joe Biden has a Chance to Help East Palestine

A new coalition demands healthcare and justice for East Palestine

Coalition of residents, unionists and activists coming together in East Palestine to demand health care

By Steve Mellon - Pittsburg Union Progress, March 19, 2024

Here’s the story of two men. One is a Trump-supporting blue-collar conservative from a small town in rural Ohio; the other is the son of a Mexican immigrant and describes himself as a socialist and a “lefty nut job.” They’ll be getting together later this week, and of course they’ll soon come to blows, right? Or at least hurl insults at each other?

That’s the narrative we’ve all come to expect. You see it on cable news shows, on social media. Division is hot these days.

But in the real world, the one in which trains fly off their tracks and spill toxic loads in America’s backyards, Chris Albright and Maximilian Alvarez recognize they have more in common than that which separates them.

That bond will be on display Saturday, during an event in East Palestine, Ohio, involving local residents, unionists, community activists and environmentalists from around the country. They’re getting together to demand the federal government step in and make certain those affected by the derailment are provided with health care.

The get-together will feature music and a lineup of speakers that includes residents of East Palestine and other communities affected by toxic contamination as well as union organizers and journalists. Initiated by the newly formed coalition Justice for East Palestine Residents and Workers, the event runs from noon to 5 p.m. at East Palestine Country Club, 50834 Carmel Anchor Road, Negley, OH 44441 (moved from the First Church of Christ).

Why the Environmental Justice Movement Should Support the UAW Organizing Drive

By Bill Gallegos and Manuel Pastor - The Nation, March 11, 2024

A progressive version of the right’s Southern strategy could remake our politics—and ensure that the cars of the future, and the batteries they run on, are built by union labor.

While analysts have pointed to a recent slowing in demand for electric vehicles (EVs), the long-term picture remains clear: Annual global EV sales are projected to nearly triple between now and 2030. That trend represents some potential good news for the climate. But it’s also raised concerns—most sharply reflected in last year’s strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW)—about what will happen to both existing and prospective workers.

One big problem: The new “Battery Belt”—prompted by federal policies to move to zero emission vehicles and build an adequate charging infrastructure—is being developed in many Southern states where manufacturers seek to take advantage of low wages, few regulations, and a divided working class.

While we can’t stop the flow of federal climate dollars to those states—a fiscal largesse that seems particularly ironic since so many of their Republican leaders deny climate change—we can and should change the conditions that make them a lure for multinationals seeking to exploit low costs. That, in turn, requires widening the circle of support for a truly transformative move to a clean energy economy.

The combination of worker vulnerability and political division in the South has deep historic roots. The field of exploitative corporate dreams was made possible by a US labor movement that has never been able to follow through on its post–World War II promise to organize the South—a region whose anti-union politics stem in part from a legacy of slavery and racism.

But change may be coming. Even as presidential candidate Donald Trump was trolling autoworkers to persuade them that electrical vehicles would be the end of their jobs, the UAW’s 2023 strike led to contracts that raised wages, did away with two-tier labor systems, and opened the way to unionization up and down the supply chain for electric vehicles.

The UAW’s Massive Gamble

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