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ILWU members tell Oakland City Council to kill coal terminal plan

Press Release - ILWU, October 21, 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.

An overflow crowd at the Oakland City Council meeting on September 21 heard ILWU leaders taking passionate positions against a controversial coal export terminal that developers and coal industry lobbyists want to build on a private dock with public subsidies. Six hundred citizens submitted requests to speak at the hearing which began at 4pm and went late into the night.

Developer hiding

Master developer Phil Tagami was noticeably absent from the public hearing on the coal export terminal which has become a centerpiece of his redevelopment scheme that promised to transform Oakland’s former Oakland Army base into a mix of modern warehouses, intermodal hub and a “state of the art” privately-owned break-bulk dock.

Jobs Promised

To win crucial political support, Tagami claimed his project would create thousands of good-paying jobs, and told community and labor groups that most of those jobs would be union. But many of the groups negotiating with Tagami were unfamiliar with industry employment practices, which may have allowed the developer to use inflated and unrealistic numbers. Now Tagami has hitched his project’s to a controversial coal export terminal, and suggested that the entire project and thousands of jobs depend on the coal deal.

Coal lobbyists & lawyers

Instead of appearing in person at the September hearing, Tagami hired a slew of well-dressed lawyers, lobbyists, businessmen and preachers to make his case for the coal terminal. Lawyers made thinly-veiled threats that lawsuits would be filed if the developers didn’t get their way. One Washington D.C. lawyer declared that the city had no authority to regulate or limit railroads shipping coal to the export terminal.

Buying turnout

But despite hiring big guns, Tagami’s team had a hard time finding actual “concerned citizens” who supported the coal terminal, so they resorted to paying people to fill seats and wear t-shirts. The plan backfired when news reporters interviewed apparent “coal supporters” in the audience who quickly admitted they only came because they were paid. Some even expressed confusion about which side they were supposed to support.

Buying loyalty

The pay-to-play tactics included generous “offers” from the coal lobbyists to local churches and environmental groups – in exchange for backing the coal terminal. A team of former executives from the Port of Oakland reportedly offered church leaders 7 cents for every ton of coal that would be exported; environmental groups were offered a more generous 12 cents per ton. The environmental groups declined the offer; while some church leaders apparently accepted and attended the hearing to praise the proposal.

Labor unity & exceptions

The Alameda County Central Labor Council told City officials that unions had just passed a strong resolution opposing the coal export terminal, because it would provide few jobs, threaten nearby residents and harm efforts to control climate change. Two unions, the Teamsters and Laborers, tried but failed to stop the labor body from adopting the coal terminal resolution.

Both were told by the developer that the good union jobs being promised could not be delivered without the coal terminal. Teamster officials joined developer Phil Tagami in avoiding the public hearing, but lobbied for the coal project behind the scenes.

East Bay Unions Don't Want Your Coal

By S.E. Smith - Truthout, September 29, 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.

Coal is the energy source of the past, so what is it doing in plans for our future? It's a question that was asked by labor, environmental and community activists as they learned about plans for a new bulk commodities terminal proposed for Oakland's former army base by developer Terminal Logistics Solutions. The company is backed heavily by major coal producers in Utah looking for a way to get their product to U.S. ports for shipment, and while they thought they could sneak it by quietly, the ever-vigilant community in the Bay Area found out anyway, and the result was explosive. Opposition to the terminal is coming from a variety of angles, but one is particularly important: the labor community.

Oakland's workers, especially its dockworkers, have always been highly active in their community. Many live and work in and around West Oakland, near the city's port, and they have a vested interest in community health and welfare in addition to safe working conditions. They live in the awareness that the region has extremely high rates of respiratory disease and other pollution-related illnesses, something coal shipping would only exacerbate, and that working on a daily basis with the dusty and dangerous commodity would put their health at risk as well. So they had a personal interest in keeping coal out of Oakland, but it went deeper than that.

In a statement issued September 18—immediately before a city council meeting scheduled for the 21st—the Alameda Labor Council put forward a firm case against coal. "The Alameda Labor Council [expresses] opposition to the export of coal through Oakland and specifically the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center at the former Oakland Army Base," they explained, citing environmental and human health risks associated with coal exports. They also noted that the coal industry is notoriously anti-union, and that it doesn't offer as many jobs as work in other commodity industries. Moreover, union advocates argued, they welcomed development of other commodities shipping at the Port of Oakland, as long as it involved less toxic and environmentally harmful products.

Longshore Workers Vote to Oppose Coal Exports in Oakland

Staff Report - ILWU.Org, September 18, 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.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Longshore workers and marine clerks who have moved cargo at the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco since 1934 have rejected a developer’s plan to export coal through former Oakland Army Base. International Longshore and Warehouse Union elected officials say coal is an undesirable, low-value cargo and a broken promise on the part of the developer, and longshore workers are standing by community members who do not want the worry and risks of nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year. After much research and discussion, the rank and file members of ILWU Local 10 and ILWU Local 34 have voted to oppose the handling of coal at the site.

“When the developers of the project were seeking tax money and public support to develop the Oakland Army Base, they talked about exporting cargoes like grain and potash,” said Sean Farley, President of ILWU Local 34. “They made a ‘no coal’ promise to workers, the community and elected officials, and they need to make good on that promise. Waterfront space is in short supply on the West Coast, and it would be a mistake to lock Oakland into a decades-long lease with a coal industry that many say is dying. Coal proposals have failed up and down the West Coast, and Oakland shouldn’t become the dumping ground for dirty, low value cargoes that no one else wants.”

After the Oakland City Council granted the California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG) the right to develop the former army base adjacent to the Port of Oakland, CCIG planned to build the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) on the site. CCIG has since turned its “no coal” promise into a “coal or nothing” threat, claiming no other cargo will pay the bills. Meanwhile, other West Coast ports are thriving while exporting products like grain, potash, soda ash, salt, and other commodities and bulk products.

“Coal is not the right way to bring jobs to Oakland,” said ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Derrick Muhammad. “Oakland families are already worried about asthma and other sickness because of highways and port activities. It’s not right to ask them to take on the worry and risk of nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year. If the developers haven’t found a cleaner, safer product yet, they owe it to the City of Oakland to make good on their promise and keep looking. They’ll find better cargoes if they are truly committed to bringing good, safe jobs to our community.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 25,000 longshore men and women in 30 West Coast ports from San Diego, CA, to Bellingham, WA.

East Bay Labor Unions Say 'No' to Coal in Oakland

By Darwin BondGraham - East Bay Express, September 18, 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.

The official voice of the labor movement in the East Bay has come out against plans to export coal from Oakland. This morning, the Alameda Labor Council’s executive committee passed a resolution opposing the export of coal from the bulk commodity terminal planned for construction at the city’s former Army Base.

The resolution cites health hazards and environmental harms that are likely to result from shipping and storing coal in West Oakland — hazards that will impact both workers and Oakland residents.

“Jobs involving coal are unhealthy and unsafe due to dust emissions; coal is increasingly an anti-union industry,” states the resolution. “West Oakland residents are already twice as likely to visit the emergency room for asthma as the average Alameda County resident, and are also more likely to die of cancer, heart and lung disease… .”

Terminal Logistics Solutions, the company proposing coal exports from the terminal, has claimed that the facility will be served by covered rail cars to reduce the amount of coal dust that drifts into nearby neighborhoods. TLS recently unveiled sketches on its website depicting dome-covered silos and enclosed conveyor belts that will store and load the coal onto ships for export overseas.

Opponents of the coal plan have said, however, that covered rail cars, silos and chutes are not used anywhere in the United States today, and their efficacy hasn’t been studied.

The Labor Council’s resolution states that despite the unions’ “unified opposition to coal,” they believe that the project can move forward without coal. Their resolutions welcomes commodities such as steel, wood, grains, sand, gravel ,and other "non-hazardous materials."

A special meeting of the Oakland City Council is scheduled for Monday. The city clerk’s office has already received more than three hundred speaker cards from members of the public.

EcoUnionist News #52

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 16, 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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Fracking the EPA:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

1267-Watch:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism

EcoUnionist News #29

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 5, 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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

  • Register now for the Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment Conferences: Richmond, California (March 14, 2015) and Olympia, Washington (March 21, 2015) - railroadconference.org
  • The end of conductors? - Featuring Ron Kaminkow, MSNBC, January 29, 2015
  • Labor Landscape Analysis - By Joe Uehline, Labor Network for Sustainability, February 4, 2015

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

EcoUnionist News #23

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 17, 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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

2 Arrested in Lockdown at Dominion Cove Point LNG Contractor

By Seed Coalition - Seed Coalition; images by David Hardy, December 3, 2014

Two activists with We Are Cove Point locked themselves to the doors of the offices of IHI/Kiewit in Lusby, Maryland this morning. IHI/Kiewit is a joint venture that serves as the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the Dominion Cove Point LNG export terminal project. IHI E&C, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tokyo-based company IHI Corporation, is headquartered in Houston, Texas. Kiewit is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

During the lockdown and extraction, other activists with We Are Cove Point held signs rejecting the project and IHI/Kiewit’s involvement. They attracted the attention of shoppers at stores located in the same strip mall and handed out several leaflets providing information about the project and the campaign against it.

Today’s action comes just a few days after seven people were arresting for blocking the entrance to a construction site in nearby Solomons, Maryland, where Dominion and IHI/Kiewit are building a pier to land equipment for the project too large to bring in by land. To date, twenty-two people have been arrested for protests in Solomons and Lusby. Earlier this year, fourteen people were arrested protesting at three courthouses across the state of Maryland. Their actions demonstrated the breadth of the opposition to Dominion’s terminal and highlighting the broad consequences the project will have if it is completed, included increased hydraulic fracturing for methane gas and the rapid construction of the dangerous infrastructure needed to transport it.

Exporting US Coal and Carbon Emissions

By Al Engler - Dissident Voice, November 15, 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.

The governing Liberals in BC and Conservatives in Canada insist that jobs, public revenues and economic growth all depend on expanding fossil fuel exports. Christie Clark’s Liberals won the 2013 BC election promising a future of jobs and rising public revenues based on the export of liquified natural gas.  Now two years later faced with widespread protests and declining oil and gas prices, no LNG project has proceeded.

Additional oil pipelines to the Pacific are promoted but only Kinder Morgan is actually proceeding. Here preliminary efforts to double the existing line to Burnaby to carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands have been delayed by blockades and court action. One other project to export to Asia appears to be proceeding; it involves the dirtiest of all fossil fuels: thermal coal.  Port Metro Vancouver, a Federal Agency, has given a permit to ship thermal coal from Fraser-Surrey docks. The coal to be exported is mined in Wyoming and Montana. It is to be transported by rail to the docks, by barge to Texada Island and then by ships to Asia.

This proposal is also facing strong opposition. Fraser-Surrey docks are close to the center of heavily populated Metro Vancouver, directly across the Fraser from New Westminster. The permit is being appealed to the Federal Court by an environmental group, Ecojustice. The City of New Westminster is supporting the appeal as an intervener. City councils in Surrey, Burnaby, and Vancouver have voted to oppose the coal export permit. Communities along the rail route have also expressed their opposition. So has the Sechelt First Nation, whose traditional territory includes Texada Island.

The appeal is expected to argue that proper public hearings were not held;  communities near the port, along the rail lines and shipping lanes were not given fair opportunities to explain their health and pollution concerns. The appeal will make the case that the permit was tainted and should be overturned: Port Metro Vancouver had been instructed by the Harper government not to consider the impact these coal exports would have on global carbon emissions. Why is Canada not bound by international agreements to lower carbon emissions?

Jobs! Money! Nope! Benefits of LNG exports grossly exaggerated

By Al Engler - Rabble.Ca, October 24, 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.

In the 2013 provincial election, Christy Clark's Liberals promised that exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia would provide jobs and expand government revenues.

A year and a half later this boom is nowhere to be seen.

Fifteen liquefying plants and pipelines have been promoted. Six were reported to be on the verge of starting construction. But in early October, Petronas -- the company closest to seeking regulatory approval -- announced that it was considering shelving its proposal.

The Malaysian government-owned corporation wanted assurances that provincial and federal taxes and royalties would be kept low and that the company could bring in workers from abroad to construct and operate its facilities.

Then on October 21 the provincial government announced that tax rates and royalties on LNG operations would be slashed, and that the public should understand that if these projects proceeded, significant public revenues could not be expected for 15 years.

All of the proposed projects have faced strong opposition from Indigenous people and local communities to pipelines, liquefying plants and increasing tanker traffic.

The most widely promoted LNG terminal in Kitimat is in doubt after a substantial majority in this industrial city voted against the proposal. (People living in the adjacent native reserves who were expected to vote overwhelmingly against the LNG project did not get a vote in this referendum.)

Kitimat showed that when issues are openly and thoroughly debated, the communities most dependent on industrial employment will vote against projects that damage the environment.

The B.C. and federal governments as well as the corporate media continue to promote LNG as the key to future employment and increased public revenues. But even without the prospect of blockades, lengthy public hearings and litigation, the profitability of LNG exports is dubious.

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