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Two enemies, one fight: climate disaster and frightful energy bills

By Simon Pirani - People and Nature, May 16, 2022

Two clouds darken the sky. A close-up one: gas and electricity bills have shot up since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and millions of families are struggling to pay. And a bigger, darker, higher one: the climate disaster, and politicians’ refusal to tackle it.

Ultimately, both these threats have a single cause: fossil fuels and the systems of wealth and power that depend on them. We need social movements to link the fight to protect families from unaffordable bills with the fight to move beyond fossil fuels, and in that way turn back global warming.

Here I suggest ways to develop such a movement in the UK, starting by demanding action on home heating.

Extinction Rebellion Trade Unionists: a Timely Initiative

By Rob Marsden - Red-Green Labour, April 19, 2022

The incredibly clumsy, tone deaf and downright offensive tweeting by the official Labour party twitter account of a link to The Sun attacking environmental protesters shows the absolute need to build much better grassroots links between the labour movement and activist environmental campaigns, writes Rob Marsden

Recently relaunched, Extinction Rebellion Trade Unionists exists to further such a dialogue.

Building on the success of self-organised groups such as XR Scientists and XR Doctors it aims to assist Extinction Rebellion in getting its key message across to workers whose jobs are in the direct line of the necessary rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

The founding ‘mandate’ of Extinction Rebellion Trade Unionists includes the following ideas:

  • Promote XR members to join a union.
  • Promote concerns about the climate crisis and XR within our trade unions and the trade union movement.
  • To ensure that the withdrawal from fossil fuels includes a just transition for workers.
  • Lobby for XR actions to include consultation, and link actions with trade unions,
  • To support trade union and workers strikes.
  • Promote strike action as an effective form of NVDA, in the fight for climate justice.

XR recently issued a statement in support of Fawley oil refinery workers:

“On the 8th April members of XR Trade Unionists will visit the workers on their picket line in order to show support and solidarity. The dots are being joined for us all in the current context, from the wars fuelled by fossil fuel money, the exacerbating inequalities in the cost of living crisis, and energy companies shamelessly making record profits from the plight of the ordinary person and leaving workers behind. It is now clear in the UK that we’re being ripped off, our future is being burned, sold, decimated and all the while companies and the government sit back and support corporate interest over people’s live and livelihoods. Enough of the lies, deceit and deadly political failure. Unite workers are taking disruptive nonviolent action just as we are, and we wish them luck in their endeavours.”

Extinction Rebellion UK statement on strike at Fawley Oil Refinery

By staff - Extinction Rebellion, April 8, 2022

Extinction Rebellion UK stands in solidarity with the 100 or more workers at Fawley Oil Refinery who will be taking strike action on 8th April. The strike is in response to the offer of a “pathetic” 2.5 per cent pay offer and a lack of company sick pay, despite Exxon’s profits in 2021 topping an eye-watering £6.75 billion.

Exxon’s business model is not built to benefit the workers who without which, they wouldn’t be able to make record profits. XR UK recognises that Exxon’s business practices not only destroy the planet but oppress and marginalize the workers that enable their activities. They choose to underpay workers and maintain the fossil fuel economy, rather than seeking to facilitate a just transition, which our own Office for Budget Responsibility says is affordable and would create thousands of jobs and save billions of pounds for the UK public.

Bristol IWW affiliates with Earth Strike UK

By staff - Earth Strike UK, March 30, 2022

We are pleased to announce that the Bristol branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) has become the first union branch to affiliate with Earth Strike UK. The IWW organises workers of all types along industrial lines. One of its stated aims is to “live in harmony with the Earth”. We look forward to working with them to bring the struggle against the climate crisis to their members’ workplaces. We anticipate this will be the first of many branches and unions to join our cause.

The climate crisis will hit the global working class the hardest. By withdrawing our labour and taking other actions we can change the catastrophic course we are currently on. Our individual efforts to reduce emissions will not be enough to avert disaster, and typical protests can be easily ignored by politicians and the capitalist class – those most responsible for the crisis we find ourselves in. We must revive worker and union power and hit those who control the economy where it hurts by disrupting their ability to make profits. Together, we aim to free unions from restrictive anti-union laws through our Empower the Unions campaign, whilst also winning environmental improvements in our workplaces. Step by step we will create the solidarity and organisation necessary to carry out a global general strike against the climate crisis. Bristol IWW has brought us one step closer to achieving these aims by affiliating with us.

If you would like your union or union branch to affiliate with Earth Strike UK please follow this link where you can find a model motion to use https://earth-strike.co.uk/action/union-affiliation/

We need unions of all types, in all industries, to join the cause!

Shadow Chancellor meets GMB members at hydrogen house

By staff - GMB Union, March 18, 2022

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves met GMB member as she visits the Northern Gas Network’s model hydrogen house in Gateshead to discuss energy security and the cost of living crisis.   

Rachel Reeves MP will travel by hydrogen bus to a Northern Gas Network model ‘hydrogen house’, where she will fry an egg on a hydrogen-powered stove. 

GMB has long called for more investment in hydrogen fuels, which could use the existing gas network, protecting well paid, unionised gas jobs and save the planet. 

We reproduce below a speech that was given by a FW at an anti-war demo in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, Russian anti-war protestors, and victims of imperialism globally

By ClydesideIWW - IWW Scotland, March 15, 2022

We organised this event so we could come together and categorically denounce the invasion of Ukraine by Russian imperialism and show our solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Today, we woke up to some promising news about a limited ceasefire, but this is not enough what is needed is a total ceasefire and for Russia to withdraw its troops immediately.

As someone who grew up in Lebanon, I know what it’s like to live in a country smack in the middle of two competing imperial powers. I’m familiar with the sounds of warplanes raining bombs. With hiding in hallways away from Windows just in case a bullet or rocket finds its way through them. I know what it’s like watching entire neighbourhoods bombed to ashes, with families trying to pull the mangled bodies of their relatives in the aftermath. These are experiences no one should have to go through and speak to the universal horrors of war.

Unfortunately, some reporters and politicians have resorted to racist comments to drum up more support for the Ukrainian people. They tell us we should care about Ukrainians because they are civilized, European, closer to home, or more like us. As if some lives are more valuable than others, or that war is natural and ok in certain parts of the world. But we care about the Ukrainian people not because we see them as closer to us, but because we oppose war no matter where it happens and no matter who is leading it.

We care about the Ukrainian people the same way we care about those in Russia bravely protesting against this war as they get beat and imprisoned. It’s the Russian worker who will feel the sting of our sanctions more than any oligarch or politician will. Because it’s always workers who suffer the most in war. They are the ones who cannot escape, who are sent to kill and die for their rulers. It’s them who are disposed of like pawns while being sold nationalist lies to enrich a few.

We should take our cue from those brave anti-war protestors in Russia and understand that the best way to fight against war is by fighting against it here at home. In the last week, we’ve heard our politicians talk a lot about sovereignty, democracy, and international law. But when have they really cared about that?

It's not over for COP26 as the Coalition builds for the future

By Skye Pepier - London Left Green Blog, March 12, 2022

The COP26 Coalition has continued to meet since the Glasgow Summit in November last year, and on 19th February there was a whole day of discussion about the future of the movement. The framing for the discussion was that Glasgow last year was just the start of the network’s activity, and that the work needed to build an effective climate movement on these islands should be continued and enhanced. 

There was a tremendous enthusiasm about the action and work that is being undertaken by the Coalition, despite the recognition that the COP26 summit was a failure and did not bring the action on climate change needed from our so-called world leaders. People from all corners of Britain, and the world, including the Caribbean and Africa participated in the COP26 Coalition meetings. 

Despite similar attempts of network building by Green Left, however, including its involvement of the Ecosocialist Alliance, there was a noticeable absence in the COP26 Coalition meetings, of anyone involved in Green parties, of either Scotland, or England and Wales. This doesn't necessarily mean that there weren't Green Party members present - but it was difficult to discover the presence of fellow Green Party members. 

After a brief introduction to the COP26 Coalition, there were discussions around the difference between organising and mobilising a diversity of tactics, as well as regional exercises to build up COP26 local hubs and the wider climate justice movement. 

The day then closed with an online rally for the year ahead, titled 'Movement Building & Collective Strategies', with speakers from Fridays for Future Scotland, Campaign Against Climate Change, Landworkers Alliance, as well as youth activist Aoife Mercedes Rodriguez-Uruchurtu from YouthStrike4Climate Manchester and Breathe.

Each speaker was able to say something quite different to the others, but without disagreement of any kind, which was a sign of the diversity of the COP26 Coalition movement, and arguably, also its strength. 

So, what is next for the COP26 Coalition? As the UK holds the presidency of COP26 until the start of COP27, it is still important to keep climate change on the agenda, just as it always has, but especially if we want to see continued action while the UK is in its current global position on it. There is also the matter of building towards COP27, despite it being in Egypt, where post-Arab Spring oppression has been brutal. 

Leeds Bradford abandons its expansion plans: where does that leave us?

By staff - Greener Jobs Alliance, March 11, 2022

Tahir Latif is Secretary of the Greener Jobs Alliance. The opinions expressed here are his own, and not necessarily those of all GJA members. In the spirit of this newly created blog space, we invite alternative views and responses, which can be sent to gjacoms@gmail.com .

The news that Leeds Bradford airport has opted to abandon its expansion plans is hugely welcomed by climate activists everywhere and a testament to the extraordinary efforts of the grassroots organisation, GALBA. Backed by the local trades council, GALBA has been meticulous in rooting its opposition to the expansion in the needs of the community and workforce.

Instead of expansion, LBA is choosing to ‘develop’ its existing terminal. Regardless of what this will actually mean, the decision raises important questions about both the short- and long-term future of the aviation industry and its workers.

Workers Say They Breathe Polluted Air at “Green” Insulation Facility

By Mindy Isser - In These Times - March 3, 2022

As the acceptance of climate change becomes increasingly commonplace, more and more companies will be created or adapted to ​“fight” or ​“solve” it — or, at the very least, minimize its effects. Kingspan Group, which began as an engineering and contracting business in 1965 in Ireland, has since grown into a global company with more than 15,000 employees focused on green insulation and other sustainable building materials. Its mission is to ​“accelerate a zero emissions future with the wellbeing of people and planet at its heart.” 

But workers at the Kingspan Light + Air factory in Santa Ana, Calif. don’t feel that the company has their wellbeing at its heart — and they say they have documented the indoor air pollution in their workplace to prove it. Differences between Kingspan’s mission and its true impact don’t stop there, workers charge: One of its products was used in the flammable cladding system on Grenfell Tower, a 24-floor public housing tower in London that went up in flames in June 2017, killing 72 people. Kingspan has been the target of protests in the United Kingdom and Ireland for its role in the disaster. Both Kingspan workers and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have called on the company to put public safety over profits.

Since the 1990s, union organizers say there have been multiple attempts from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) union to organize employees at Kingspan, but none were successful. The company says its North America branch employs ​“1,600 staff across 16 manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout the United States and Canada.” Workers at the Santa Ana plant are tasked with welding, spray painting and assembling fiberglass to produce energy-efficient skylights. During the pandemic, when workers say Covid-19 swept through the facility, employees reached back out to SMART — not just because they wanted to form a union, but because they grew concerned about what they say is poor air quality in the facility. 

While SMART provided support for their campaign for clean air, the workers took control: In the summer of 2021, the Santa Ana workers came into work armed with monitors to measure indoor air pollution. Their goal was to measure airborne particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM 2.5). Such fine particulate matter constitutes a form of air pollution that is associated with health problems like respiratory and cardiovascular issues, along with increased mortality. The workers found that the average PM 2.5 concentration inside the facility was nearly seven times higher than outdoors. (To put that in perspective, wildfires usually result in a two- to four-fold increase in PM 2.5.) The majority of monitors found PM 2.5 levels that would rank between ​“unhealthy” and ​“very unhealthy” if measured outdoors, according to Environmental Protection Agency standards, the workers reported. 

Because this is the air workers were breathing in for 40 hours per week, in October 2021, they went public with both their campaign to form a union and their fight for a safe workplace — a campaign that continues to this day. 

Environmental Groups Call on Green Building Community to Stop Partnering With Kingspan Group, Global Manufacturer of Building Materials

By Lauren Burke and Meredith Schafer - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 3, 2022

Santa Ana, Calif. — Forty-five (45) local and national groups organizing against climate change and for environmental justice have signed a statement calling on the green building community to reconsider partnerships with Kingspan Group, an Ireland-based global manufacturer of insulation and other building materials that markets its products as “green.” Led by the Labor Network for Sustainability, local groups including Orange County Environmental Justice, Madison Park Neighborhood Association, The River Project and others were joined by national groups including Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Earth, Climate Justice Alliance, Sunrise Movement, the Climate Advocacy Lab and 36 others. The green building community includes architects, specifiers, the US Green Building Council, and trade associations such as the American Institute of Architects.

“We call on those who deal with Kingspan to reconsider rewarding it for behavior that weakens the credibility of the green building community, and that goes against the values of safe and sustainable buildings and communities,” reads the statement co-signed by the 45 organizations.

Read the full statement and list of signatory organizations here

The groups are calling on the green building community to stop allowing Kingspan representatives to sponsor or speak at trade shows and conferences, and to discontinue offering continuing education courses taught by Kingspan until the Grenfell Inquiry is finished and changes are made to its Santa Ana factory. The statement points to whistleblower complaints by Kingspan workers on health, safety and stormwater pollution issues at its Santa Ana, CA factory filed in October 2021, as well as the revelations from the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry regarding its UK insulation business that came out in 2020-2021.

Read the CalEPA and CalOSHA complaints, and the Indoor Air Quality study

The 2020-21 testimony and evidence from the UK Government Inquiry into the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire revealed how Kingspan’s UK insulation division misrepresented and mis-marketed Kooltherm K15’s fire safety testing and certifications from 2006-2020. (Kooltherm K15 made up five percent of the insulation in the tower, which is why Kingspan is a core participant of the Inquiry.) The company began marketing K15 in the US in 2018, after the fire.

“Kingspan is not an appropriate source for continuing education courses or sponsorships of events for the green building community, including those that touch on fire safety.” Read about Kingspan and the Grenfell Inquiry here

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The Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) engages workers and communities in building a transition to a society that is ecologically sustainable and economically just. We work to foster deep relationships that help the labor movement engage in the climate movement and the climate movement understand the economics of climate change and the importance of organized labor as a key partner in confronting the climate crisis.

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), AFL-CIO, is an international union whose affiliates represent sheet metal workers throughout the United States and Canada, as well as workers in transportation industries. Our members manufacture and install heating, ventilation, and air handling systems (HVAC), as well as architectural components such as metal roofing, facades, and other building envelope products.

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