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NYC Public Pension Funds Fossil Fuels Divestment Campaign

By Nancy Romer - Labor Network for Sustainability, November 22, 2017

New York City Public Worker Pension Funds are on the cusp of selling off or divesting from their fossil fuel stocks.  How and why are NYC workers and climate activists so intent on achieving this?  What will it mean if they win this?  First some background.

Pension Funds are the Capital of US Workers

American workers too often feel overwhelmed by the power of capitalism in general and financial corporations in particular.  We may feel we have few economic resources with which to exert our opinions and defend our needs in a system based on money.  We may want to challenge “fossil fuel capitalism” that threatens the future for our grandchildren, but how?

Most American workers do own capital in the form of their own homes and, especially, in their pension funds.  Often the pension funds are managed with the support and participation of their unions or, more specifically, their union leaders. What if union members were to look closely at our pension funds and see how we could use them to create the kind of world we want:  investments in renewable energy, public transportation, affordable housing, public education, regenerative agriculture?

As a sector, pension funds are the single largest institutional investor followed by banks, investment firms, and insurance companies (Global Pension Statistics Project, GPS).  Approximately $40 trillion was invested by pension funds in financial markets in 2015 and that gives workers much more financial punch than we realize or use.

Pensions represent deferred compensation to workers and are negotiated through contracts on behalf of union members.  The intention is to provide income during retirement years. Workers have the potential financial power through collectively using their pension funds to both protect us through financially insecure times such as these and to have an impact on the world we want to see, the world we want to leave to our children and future generations.  Too often the second part of this formula—having an impact on the world we want to see—is totally ignored.

A growing number of American workers are questioning the wisdom of keeping their hard-earned deferred income in fossil fuel holdings.   Some unions, particularly public service unions, are joining the other financial entities, like universities, faith organizations, and foundations, which have divested their funds from fossil fuel holdings. Pension funds committed to divestment comprised 12% of all divestment commitments. Globally, a full $5.2 trillion in assets has been pledged to divest from fossil fuels. [Arabella Global Divestment Report, 2016]  That’s a huge start!  We are denying funds from the fossil fuel industry, devaluing their stocks, stopping to “feed the beast”, making fossil fuel corporations pariahs, like we did with tobacco companies that caused cancer.

Labor Network for Sustainability Calls for “Climate Solidarity” on Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, Octber 24, 2017

On this fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, it is time to recognize that climate change is a dagger pointing at the jobs and well-being of American workers.

Since Sandy we have seen storm after storm, wildfire after wildfire, flood after flood, all demonstrating the greater intensity that climate scientists have warned us will result from climate change. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Labor Department said 1.5 million workers were not at their jobs because of weather. And the experience of Sandy, Katrina, and other climate-intensified storms shows that the devastation to workers and unions continues for years after the immediate impact.

There is no escape from climate devastation except a planned transition from a fossil fueled economy to a fossil free economy. That will require change in every industry from manufacturing to construction to agriculture. And that will require millions of jobs. Climate protection is our best jobs program.

The transition to a climate-safe economy must be a just transition. We need to use that transition to reverse the growing inequality and injustice of our society. And we need to make sure that poor and working people are protected against any unintended side effects of climate protection.

The labor movement’s most essential value is solidarity. Summed up in the hallowed adage “An injury to one is an injury to all,” it is the recognition that “looking out for number one” doesn’t work, that we will survive and prosper only if we look out for one another. Climate protection is the new solidarity: protecting our brothers and sisters as well as ourselves from destruction.

The Huntley Experiment

By Richard Lipsitz and Rebecca Newberry, Labor Network for Sustainability, May 9, 2017

As the Huntley coal-fired power plant in Tonawanda, NY, a working class suburb of Buffalo, NY, began cutting back on its production, the company began cutting back on its payments to the town; as a result, three schools were closed and 135 school employees lost their jobs. The workforce at the plant was slashed from 125 to 75. In response to the likely closing of the plant, the Kenmore-Tonawanda Teachers Association, the IBEW, the Western New York Area Labor Federation, and the Clean Air Coalition formed the Huntley Alliance.

They won funding from the new state Fossil Fuel Plant Closure Fund to offset lost tax revenue. And they are continuing to campaign for jobs and/or retraining for those employed at the plant and reuse of the plant for activities that will enhance the economic and cultural life of the community. Richard Lipsitz, President of the Western New York Labor Federation, and Rebecca Newberry, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, tell the inside story of this successful effort in “Huntley, a Case Study: Building Strategic Alliances for Real Change.”

[Full Text] of the case study

Video: How to Organize a General Strike

By New York City IWW - January 14, 2017

NYC-IWOC Stands in Solidarity with Standing Rock

By IWOC-NYC - It's Going Down, September 8, 2016

On September 9, 2016, the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising, as thousands of prisoners across the world are striking against prison-slavery, several thousand indigenous tribal members of over 160 tribes and supporters of #BlackLivesMatter are collectively resisting white-supremacist and settler-colonialist capitalist powers. In New York City, many will be gathering outside Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn to protest the police terrorization and kidnapping of 120 youth from Eastchester Gardens in the Bronx. At the same time, NYC Stands With Standing Rock will be holding a protest in Washington Square Park in support of the Sioux Tribe and water protectors resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

We express our solidarity with those on the frontline at the Camp of the Sacred Stones as well as with the NYC Stands With Standing Rock contingent. Although our acts of resistance are geographically separated, we will be joined together in the spirit of resistance. Just as state-sanctioned genocide against indigenous peoples continues today, slavery has persisted in the guise of the prison system.

Recognizing that slavery and genocide are two heads of the many-headed hydra that is amerikkka, let us strike forcefully at those heads today, until, through our collective struggle, we can deliver the lethal blow.

#NoDAPL #EndPrisonSlavery

in struggle,

IWOC-NYC

New York Climate Jobs Initiatives

By J. Mijin Cha, Lara Skinner and Josh Kellermann - Global Climate Jobs, September 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In 2014-2015, the New York labor movement and its allies in other movements launched two complementary Climate Jobs initiatives for New York City and New York State. The city-level campaign, Climate Works for All, is anchored by ALIGN, the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) and the NYC Central Labor Council (CLC). Climate Works for All is a broad coalition of over 40 community, labor, environmental justice, faith and other organizations united to ensure that efforts to address climate change also create good, career-track jobs and prioritize low-income, climate-vulnerable communities. The coalition released a 10-point platform in early 2015 that focused on five primary sectors that contribute most to NYC’s climate crisis: Buildings; Energy; Transit; Waste; and Community and Infrastructure Resiliency. The 10-point platform ranges from demanding a mandatory energy efficiency retrofit program for large privately-owned buildings, to solar installations on 100 schools, to flood and stormwater infrastructure improvements, to making NYC’s public hospitals more resilient to climate change impacts.

The New York State initiative, coordinated by The Worker Institute at Cornell, brings together unions in the building, energy and transport sectors to develop a comprehensive climate jobs plan for New York State. A Climate Jobs report for New York State will be released in Fall 2015 along with specific climate jobs policy proposals for the energy, transport and buildings sectors – policies that the labor movement along with its allies will push to implement in the next year. The Worker Institute at Cornell and its union partners have also developed a labor-climate training curriculum for union members and leaders that will be used to build engagement and support for the climate jobs work in NY.

Greenwashing and the Bloombergification of the Globe’s Cities

By Peter Rugh, - System Change not Climate Change, March 5, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Have you ever been caught tapping a friend’s phone calls? Called out for the exploitive maltreatment your employees? Are you a multi-billionaire prone to going through the pockets of black youth in the hopes of finding marijuana?

Consider talking about your concern for the environment, particularly the effects of climate change. Leading governments, corporations, and political figures under fire for civil and human rights violations are giving it a whirl.

Greening Injustice

After the New York Times, via documents provided by former security contractor Edward Snowden, revealed on February 16 that the NSA had spied on Indonesia and U.S. attorneys representing the nation, Secretary of State John Kerry found himself in a tough spot. He was visiting Indonesia at the time. What did he say when he took the podium in Jakarta? He warned the country about climate change.

“President Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society,” Kerry told the press.

Never mind that the U.S. outranks Indonesia in greenhouse emissions or, that the State Department issued a bogus report claiming that the fuel fuel intense Keystone XL pipeline will have significant impact on U.S. greenhouse gas output. Forget that the U.S. has fought against reparation initiatives that would see historically high emitters in the West providing poorer nations like Indonesia with funds to move off fossil fuels.