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Green Bans

Should Unions Strike for a Just Transition?

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 10, 2017

After more than a decade of tenacious union lobbying of government negotiators, the words “a just transition of the workforce” was written into the preamble of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

But now what? Encouraged by Paris, unions around the world have committed fresh energy towards giving Just Transition some practical significance, otherwise it will remain little more than a moral appeal for fairness in a corporate-dominated world economy where both morality and fairness are increasingly scarce.

This Bulletin features an article by TUED coordinator Sean Sweeney on the recent commitment made by unions in South Africa to strike for a “just transition.” However, the goal of the threatened strike is to halt the plan of the national utility (Eskom) to close 5 coal-fired power stations, a move that threatens 40,000 jobs.  Titled “When Stopping Coal Plant Closures Makes Environmental Sense” the article, which first appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of New Labor Forum, urges environmentalists not to support the closures, but to join with unions in opposing Eskom’s proposed actions.  Supporting the closures, argues Sweeney is “a poisoned chalice,”  that “will separate the environmental movement from the unions with whom it should be allied. And whatever environmental gains the 5 closures might produce at the margins in terms of avoided emissions and pollution levels will be more than offset by the impact of ‘jobs versus environment’ political fragmentation. This is why the Eskom closures should be opposed, but opposed in a way that might lay the political foundations for a more fundamental energy transition.”

Since the article was written, Eskom’s war with the private renewable energy companies has continued, with the utility pushing back against high-cost of power purchase agreements for wind and solar power. TUED union NUMSA and also the new South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) have called for a socially owned renewables sector in order to allow for a just energy transition from the present coal-dominated power system to one that can take advantage of South Africa’s abundant supplies of wind and sunshine.

Bringing Back The Lucas Plan

By Felix Holtwell - Notes from Below, March 30, 2018

“We got to do something now, the company are not going to do anything and we got to protect ourselves”, proclaimed a shop steward at Lucas Aerospace when filmed by a 1978 documentary by the Open University.

Worker Solidarity with Camp Makwa and the Movement for Environmental Justice

By the Twin Cities GDC - It's Going Down, December 14, 2017

On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, the Twin Cities IWW unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming the IWW’s opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as officially declaring its opposition to the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline. The Twin Cities IWW pledged material support to water protectors, rejecting Enbridge’s arguments that the pipeline is necessary for jobs and prosperity for working class people, and put forward a vision of a “Just Transition” to a sustainable economy.

The resolution pledged two donations of $100 each to the legal defense fund and the supply fund of Camp Makwa, a resistance camp using direct action to protect the land and water that Anishinaabe people and other working class Minnesotans depend on. The resolution further endorsed the Black Snake Killaz Circuit, a series of fundraising concerts for Camp Makwa running across the Twin Cities and other towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin throughout the winter.

No Jobs on a Dead Planet

In the resolution, the Twin Cities IWW rejected the attempts by Enbridge and certain unions to paint the pipeline as good for workers. Instead, the resolution focuses on the harm that the oil industry does to its workers, surrounding communities, and the environment.

Enbridge’s existing Line 3 is the cause of the largest inland oil spill in US history, spilling 1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River in 1991. In 2007, tragedy struck in Minnesota again with a pinhole leak explosion in Clearbrook, killing two workers, sparking a large fire, and spilling 15,000 gallons. This spill burned for three days, contaminating the air in the surrounding community. In 2010, Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline also spilled, releasing around a million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River and causing 30,000-50,000 houses to evacuate—and leaving twice as many without clean drinking water. In the aftermath of these spills, union workers have spoken out against Enbridge for failing to clean up their mess which has resulted in birth defects, illness, cancer, and death of both humans and animals in the area of the disaster.

In addition to these specific acts of negligence, the resolution noted the way in which the oil industry exposes working class communities and especially communities of color and indigenous people to the worst risks. These communities are often ignored and their well-being violated during the permitting process for pipelines and other infrastructure projects. For example, pipeline routes often avoid wealthier or majority-white towns and are directed rather through poorer areas, especially near indigenous land. This was the case with the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the same pattern can be seen with Line 3.

The resolution further emphasizes the reality of climate change, an accelerating trend that is already disrupting and destroying lives, economies, ecologies, and communities around the world. As the resolution notes, “there are no jobs on a dead planet.”

Faced with environmental dangers on a local and global scale, and unable to stop the lobbying power of well-connected companies, marginalized communities of workers are left with few choices except direct action. Water protectors face violence from the state and private security to defend the land and the people who live on it from the harm done by the oil industry.

Twin Cities IWW Resolution in Solidarity with Camp Makwa and the movement for environmental justice

Adopted Unanimously by the Twin Cities IWW General Membership Branch - December 5, 2017

Whereas: On March 3rd 1991 the Line 3 pipeline caused the largest inland oil spill in US history, rupturing in Grand Rapids, Minnesota spilling 1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River; and

Whereas: In July 2010, Enbridge also spilled about a million gallons of Dilbit Oil in the Kalamazoo River when the Line 6B pipeline burst and flowed into the Talmadge Creek and then the Kalamazoo before the the spill was contained. On 29 July 2010, the Calhoun County Health Department asked 30 to 50 thousand households to evacuate, and twice as many were advised not to drink their water. Union workers cleaning up the Kalamazoo Spill have spoken against Enbridge for insufficiently cleaning up the spill which has resulted in birth defects, illness, cancer and death of both humans and animals in the area of the disaster; and

Whereas: In 2007, 2 Enbridge workers were killed in Clearbrook, Minnesota when a pinhole leak explosion sparked a huge fire and spilled 15,000 gallons of oil. Enbridge let the spill burn for three days poisoning the air of the surrounding community; and

Whereas: The Oil Industry and many other unsustainable industries sacrifice the health and safety of the working class and poor communities, especially many indigenous and communities of color. These communities are subject to environmental racism and classism and often ignored and violated during the permitting process of such projects; and

Whereas: These communities often are forced to defend themselves with direct action which puts them at greater risk of violence and incarceration from the state and private security; and

Whereas: The construction of these pipelines will contribute to the acceleration of already dangerous levels of currently existing greenhouse gas emissions which are contributing to the already dangerous effects of climate change, which could lead to a dead planet with no jobs; and

Whereas: Camp Makwa was established in August of 2017 to resist the pipeline using direct action to protect the water and natural resources such as the wild rice lakes, fishing and hunting, and farming that the Anishinaabe Tribe and working class in the area depend on. They have taken several direct actions to shut down construction of the Line 3 pipeline in Superior, Wisconsin and will resist the possible expansion in the spring. They are currently still camping during the harsh Minnesota winter.

Whereas: Neither the Line 3 Pipeline Dakota Access Pipeline, or the Keystone XL Pipeline will provide anywhere near the number of permanent union jobs the promoters of these projects promise they will, and

Whereas: More permanent union jobs can be created at union wages by decommissioning oil pipelines and upgrading water pipeline infrastructure, such as in Flint, Michigan. LIUNA and many labor unions currently have jobs working in the renewable energy sector such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric and could organize for a rapid transition of energy production and manufacturing to be safe for the workers, the surrounding communities and the environment. Though these renewable energy jobs are currently, typically non-union, trade unions if so determined, could easily develop a successful green energy organizing program, using solidarity unionism, that would revitalize the currently struggling labor movement. Far more jobs currently exist in the growing renewable energy sector than in the declining fossil fuel sector. Also these pipeline projects will not deliver the promised "energy security" or "energy independence" promised by their promoters, including the Building Trades and AFL-CIO Union officials among them and;

Whereas: Many unions, including the IWW, ILWU, ATU, APWU, LIUNA-City Employees Local 236, CWA, UE, SEIU, NNU, Pride at Work, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Labor for Standing Rock, and many members of other Labor organizations have already publicly stated opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and or the Keystone XL Pipeline; and

Whereas: President Donald Trump's executive orders that dismantle environmental regulation and ostensibly "clear a path" for the completion of the aforementioned pipelines are contradictory in nature and are designed primarily to divide workers and environmentalists over the false dichotomy of "jobs versus the environment"; and

Be Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW reaffirms the IWW’s opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as officially declares its opposition to the construction of the Line 3 Pipeline; and

Be it Also Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW donates $100 each to both Camp Makwa’s legal and supply fund (Legal | CAMP SUPPLIES FUND) and urges our Union’s members, the Labor Movement, and working class to pass resolutions like this one, donate, join, and organize in solidarity with Camp Makwa, the resistance to Line 3, and the movement for environmental justice, locally and abroad.

Be it also Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW endorses Black Snake Killaz Circuit, a collection of benefit shows created by organizers, artists, and eco-activists who are standing in solidarity with indigenous water protectors and their accomplices fighting Line 3 to defend Anishinaabe land and water from the extractive industry; and

Be it Further Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW calls on rank and file members of the Building Trades, Teamsters, and other unions who have declared support for these pipelines and other unsustainable projects to implement Green Bans and take direct action by striking and or slowing down in solidarity with the communities resisting Line 3, additional pipelines, and other projects that are exploitive of the working class and the plant we inhabit.

Be it Additionally Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW calls on the working class, unions, and the unsustainable companies that employee them, such as Enbridge, as well as their financial supporters to develop and rapidly implement a "Just Transition" plan for workers in unsustainable industries, such as pipeline and oil industry workers, to be trained in and given union jobs in the green energy sector. ; and

Be it Finally Resolved that: The Twin Cities IWW reaffirms our belief and commitment to revolutionary industrial unionism, environmental justice, and community self-defense with our goal to “organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”

Should Unions Strike for a Just Transition?

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 10, 2017

After more than a decade of tenacious union lobbying of government negotiators, the words “a just transition of the workforce” was written into the preamble of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

But now what? Encouraged by Paris, unions around the world have committed fresh energy towards giving Just Transition some practical significance, otherwise it will remain little more than a moral appeal for fairness in a corporate-dominated world economy where both morality and fairness are increasingly scarce.

This Bulletin features an article by TUED coordinator Sean Sweeney on the recent commitment made by unions in South Africa to strike for a “just transition.” However, the goal of the threatened strike is to halt the plan of the national utility (Eskom) to close 5 coal-fired power stations, a move that threatens 40,000 jobs.  Titled “When Stopping Coal Plant Closures Makes Environmental Sense” the article, which first appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of New Labor Forum, urges environmentalists not to support the closures, but to join with unions in opposing Eskom’s proposed actions.  Supporting the closures, argues Sweeney is “a poisoned chalice,”  that “will separate the environmental movement from the unions with whom it should be allied. And whatever environmental gains the 5 closures might produce at the margins in terms of avoided emissions and pollution levels will be more than offset by the impact of ‘jobs versus environment’ political fragmentation. This is why the Eskom closures should be opposed, but opposed in a way that might lay the political foundations for a more fundamental energy transition.”

Since the article was written, Eskom’s war with the private renewable energy companies has continued, with the utility pushing back against high-cost of power purchase agreements for wind and solar power. TUED union NUMSA and also the new South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) have called for a socially owned renewables sector in order to allow for a just energy transition from the present coal-dominated power system to one that can take advantage of South Africa’s abundant supplies of wind and sunshine.

List of green bans, 1971-1974

By Steven - Libcom.Org, June 17, 2017

References: BLF (NSW) 15 June 1973; 22 October 1973; 5 June, 1974; Joe Owens Deposit, Noel Butlin Archive, ANU
To Executive Members and Fulltime Workers:- A list of our Green Bans and other community actions in support of residents.
The following is the list:

The 1970s Struggle to Save the Vic Market

By staff - Earthworker Cooperative, June 2017; artwork by Sofia Sabbagh

Remembering the struggle to save the Vic Market from the threat of redevelopment in the 1970s. Earthworker recognises itself as part of this tradition of defending public and community space. 

The Vic Market is a vital public space in the heart of Melbourne. Many of us who live in and around Melbourne appreciate the Market as a place to work, eat, meet and enjoy company with friends and family.

Not many know that in the 1970s, pressure began to mount for the “redevelopment” of the Queen Victoria Market into a combined trade and hotel precinct. Even fewer know the truth about the role that a militant trade union, namely the Builders Labourers’ Federation (BLF), played in protecting the Vic Market from this threat.

This is an excerpt from Vic Market’s own website: “The separation of the Wholesale Market from the Retail Market lead to a plan to redevelop the Queen Victoria Market site into a trade centre, office and hotel complex in the 1970s. However, public outcry prevented this and resulted in the Market being classified by the National Trust. Later, the Market site and its buildings were listed on the Historic Buildings Register.”

Not a word about a union. Yet if you talk to the older stall holders today they all know people who came before them who were involved in that period, and who are proud of the union-declared ban on development work at the Vic market. This action was only one in a series of bans that the BLF put on development sites that were deemed socially or environmentally harmful. This strategy was collectively termed “Green Bans”.

Here’s some words from Dave Kerin, co-founder of Earthworker and one of those involved in the victory to protect the Vic Market in the 1970s:

“Our community is there; our kids grew up with the Market as a formative community influence; and importantly thanks to John Cummins (previous Victorian secretary of the BLF), the Green Ban remains on the Vic Market. In the early 1990’s the stall holders approached Cummo to discuss yet another proposal to build inappropriately on Market land. Cummo reassured everybody that as far as he was concerned “The Green Ban was never lifted!” The Green Ban still holds and yet goes unacknowledged by the Market’s Administration. This ahistorical presentation of events must change.”

History is repeating, and we now see that the Vic Market is under threat again. But, if we know our history, we can assert with confidence “We’ve saved it before, we’ll save it again!”.

The Lucas plan and the politics of technology

By David King - People and Nature, October 26, 2016

The Lucas Plan: how Greens and trade unionists can unite in common cause

By David King - Breaking the Frame, November 2, 2016

Forty years ago workers at Lucas Aerospace created a detailed plan to transition out of the arms industry and into green, sustainable products and technologies, writes David King. it never happened, yet the Lucas Plan provides a blueprint for similar initiatives today to build a deep-rooted, broad-based movement for social, economic and ecological progress.

One problem that environmental campaigns against harmful industries such as nuclear power and weapons, fracking, arms, etc. often face is opposition from trade unions and local people concerned about the impact on jobs.

But as an inspiring initiative by workers themselves in the 1970s showed, it doesn't have to be that way. 2016 is the 40th anniversary of the Lucas Plan.

No, there's no connection to the eponymous Green MP! It was a plan by workers at the Lucas Aerospace arms company to convert the company's production to socially useful products. Amongst their ahead-of-their-time ideas were wind turbines, heat pumps, and hybrid car engines, which are now in widespread use.

At a conference in November trade unionists, environmentalists and peace activists are coming together to celebrate the anniversary and take forward more recent workers' plans like the Million Climate Jobs campaign. We hope the conference will give new impetus towards a 'people's transition' to sustainability with social justice.

Socially useful production

The Lucas Plan came about not as the result of activism from the peace movement, but as a positive response by the Lucas workers themselves, to save their jobs, in the face of recession and planned government defence spending cuts. In the early 1970s the workers at Lucas had organised themselves into a cross-union Combine Committee, which had already been extremely effective in fighting redundancies.

The Combine Committee worked on the plan throughout 1975, when it circulated questionnaires to the workforce requesting product suggestions which answered a social need and could be produced using the workforce's existing skills and technology. Emphasis was also to be put on the way the products were to be made, making sure that workers were not to be deskilled in the process of producing them.

150 product ideas were put forward by the workforce. From them, products were selected to fall into six categories: medical equipment, transport vehicles, improved braking systems, energy conservation, oceanics, and telechiric machines.

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