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Solidarity with NHS workers from Earth Strike UK

By Staff - Earth Strike UK, July 30, 2021

Earth Strike is a grassroots movement for workers, youth, and community organisers to challenge the root causes of the climate crisis. Our mission is to disrupt the capitalist system that is causing the climate crisis and to fight for a better future for the global working class.

We extend our solidarity to, and practical support in, your struggle for pay rises of at least 15%. We will support you on any potential picket lines. Workers fighting for decent pay and to protect the standards of our healthcare system should be able to take direct action in pursuit of these demands at a time and in a manner of their own choosing. We therefore oppose all legal restrictions on the right to strike.

We are environmentalists supporting and seeking to mobilise for your struggle, and we want to see other environmentalists do the same. Our struggles are much closer than many might imagine. Healthcare jobs are climate jobs, and the refusal to fund and support healthcare properly is a damning indictment of this system’s response to climate breakdown. As air pollution chokes children in the streets of London, disproportionately in working-class and black and brown communities, the hospitals which should mitigate the damage are underfunded, with workers in them underpaid and overworked. As the effects of climate breakdown worsen, it will be healthcare systems having to deal with the impact. Meanwhile, we do not forget the vast wealth inequalities that exist between this country and others, particularly where climate destruction is already felt hardest.

As climate activists, we particularly oppose the ban on strikes over so-called “political” issues, and the ban on strikes in solidarity with other workers. Those laws prevent workers from striking directly to demand radical action on climate change, to oppose NHS privatisation and cuts, and to directly support your demands – as miners, postal workers, dockers, print workers, and others did in the 1980s. Our new “Empower the Unions” initiative aims to highlight the injustice of these restrictive laws, and mobilise both climate and trade union activists against them.

So we say: all power to the NHS workers! Your fight for 15% is a key part of the wider struggle for a genuinely socialised healthcare system, free at the point of use and run by workers and service users, which in turn is part of the struggle for a different kind of society – one in which human and environmental need, rather than the needs of profit, comes first.

An injury to one is an injury to all – solidarity!

Canary in the Mine: Striking Miners in Alabama

By Luis Feliz Leon - American Prospect, July 28, 2021

Miners at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama have been on strike for almost five months, struggling to reverse concessions in pay, health care, and safety. Strikers brought their picket lines from the piney woods of the South to the tony Manhattan offices of three hedge fund shareholders on June 22, and more than 1,000 mine workers and union allies return today to demonstrate outside the offices of the company’s largest shareholder, asset manager BlackRock.

Miners have chanted, “No Contract, No Coal!” and “Warrior Met Has No Soul” on picket lines from the worksite in Brookwood, Alabama, to New York City. “We’re here to let the whole world know that we will take it from the bottom of the United States to the top. Where we have to take this fight, we’re going to take it,” Dedrick Gardner, a first-generation miner from a union household of teachers and postmasters, said on the New York picket line in June.

It’s a well-trodden path for United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members. In 1974, coal miners from southeastern Kentucky’s Harlan County journeyed to Wall Street during the ninth month of their strike, leafleting outside a shareholder meeting of the company Duke Power.

Filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s Harlan County USA documented miners and their families as they rose up against gun-toting goons and the bosses who plundered their lungs and their labor to extract coal and soul. Kopple joined them on Wall Street too, capturing conversations between strikers and local cops discussing wages and benefits, a microcosm of shared class struggle from opposite sides of the fence. “They make some profit, but they keep it all to themselves, right?” the police officer asks the miner at one point. “Yeah, they don’t spread the wealth.”

That solidarity has been present at Warrior Met since miners walked off the job on April 1. When management put a contract offer on the table several days later, workers roundly rejected it by a vote of 1,006 to 45.

“The industry standard is 30 bucks an hour,” said Johnny Murphy, vice president of UMWA Local 2397. “We’re at $23. Corporate greed has taken over America.”

Striking Alabama coal miners protest corporate greed at NYC BlackRock headquarters

By Jaisal Noor - The Real News Network, July 28, 2021

Striking Alabama coal miner Mike Wright says workers at Warrior Met Coal are taking their calls for fair pay and benefits to the NYC headquarters of their company's biggest investor: BlackRock.

Combatting Climate Change, Reversing Inequality: A Climate Jobs Program for Texas

By Lara R. Skinner, J. Mijin Cha, Hunter Moskowitz, and Matt Phillips - ILR Worker Institute, Cornell, July 26, 2021

Texas is currently confronted by three major, intersecting crises: the COVID-19 public health pandemic and ensuing economic crisis; a growing crisis of inequality of income, wealth, race and power; and the worsening climate crisis, which continues to take its toll on Texans through hurricanes, major flood events, wildfires, debilitating heat waves and the significant economic cost of these extreme weather events. These crises both expose and deepen existing inequalities, disproportionately impacting working families, women, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities, immigrants, and the most vulnerable in our society.

A well-designed recovery from the COVID-19 global health pandemic, however, can simultaneously tackle these intersecting crises. We can put people to work in high-quality, family- and community-sustaining careers, and we can build the 21st century infrastructure we need to tackle the climate crisis and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Indeed, in order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, it is essential that our economic recovery focus on developing a climate-friendly economy. Moreover, there are significant jobs and economic development opportunities related to building a clean energy economy. One study shows that 25 million jobs will be created in the U.S. over the next three decades by electrifying our building and transportation sectors, manufacturing electric vehicles and other low-carbon products, installing solar, wind and other renewables, making our homes and buildings highly-efficient, massively expanding and improving public transit, and much more.

Conversely, a clean, low-carbon economy built with low-wage, low-quality jobs will only exacerbate our current crisis of inequality. The new clean energy economy can support good jobs with good benefits and a pipeline for historically disadvantaged communities to high-quality, paid on-the-job training programs that lead to career advancement. Currently, the vast majority of energy efficiency, solar and wind work is non-union, and the work can be low-wage and low-quality, even as the safety requirements of solar electrical systems, for example, necesitate well-trained, highly-skilled workers.

Read the text (PDF).

Building eco-socialism: A review of Max Ajl’s A People’s Green New Deal

By David Camfield - Tempest, July 22, 2021

There’s nothing more important today than the politics of climate change. How societies respond to global heating will increasingly shape all political life.

A People’s Green New Deal by Max Ajl, an associated researcher with the Tunisian Observatory for Food Sovereignty and the Environment and a postdoctoral fellow with the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, gives us some insightful analysis of different political approaches to global heating (a term I prefer since it packs more punch than global warming) and many good ideas about how society should be changed to respond to capitalism’s ecological crisis. However, the book is much less helpful for thinking about the political strategy we need to make these changes.

Although some hard right-wing politicians are still intoxicated by the climate change denial nonsense that organizations funded by fossil capital have been spewing for years, smarter ruling-class strategists are planning for what Ajl calls “Green Social Control.” This “aims to preserve the essence of capitalism while shifting to a greener model in order to sidestep the worse consequences of the climate crisis.”

The European Commission’s announced measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union are an example of this approach. It’s what Joe Biden had in mind when he appointed John Kerry as a Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. It’s also the vision of the Climate Finance Leadership Initiative, a group of finance capitalists headed by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. It’s a vision that Ajl skewers.

Economic Update: The Challenge of Progressive Unionism

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) and the KFTC staff union agree on first union contract

By KFTC Staff - Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, July 19, 2021

After the announcement of the KFTC staff union’s formation in October 2019, and recognition by KFTC’s Steering Committee, we took the bold step of building an initial contract through Interest Based Bargaining (IBB). This process – usually used for contract renewal –involves two sides coming together to find and negotiate around shared interests, instead of the more traditional confrontational method. We felt that this democratic and collaborative model fit best with KFTC’s values.

It also took considerably more time, especially done during the COVID 19 pandemic. After 18 months and over 40 virtual meetings between teams from management and the staff union, as well as federal mediators, we are proud of the contract we created. Not least because our mediators believe that we have the very first initial contract agreed to by IBB!

The contract, approved by the Steering Committee and Staff Union on May 13, is an expression of our shared commitment to the value and rights of KFTC staff, and of all working people. Highlights include:

  • Increasing funding for professional development leave
  • Raising our base hourly rate to $15 (from $14.53) and raising our base salary by $1,000 annually (to $37,030)
  • Doubling our compensation time available for employees to bank when they work overtime, and doubling the amount of comp time available for use per week
  • Adding Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a paid holiday and making Juneteenth a paid holiday, replacing the day after Thanksgiving
  • Expanding the definition of family in several clauses, including for bereavement leave and family leave
  • Tripling our existing parental leave policy to 60 days, while preserving other available family leave
  • Establishing how coaching, progressive discipline, and termination will be handled, as well as a clear process for addressing grievances
  • Establishing a Labor Management Committee to engage workers, management, and member leaders in an ongoing conversation to strengthen our bonds and our work to transform Kentucky
  • Agreeing that if the organization revives the Organizing Apprentice Program in the future, KFTC management will consult with union members about it first through the Labor Management Committee. 
  • Maintaining our fantastic, current health insurance plan through the life of the contract, which runs through November 2022

KFTC and the KFTC Staff Union are committed to the transformative, grassroots mission that is possible through a unique organization like ours. KFTC has been building power as a democratic, member-led body for 40 years, with a staff that has grown along with us. With this contract, we pave the way for strengthened collaboration between members and all levels of staff. 

From all of us at KFTC – we hope you will join us in celebrating this milestone, and join us as we push for new power and a new Kentucky where all of us can thrive. Let’s organize!

Iran oil workers’ strike: a spectre haunting neoliberalism

By Simon Pirani - People and Nature, July 16, 2021

More than 60,000 Iranian oil workers have joined a strike for better pay and contracts – the biggest such action since the general strike of 1978-79 that helped toppled the Shah’s regime.

The stoppage is supported by teachers, pensioners, and families seeking justice for their relatives killed during the big wave of protests in November 2019.

The protest began on 19 June, the day after the elections won by the conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who takes over as president next month.

The Iranian oil industry is dominated by the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company. But in recent years it has employed a host of contractors – many owned and controlled by state officials and their relatives – who have slashed pay levels and undermined working conditions.

The Strike Organisation Council for Oil Contract Workers, that has been set up during the action, is reported to have said that the workers’ main demand is higher wages, and added:

We will no longer tolerate poverty, insecurity, discrimination, inequality and deprivation of our basic human rights. Given the skyrocketing cost of expenses, the [monthly] wages of workers should not be less than 12 million tomans ($491).

The strikers are demanding the elimination of temporary contracts, an end to the use of contract companies and the recognition of the right to form independent unions, according to other reports.

The strike is supported both by contract employees and by skilled workers in less precarious jobs, according to interviews published by the Kayhan Life media outlet.

Iranian Oil Workers Organize the Country’s Biggest Strikes since the Iranian Revolution

By Maryam Alaniz and Salvador Soler - Left Voice, July 15, 2021

For almost a month, Iranian oil workers, along with workers in other industries, have organized demonstrations and wildcat strikes in response to a dire economic and health crisis accentuated by U.S. sanctions.

A nationwide strike by Iranian oil and gas workers on fixed-term contracts — which started a day after the June 18 Iranian presidential elections — has spread to 112 oil, gas, and petrochemical companies in at least eight of the provinces that house Iran’s main oil and gas centers. The strikes are the biggest workers’ protest since the oil workers’ strikes in late 1978, which brought the U.S.-backed shah’s regime to its knees.

The widespread demonstrations underscore the growing economic pressures placed on a country that is living under crippling U.S. sanctions and that is facing a fifth wave of the pandemic. In the past month more than 120,000 mostly temporary and contract workers have taken part in the strike. They have refused to work and joined rallies and hunger strikes outside Iran’s strategic refineries and power plants.

These workers’ demands include an increase in wages as inflation rises, wages that are paid on time, and back pay. Many workers complain that they haven’t been paid in months. The workers are also demanding better working conditions, improved health and safety standards, and freedom of association and protest. Their main demands, however, are to end contract employment, to ban the firing of workers, to reinstate the 700 protesting workers who were recently fired, and to abolish special economic zones, which allow employers to skirt labor protections.

The workers have also called for independent organizations of the working class across all sectors of labor. Since independent unions are not recognized in Iran, the wildcat strike action is coordinated by strike committees, including the Council for Organizing Contract Oil Workers’ Protests, which organizes 41,000 contract workers in the oil industry. The workers, mainly contracted scaffolders, fitters, welders, and electricians, have announced that they will not return to work unless their demands are met.

The growth of strikes by oil and petrochemical workers — the beating heart of the country’s economy and the clerical government’s main source of foreign exchange — has led many to believe that these strikes could become a turning point in the history of workers’ protests and strikes against the ayatollahs’ regime, installed more than four decades ago.

The expansion of these strikes, which recently grew to include the militant workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory, can have a rapid and paralyzing effect in all parts of the country, bringing solidarity from other industrial branches in the face of the country’s deep economic crisis, caused not only by the U.S. imperialist blockade but also by the repressive regime, which represents the interests of Iran’s ruling elite.

Though the Iranian regime is known to crack down hard on protesters, workers are now entering the national scene more prominently and using methods like wildcat strikes. As a result, the use of conventional methods of repression is thrown into question. Furthermore, dissatisfied workers in the energy sector represent a threat of a much higher, given that hydrocarbons are the government’s main economic artery and that petroleum workers have played a historic role in the country’s politics.

At the same time, the rapid spread of workers’ strikes across Iran, coinciding with the election of a new government in Iran, has made it more likely that strikes will spread to other sectors of labor and trade unions. This further complicates the unstable situation in the Middle East, where a revolting sector of working youth has played an active and important role on the streets in recent years and has been joined by an increasingly dynamic labor movement, like the Iranian one, that is gaining experience in struggle and organization.

The current strike in many ways continues a monthlong wave of strike action by more than 10,000 workers that took place in the South Pars oil and gas fields last summer. The 2020 strike action forced employers to improve wages and living conditions, but one year later, as the social crisis in Iran has deepened and a new administration is preparing to take power, the strikes have expanded in both scope and scale.

Read the rest here.

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Workers Vote on Union

By Arbaz M Khan - Industrial Worker, July 14, 2021

Update: According to OVEC, a majority of workers voted to certify the union!

Recently, the fight for a union at Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition shifted gears from collective direct action to the ballot box, as workers voted on whether or not to certify their union, which is organized with the Industrial Workers of the World. Following almost five months of demanding that management voluntarily recognize their union — which included a one-day strike on Earth Day, April 22 — workers at the nonprofit organization finished casting votes in a union election managed by the National Labor Relations Board on July 9. 

Workers at OVEC publicly announced their intention to unionize in March. Besides voluntary recognition from management, their demands included a standardized pay scale, equitable discipline policy and the right to union representation at any meeting where matters affecting pay, hours, benefits, advancement or layoffs are discussed. Voluntary recognition would entail management agreeing to negotiate with the union, but OVEC’s board of directors have thus far withheld it — instead suspending, then terminating, OVEC’s former director of organizing, Brendan Muckian-Bates, allegedly for his involvement in the union. 

“I was fired less than two weeks after my third child was born — and management knew,” says Muckian-Bates. “I don’t think they cared about how their actions affected me or my family. I sent management a picture of my son and demanded some humanity from them — anything at all — but they refused and haven’t been in contact with me since.”

OVEC workers’ Earth Day strike was spurred in part by Muckian-Bates’ dismissal. Despite the reprisal from management, he remains a staunch supporter of the union and looks forward to the election results.

“My commitment to the OVEC Union has not waned,” he says. “I’ve been inspired by the work that my fellow workers do everyday and how they’ve stuck it out despite the retaliations. They’re truly some of the best organizers I’ve met, and it’s a level of commitment you don’t often come across.”

“Management could have recognized the union in March, kept on their current staff levels, and we could have already begun negotiating some of the necessary changes we think are needed to keep OVEC going,” he continues. “But we know that we’ll win the election, and we want management to be ready to negotiate with us fairly and in good faith once that’s done.”

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