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EcoUnionist News #122 - #NoDAPL Update

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2016

The following unions have issued statements in solidarity with those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline; we will add additional unions to this list as we become aware of their having taken a similar stand:

  1. New York State Nurses Association - September 1, 2016
  2. IWW - September 3, 2016
  3. Border Agricultural Workers - September 7, 2016
  4. Amalgamated Transport Union - September 9, 2016
  5. Communications Workers of America - September 9, 2016
  6. National Nurses United - September 9, 2016
  7. ILWU Local 19 - September 12, 2016
  8. Oregon Public Employees Union (SEIU Local 503) - September 12, 2016
  9. United Electrical Workers - September 12, 2016
  10. ILWU Pacific Coast Pensioners Association - September 13, 2016
  11. National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) - September 16, 2016
  12. California Faculty Association - ca. September 17, 2016
  13. AFL-CIO Labor Coalition for Community Action, (includes the 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, and Pride at Work) - September 19, 2016

(This may not be a complete list, but we will endeavor to correct any oversights as we find them. If you know of additional unions who have joined this list, please contact us at euc@iww.org.)

On the other hand, some unions insist on staying on the wrong side of history:

In Response, union members are encouraged to sign this appeal (instructions included within).

Dakota Access Pipeline Halted Again!:

Direct Actions against the Pipeline Construction Continue:

And Solidarity Actions Take Place All Over:

EcoUnionist News #121 - #NoDAPL Update

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

The following unions have issued statements in solidarity with those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline; we will add additional unions to this list as we become aware of their having taken a similar stand:

  1. IWW - September 3, 2016
  2. Border Agricultural Workers - September 7, 2016
  3. Amalgamated Transport Union - September 9, 2016
  4. Communications Workers of America - September 9, 2016
  5. National Nurses United - September 9, 2016
  6. ILWU Local 19 - September 12, 2016
  7. United Electrical Workers - September 12, 2016

(This may not be a complete list, but we will endeavor to correct any oversights as we find them. If you know of additional unions who have joined this list, please contact us at euc@iww.org.)

On the other hand, some unions insist on staying on the wrong side of history:

Dakota Access Pipeline Halted (or was it?):

Amy Goodman Targeted:

Jill Stein Arrested:

Tin Soldiers and Nixon's Comin'...

Men Behind the Curtain:

Californians Deliver 350,000 Signatures Calling on State, Gov. Brown to Stop Irrigation of Crops With Oil Wastewater

By Julie Light and Patrick Sullivan - Center for Biological Diversity, August 9, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Pushing a wheelbarrow filled with 350,000 petition signatures, concerned Californians gathered outside the capitol today to urge Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Water Resources Control Board to stop the potentially dangerous practice of using wastewater from oil drilling to irrigate California’s crops. The wastewater, sold by Chevron and California Resources Corporation, is now being used to irrigate over 90,000 acres in the Cawelo Irrigation District and the North Kern Water Management District, and is slated to expand in the near future to other districts.

The group, which included Assemblymember Mike Gatto, UCSF nurse practitioner Lisa Hartmayer, Center for Biological Diversity scientist John Fleming and California consumers, delivered a petition with more than 350,000 signatures, gathered around the state and nation, calling for an immediate halt to the practice. The petition signatures were collected by CREDO, Care2, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, RootsKeeper, Center for Environmental Health, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Food Safety, Courage Campaign, and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment.

“Californians want to know what is in the water and the soil that is used to grow their food. This should not be a problem, especially if there is nothing to hide,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles).

California produces almost half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that feed the United States, and more than 100 farms in the Central Valley use oil wastewater for irrigation. Some of the United States’ most popular brands grow food in the Cawelo and North Kern water districts, including Trinchero Family Estates (makers of Sutter Home wines), Halos Mandarins (formerly known as Cuties) and The Wine Group (makers of Cupcake and Fish Eye wines).

At the same time, there hasn’t been a comprehensive, independent study to determine if the wastewater is safe for crop irrigation. The limited analysis done used outdated methods; regulators don’t screen for all the chemicals used in oil extraction, many of which are carcinogens. The Los Angeles Times reported that a test of the wastewater sold by Chevron to the Cawelo Irrigation District contained acetone and benzene.

Some of the chemicals used in oil operations are linked to cancer, kidney failure, reproductive issues and liver damage. No comprehensive and independent analysis has been conducted to assess the safety of the wastewater. Oil-industry wastewater can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. State oil officials’ own study detected benzene levels in oil wastewater at thousands of times the federal limits for drinking water.

“As a nurse, one of the simplest yet most important recommendations I can give a patient is to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Lisa Hartmayer, nurse practitioner at UCSF. “How can our governor and water regulators sleep at night knowing that the fresh foods that millions of people eat to stay healthy may actually be threatening their health? We don’t know if our tangerines, almonds and grapes are contaminated with water that could be carcinogenic.”

In addition to the dangers posed to consumers, agricultural workers are exposed daily to the oil and gas wastewater with no protection for their health and safety.

“Oil wastewater doesn’t belong on California’s crops. It’s irresponsible to take this kind of risk with our food supply,” said John Fleming, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We should take a precautionary approach to mixing oil with food and wait until there are studies proving this practice is safe before we even consider it.”  

“I’m here for my kids. It concerns me that Governor Brown would allow this practice without thorough testing. This is the food that I feed my kids every day. The thought that they could get sick from tainted food really worries me,” said Sue Chiang from Oakland.

Petition signers from around the state appealed directly to the governor and his desire to be perceived as an environmental champion. Rev. and Mrs. Don Baldwin from Nevada City wrote in their comments: "Dear Gov. Brown - If you are to truly go down in history as our 'environmental' governor, you MUST see this as one of the most significant actions you need to take."

A growing number of Californians are raising concerns about the use of wastewater for crop irrigation and organized Protect California Food, an affiliate of Californians Against Fracking, which is calling on Governor Brown and state water regulators to immediately ban the practice. Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter.

No Coal in Oakland: a Report on the Campaign

By Margaret Rossoff - No Coal in Oakland, August 2016; image by Brooke Anderson

Many activists have expressed interest in an account of how the No Coal in Oakland campaign was organized.  This article is a response, but is not a history.  It is structured thematically rather than chronologically, and the many amazing activists and organizers are not identified by name.  Some of our initiatives came from organizations and some came from individual activists, but this account does not attempt to credit them, as every idea became a shared project.  Unlike just about every document during the campaign, this is not a collectively written piece.  It was significantly improved by careful readings by several people, for which I am very grateful, but I am responsible for all errors and omissions.  I expect—and hope–others will be writing their own accounts from a variety of perspectives.

I have included many links for documents referred to in this account.  For general background about the campaign, go to NoCoalinOakland.info.  A guide to acronyms is at the end of the article.

Margaret Rossoff
margaretmft@gmail.com

Strategy

No Coal in Oakland’s campaign was focused on persuading the members of the Oakland City Council to ban storage and handling of coal at a bulk export marine terminal to be built on City-owned land.  This would effectively prevent the transport of coal through Oakland and other cities along the rail lines as well as the shipment of coal overseas.

  • Our campaign to get the council members to vote for the ban had several components.  The primary ones were:
  • Direct lobbying with council members.
  • Outreach to Oakland residents, including particularly West Oakland residents and participants in community groups.  This was intended both to influence elected officials through popular opposition, and because we saw our campaign as part of building the larger movement for environmental justice and to contain climate disruption.
  • Insuring that evidence of the dangers of coal was adequately documented and presented to the council, including rebutting misleading claims by the developers.
  • Exploring other routes that might also lead to keeping coal out of Oakland.

This article focuses primarily on the first two aspects of our campaign. 

Austerity vs. the Planet: The Future of Labor Environmentalism

By Trish Kahle - Dissent, Spring 2016

Last December members of the International Trade Union Confederation joined other civil society activists in a mass sit-in at the COP21 talks in Paris. Unionists and their allies, some 400 strong, filled the social space adjacent to the negotiating rooms for several hours, in defiance of a French ban on protests that remained in effect in the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks. The ITUC delegation demanded the negotiators go back to the table and make a serious effort to incorporate labor’s demands for a just transition—which, at its heart, is concerned with making sure workers in environmentally unsustainable industries are retrained and put to work building a new, sustainable economy.

The action, even as it generated energy and media buzz, failed to convince the negotiators. The “just transition” clause of the Paris agreement remained stuck in the preamble (not in the body of the agreement itself, as the ITUC members had demanded), more of a hat tip than grounds for international action. But at least it got a mention—unlike the fossil fuels largely responsible for the climate crisis in the first place. Nowhere in the Paris agreement or its preamble do the words fossil fuel, coal, oil, gas, or pollution appear.

As the talks wrapped up and world leaders hailed a “historic turning point” in the world’s relationship to ongoing climate disruption, environmental activist Chris Williams pointed out that “twenty-one years of treaties and negotiations have all been stepping around the main problem, which is the production of fossil fuels.” For all the pomp and circumstance, this agreement was no different. Meanwhile, the consequences of two decades of inaction become clearer each day. A few weeks after the Paris agreement was signed, scientists confirmed that 2015 was the warmest year on record, with global temperatures approaching 1°C above the twentieth-century average. And those already feeling the worst effects of this climate disruption, predominantly poor people of color, continued to have the least say in how to combat it.

Just as they have been dismissed in international climate negotiations, workers have largely been excluded from the fragile global recovery since 2008. Some 197 million people around the world are jobless, with young people making up over a third of this number. Unemployment in southern and eastern Europe remains particularly high, still hovering at 24.6 percent in austerity-ravaged Greece, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East.

The picture in the OECD economies is not much prettier. In the United States, economic recovery has meant the swapping out of middle-wage jobs, earning between $14 and $21 an hour, for part-time, on-call, low-wage employment with few benefits. Energy-sector jobs, often hailed as the lifeblood of the American economic recovery, have taken a dive as oil prices plunge below $30 a barrel. In 2015 the industry slashed 104,514 jobs, compared to 4,137 the year before. Fracking boom state North Dakota went from ranking first in U.S. job growth to dead last.

All this takes place in the context of a weakened labor movement that has failed to maintain workers’ expected standard of living in the face of ongoing restructuring in the world economy and, particularly in the United States, political backsliding. The degradation of work and the destruction of the environment have proceeded hand in hand. Good jobs keep going away, but fossil fuels haven’t gone anywhere. And yet the industry-propagated myth of “jobs versus the environment” persists. From the moment Congress debated anti-pollution legislation in the early 1970s, fossil fuel industry leaders promised such regulation would destroy the heavily unionized employment in the industry. In 1971 the Chamber of Commerce warned that the passage of the Clean Air Act could lead to the collapse of “entire industries,” while auto industry lobbyists prophesied “business catastrophe.” Four decades later, the talking points remain the same: the Heritage Foundation claims that Obama’s Clean Power Plan will cost 1 million U.S. jobs, while West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito says that new coal rules threaten to “regulate out of existence” her state’s key industry.

The problem with this story is that environmental regulation never got the chance to destroy whole sectors of “good jobs,” as opponents of pollution regulation promised it would; the fossil fuel companies themselves, with the winds of free-market fundamentalism at their backs, destroyed them instead. A decade after the passage of the Clean Air Act, the United States was producing more cars and fossil fuels than ever, and employing a record number of workers to do so. Another decade later, as the Cold War was ending, U.S. fossil fuel production was still going strong, but the jobs were evaporating.

It wasn’t just fossil fuels, of course. The decline in manufacturing jobs, union density, and real wages wrought by neoliberal restructuring hollowed out the prospects of the entire American working class. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the resulting misery has only been exacerbated by government austerity and anti-union measures, as manufactured scarcity is marshaled to frighten workers into concessions.

Communities Unite to Fight Coal in Oakland

By Eric K. Arnold - Reimagine, March 2016

Coal, once the staple of American industrial production, may be on its last legs. With domestic production showing a long-term decline, the fossil fuel’s days appear to be numbered.

According to the most recent annual report [1] of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2013, U.S. coal production fell below two billion short tons for the first time in two decades; coal mining capacity decreased, as did the average number of coal mine employees, the average sales price of coal, and total U.S. coal stocks. In April of 2015, the EIA projected coal would hit a 28-year low, reflecting significant drops in domestic demand and exports. In August, Goldman Sachs divested itself of its coal holdings; a month later, it issued a gloomy forecast[2] for coal’s future, stating, “the industry does not require new investment,” dashing hopes for a miraculous upturn in the coal market. A report[3] by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) noted that 26 domestic coal companies have recently gone into bankruptcy proceedings; and coal’s value on the Dow Jones index dropped by 76 percent between 2009-14 (a period when the overall Dow index went up 69 percent).

According to CTI, domestic energy generation has remained flat for the past decade but energy sources have shifted: coal and oil are down, but natural gas and renewable energy are up. America’s largest coal producers are recording annual losses in the billions of dollars, while Chinese coal demand has slumped and new environmental regulations[4] aimed at significantly reducing air pollution and increasing wind and solar consumption are being phased in by the Chinese government. Additionally, all federal coal leasing is currently under moratorium until a comprehensive review can be completed. As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted[5] in its online magazine, OnEarth, “it would be difficult to overstate the industry’s current distress.”

This is scary news for the coal industry, yet a welcome announcement for environmentalists who have waged national campaigns against coal for decades. These desperate times for coal producers have led to desperate measures. Their last hope, it would seem, is to increase coal’s export capacity by transporting the black gunk through West Coast ports. But even there the pro-coal forces have met with unexpected resistance, as city after city in Oregon and Washington have mounted grassroots campaigns to deliver an emphatic message: “Say no to coal.”

Nurses join with partner environmental groups to demand climate justice now

Press Release - National Nurses United, December 3, 2015

More than 1,200 California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee registered nurses, environmental and healthcare activists, and students on Dec. 3 marched and rallied in Los Angeles to demand that the world’s leaders, now convening in Paris for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, adopt a binding and enforceable climate treaty, commit resources to fund the transformation to clean, renewable energy including a just transition program for those who now work in the fossil fuel industry, and call on wealthy, developed countries to provide resources for the less-developed countries to act on climate, with funding coming from a carbon tax and the Robin Hood tax.

“I’m a registered nurse and our planet is my patient, and it is on life support,” said Malinda Markowitz, RN and a CNA/NNOC copresident and vice-president of National Nurses United, to the crowd assembled in downtown Los Angeles’ Pershing Square. “As nurses, we see the health consequences from the effects of pollution created by fossil fuels. We deal with the human fallout of climate injustice. Enough is enough. As nurses we know we must respond by giving care and by protest, protest, protest! We will never stop protesting.”

In a march leading up to the rally, nurses chanted “No more Chevron, No BP! Energy democracy!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! Fossil fuel has got to go!” As they crossed the 110 freeway, they dropped a banner from the overpass that read, “Last exit ahead. Climate action now!” to underscore how dire the crisis has become.

The public health dimensions of the global climate crisis are extensive and far-reaching, nurses say. According to the World Health Organization, more than 8 million deaths worldwide are directly attributable to air pollution, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels and lack of access to clean energy. Infectious and vector-born diseases, such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and Lyme, will spike as temperatures increase. Further global warming and climate change will magnify the already catastrophic health impacts of: fossil fuel pollution, hunger and malnutrition due to desertification and devastation and displacement from severe weather events and sea level rise.

Labor Rallies Against Fossil Fuel At Climate Rally In Oakland on November 21, 2015

By Steve Zeltser - Labor Video Project, November 21, 2015

Trade unionists from Northern California rallied and marched on November 21, 2015 against fossil fuel and further carbons in the planet. The march and rally was endorsed by the bay area labor councils. IBEW 595 officials also talk about the Zero Carbon building the union has built in San Leandro to train apprentices and their members on technology and energy efficiency.

Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 11, 2015

Author's Note: This article is a sequel of sorts to my previous piece, Unions and the Climate Justice Movement, which briefly mentions the No Coal in Oakland campaign. The image, depicted at the right, compares a pro-capitalist-logging poster (yellow, near right) ostensibly created by timber workers (but actually crafted by the employers) to mobilize support for a counter-demonstration to a rally and march, held in Fort Bragg in July 1990, organized by the Redwood Summer coalition (which included timber workers). The green poster (far right), represents the Redwood Summer coalition's response, and accurately summarizes their position on timber workers and timber jobs.

At first glance, the Oakland City Council meeting, held on September 21, 2015 looked much like many public hearings where public opposition had organized in response to the plans, practices, or proposals of capitalist interests that threatened the environment. For most of the evening, and well into the night, council members and the Mayor watched and listened as speaker after speaker (out of a total of over 500) either spoke in favor (or against) coal exports or ceded their time to their allies. On one side were a widely diverse group of activists, organized by a coalition known as No Coal in Oakland-- adorned in red (union made and printed) T-shirts--opposed to plans to export coal through a proposed Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), as part of the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center (or Oakland Global), and on the other were the project's supporters, dressed in business attire accompanied by several dozen union workers, many of them from the Laborers' Union, dressed in yellow.  As is often the case, the project's supporters tried to frame the opposition as being composed of insensitive outsiders, and themselves and the supporting "workers" as placing the economic interests of Oakland and its residents above all else. "We support good paying union jobs that will help the struggling, predominantly African-American residents of west Oakland" opined the supporters, trying to suggest that those in opposition didn't.

This is an old, and shopworn script, that has been trotted out numerous times in the past quarter century or more. Anyone who has experienced or studied the "Timber Wars" that took place in the Pacific Northwest during the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s will recall the armies of loggers and mill-workers decked out in yellow shirts, sporting yellow foam car radio antennae balls or yellow ribbons who would show up en massé (at the behest of their employers, often with pay) to oppose limits to clear-cutting or protections for the Northern Spotted Owl and to denounce (often) green shirted environmentalists as "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" and/or upper middle class "elitists" (or--defying logic--both). Sometimes, in drawn out campaigns, the employers have often furthered this illusion by creating false front "Astroturf" groups, ostensibly composed of workers, to distract attention away from themselves.

The truth is far much more complex and nuanced, of course. Usually the "jobs" promised by the projects' supporters often don't materialize (indeed, the opposite--namely automation, downsizing, and outsourcing--usually occurs). Those in opposition to environmentally destructive practices and proposals are usually composed of and led by locals, most of whom are, themselves, gainfully employed, and sympathetic to the needs and concerns of the affected workers (in fact, the opposition's counter proposals, if well thought out, do more to create "jobs" and job security than those in support of the project). Meanwhile, the actual level of support among the rank and file workers purportedly backing up the capitalists interests could accurately be described as a mile wide and an inch deep, at best. And the bosses? When they speak of jobs, they actually refer to profits. Nevertheless, in the past, the capitalist media has typically and dutifully reported that these projects are opposed by "green clad environmentalists" (or red in this particular case) and supported by "yellow clad workers" (often neglecting to draw any distinction between the workers and their employers).

Therefore, it is both surprising and refreshing, that in spite of the attempts by the employing class to replay that same script on September 21, 2015 in Oakland, the attempt backfired, due to the diligent and tireless organizing by their grassroots opposition. A closer examination of what happened, and how the opposition organized, will illustrate why this is so and how others can duplicate the organizers' efforts to defeat further attempts by capitalist interests to use divide and conquer tactics to push their climate and environment (not-to-mention job) destroying projects through.

Unions and the Climate Justice Movement

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, October 7, 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.

Where does the union movement stand on the issue of climate justice? The answer to that question is not entirely simple. First of all, it's important to understand the differences between revolutionary unions (most of which are syndicalist--such as the CNT, FAI, SAC--or Marxist--such as NUMSA--in their orientation, or some hybrid inclusive of both and more--such as the IWW) and mainstream reformist unions, such as the AFL-CIO.  For most revolutionary unions, climate justice is an inherent part of the struggle to overthrow capitalism, abolish wage slavery, and create a new society within the shell of the old. For example, the IWW has organized an environmental unionism caucus that dedicates itself to climate justice and other ecological issues. The South African union, NUMSA, is a supporter of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED)1 and has issued a statement calling for the end to the "Mineral Industrial Complex" (even though they represent mine workers) in favor of renewable energy.

Where the reformist unions (sometimes called "business unions" or "class collaborationist" unions by their detractors) stand varies widely, and to be accurate, some of these "reformist" unions have more (or less) "revolutionary" orientation within the spectrum of the mainstream labor movement. While many still believe that capitalism can be reformed, the evolving realities of capitalism--which is becoming extremely repressive as it imposes increasingly crushing austerity upon the working class--the ever heightening urgency of addressing capitalist induced global warming, and the increasingly impossible-to-ignore realities of police violence, movements like Black Lives Matter, and other social issues are driving many unions to question their adherence to it, beyond the mere rank and file militants within each of them.

One would expect the Building Trades and most heavy industry based unions in the United States, many of which are still largely dominated by white male workers, to be least supportive of climate justice (or even likely to swallow the rhetoric of climate denialism) and conversely expect the service unions, many of which are predominantly composed of women and People of Color to be most supportive of it, and in some cases that's true, but not always! The actual "geography" of where unions stand on climate justice is actually quite complex2, inconsistent, and in some instances contradictory.  Sorting it out completely is well beyond the scope of this article, but it is illustrative to cover some general ground and cite a few interesting examples.

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