You are here

exports

Are U.S. Taxpayer Dollars Supporting Coal Industry Human Rights Violations Overseas?

By Justin Guay and Nicole Ghio; image by Nicole Ghio - The Energy Collective, October 23, 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.

A fact finding team of five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- the Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Pacific Environment -- released a scathing report, The U.S. Export-Import Bank's Dirty Dollars, on the rampant human rights abuses at the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) financed Sasan coal-fired power plant and mine in Singrauli, India.

For years, reports of human rights, indigenous rights, labor, and environmental violations have plagued Sasan and its owner, Indian company Reliance Power, and the U.S. government are partly to blame. The 3,960-megawatt project has received over $900 million in taxpayer finance from Ex-Im, and when allegations against the project are raised, Ex-Im prefers to look the other way.

When Indian groups and NGOs alerted Ex-Im to a smokestack collapse that killed 30 workers, the Bank did nothing. When reports emerged of irregularities with the coal allotments for Sasan, foreshadowing the coal-gate scandal that would envelop then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ex-Im said nothing. Eventually the outrage prompted the Bank to conduct a visit to the project, but while they met with Reliance, the Bank refused to meet in the communities. Instead, they insisted that the affected people who had faced violence at the hands of Reliance -- people without access to reliable transportation -- meet them at a hotel that catered to industrial interests. Shockingly, people were afraid to speak out in such an unsafe venue. But even so, they refused to stay silent for long.

Today's fact finding report contains first-hand accounts from the front line communities Ex-Im attempted to ignore.

What we uncovered in our trips to Sasan was heartbreaking. We heard from villagers whose homes were destroyed in the middle of the night while they were still living in them. We met with indigenous residents whose children were denied entry into schools. And we learned how Reliance covers up injuries -- and even deaths -- at the project.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Dirty Dollars: U.S. tax dollars are supporting human rights, environment, and labor violations at the Sasan Coal-Fired Power Plant and Mine in India

By various - Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Pacific Environment, and FOE, October 2014

In January and May 2014, a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Pacific Environment, and Friends of the Earth U.S. (hereafter referred to as the Fact Finding Team), undertook two field visits to Singrauli, India, to meet with communities affected by Reliance Power’s Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) and its associated mine to assess the project’s effect on local communities and the environment.

Since the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) approved over $900 million in financing for the coal project in October 2010, little information has been provided by the agency about Sasan’s compliance with Ex-Im environmental, social, human rights, and corruption policies. This includes the Bank’s commitments under the Equator Principles1 and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards,2 the agency’s environmental, social, human rights and corruption policies, as well whether or not the project has lived up to the expectations laid out in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) documents for the mine and the power plant. An apparent lack of oversight prompted the NGOs involved in this report to conduct this independent investigation. The Fact Finding Team has uncovered numerous reports of corruption and human rights and labor violations associated with the Sasan coal project, all of which have largely been ignored by the Ex- Im Bank.

Read the report (PDF).

Railroad Worker Jen Wallis: "The Fence is Capitalism...It's Time to Take it Down!"

By Jen Wallis - exclusive, September 21, 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.

Editor's note: Jen Wallis meant to give the following speech at the People's Climate March in Seattle on Sunday, September 21, 2014, but had to abbreviate it due to time constraints. Here is the entire speech she would have given:

Hi my name is Jen Wallis, and I’m a founding member of Railroad Workers United. We are a rank-and-file caucus of the various national and international railroad unions. A few of us started this organization to respond to the decades of infighting created by the carriers to keep us divided.

I've been a conductor with BNSF Railway for over ten years. In 2008, I was injured on the job through no fault of my own. I was one of the first workers to file a whistleblower suit against a major railroad for retaliation for reporting a work-related injury. After 6 years of litigation, I won my case in Federal Court this past March, so I know a little bit about what it takes to fight corporations and what they will do to you and your family. I lost much of my support system, and I lost my house to foreclosure. And just as a side note, I first met Kshama Sawant when she showed up and got arrested for those of us fighting foreclosure. She is amazing!!! Over 1,000 railroaders who filed similar complaints have lost. I’m one of a handful to have won. The railroads have a lot of money to fight you, and they usually win.

I’ve taken it upon myself to use my victory to speak out for safety on the railroad because I’m one of the few people who can and not get fired for it, and I was actually in San Francisco speaking at a labor conference this past July when I got word that a group of unelected union officials from the conductor’s union had been meeting in secret with BNSF for 18 months, and unleashed a proposal that would have ended the job of the conductor on freight trains right here in my territory. My job. One person running trains at least a mile long through our communities where there have always been at least two, and engineer and a conductor. 140 years of railroading tradition gone with one contract. All the railroads would follow that precedent.

So we at Railroad Workers United went into what I can only call DEFCON 1 organizing. We had less than a month to mount a campaign to vote no before ballots were to be sent out. There were plenty of carrots in the agreement being dangled for the huge numbers of new hires we have, with things like “worker retention board” which claimed if you can’t hold a job, we’ll pay you to sit at home and not work, ending pay scale for new hires, and huge buy-outs for those getting close to retirement anyway. It was the standard concessionary agreement. Now those of us who have been in the game long enough knew these were only empty promises. We’ve seen enough of these broken in our careers, but the massive numbers of new hires did not, and we saw what scare tactics do at places like Boeing. Unions usually don’t defeat concessionary contracts, even when those companies are swimming in profits.

We knew we had to be bold, as bold as they were. I immediately started a FB group to protest the meeting in Sea-Tac where the officers would be to give us the hard-sell pitch. Now railroaders aren’t allowed to strike, and we haven’t done much in terms of organizing anything since 1894. You won’t find many of us who have ever so much as held a sign on a picket line. So I invited people who are more comfortable with holding signs - I invited my environmentalist friends I’d been trying to build alliances with these last couple of years - people from Backbone, from 350.org, Rising Tide, and members of the more radical unions like the Teamsters and Teachers and ILWU, and they showed up for us. Jess Spear showed up for us. The media we got in Seattle from that little picket inspired towns all across the country to follow suit. In places like Greybull, Wyoming and Creston Iowa, we got the spouses and families out there holding signs, (probably for the first times in their life), because they know our jobs and how terrifying it would be to have their loved ones out on these dangerous trains by themselves working under extreme fatigue in every kind of weather. We added over 2,000 new members to our facebook group in a month, distributed thousands of stickers and flyers and talking points. Many of us put our lives on hold and spent every waking moment organizing around this.

Finally, on September 10th, less than two months after we first got wind of it, the results were in. From the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes to right here in the Pacific Northwest, our members voted that proposal down. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. But as sweet as that victory was, none of that means anything compared to this fight against climate change. I have a 9 year-old son. I read recently that by the time he is my age, at the rate we’re going, this planet will experience a mass extinction. Extinction! And I can’t help but wonder If I’ve really done enough to protect him from that future.

Now our recent victory was a huge inspiration to all of us. We now know what we have to do, and we know what it takes to do it. We understand completely now that we are fighting an industry that cares as much about us as they do the environment, which is not at all...It might seem a little scary for environmentalists to approach labor, and sometimes the feeling is mutual, but when my co-workers saw that tripod up in Everett with the sign that said “Cut Oil Trains, Not Conductors”, they were blown away. Nobody has stood up for us in a very long time. America has what I call an epidemic of fence-straddling. Most people like to be perched up there, listening to information from both sides and occasionally hopping down from one to the other based on the news we get or the friends we know or which side has the most money or slickest campaign. But my friends, the fence is an illusion. If we could all just step back for a minute and notice that big field we’ve been in together this entire time. The fence is capitalism and corporate plutocracy, and it’s time to take it down!!!

Northwest Communities Oppose Coal Exports

Press Release - Wild Idaho Rising Tide, August 16, 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.

On Saturday, August 16, and during the previous week, grassroots groups are holding a coordinated day of peaceful actions, to protest the passage of coal trains through interior Northwest communities [1, 2].  From Montana and Wyoming to Oregon and Washington, proposals to bring more polluting coal trains through the region impact dozens of communities along rail lines, who are organizing to protect their towns from coal exports.  This summer, 350-Missoula, Blue Skies Campaign, Indian People’s Action, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and other organizations are together catalyzing this movement against dirty energy in new and bolder ways, evident in this regional day of action.

As inland Northwest citizens largely dismissed by the federal and state regulatory processes that determine the fate of three proposed coal export facilities at Cherry Point and Longview, Washington, and Boardman, Oregon, we stand in solidarity with Northwest tribes and climate activists resisting these West Coast ports and Powder River Basin coal mines that despoil native lands and watersheds and ultimately global climate [3].  While Oregon agencies deliberate their possible issuance of key permits allowing financially risky, Australia-based Ambre Energy to begin construction on the controversial Morrow Pacific coal train terminal dock and warehouses at Boardman, we support friends among the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, who rejected  the companies’ bribes of up to $800,000 per year to partner in and benefit from building this Coyote Island Terminal and shipping 8.8 million tons of coal per year down the Columbia River [4, 5].

Residents of four states will continue to work to stop coal exports by every means, including arrestable, nonviolent civil disobedience, as we pressure coal and railroad companies and political officials who support them.  With our protests, we honor the 71 brave Northwest activists who have endured arrest and citation during occupations of coal train tracks and public buildings in Bellingham, Washington (December 2011), White Rock, British Columbia (May 2012), Helena, Montana (August 2012 and September 2013), Spokane, Washington (June 2013), and Missoula, Montana (April 2014), as interior Northwest groups further coordinate regional demonstrations resisting coal export that started in January 2013 [6, 7].

Warren Buffett's Coal Problem : To run his coal trains, the billionaire investor needs to seize land from a bunch of Montana cowboys; That's not going over very well

By Marc Gunther - Sierra, May & June, 2013

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.

It's easy to see why Warren Buffet is called America's most admired investor. The 82-year-old chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway has made gobs of money—$53.5 billion, at last count—and has pledged to give away 99 percent of it. Despite his wealth, Buffett is folksy, unpretentious, and grateful for what he describes as his good luck. He lives in the modest Omaha, Nebraska, home that he bought in 1958 for $31,500 and eats at the local Dairy Queen. (He owns the chain.)

Buffett also gets favorable attention—and deservedly so—for Berkshire's large investments in solar power, wind farms, and the Chinese electric car company BYD. When Berkshire's Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company bought a 579-megawatt solar photovoltaic project in California's Antelope Valley in January, the headlines read, "Warren Buffett in $2 Billion Solar Deal" and "Warren Buffett Continues His Solar Buying Spree." So influential is Buffett as an investor that solar stocks surged on the news. MidAmerican's renewable energy unit also owns a 550-megawatt solar project in San Luis Obispo County, California, and a 49 percent stake in a 290-megawatt solar plant in Yuma County, Arizona. Those are among the biggest solar projects in the world.

A subsidiary of MidAmerican, called MidAmerican Energy Company, a regulated utility with customers in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, and Nebraska, has helped build Iowa's thriving wind power industry. Thirty percent of its portfolio is wind-powered generation. "It has been a great and low-key leader," says Bruce Nilles, senior director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.

But Buffett has a problem—a coal problem. In addition to its solar and wind operations, MidAmerican Energy Holdings relies on coal for roughly half of its 18,000-megawatt generating capacity. Buffett's Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) Railway Company derives a quarter of its $20 billion in annual revenues from transporting coal, and it lobbies aggressively on the industry's behalf. Berkshire Hathaway is one of the very few major U.S. companies that don't disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, and it has opposed shareholders who ask it to do so.

Nowhere is Buffett's green reputation taking more of a beating, though, than in a remote and sparsely populated corner of southeastern Montana. Ranchers, Native Americans, and Amish farmers there are fighting to preserve their livelihoods and landscapes, which are threatened by what, if developed, would be one of the biggest coal strip mines in the West. And shipping all that coal to West Coast ports would be Warren Buffett's BNSF Railway.

Dockworkers Protest Crude-By-Rail Terminal and Unfair Labor Practices

Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper - EcoWatch, July 18, 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 remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic oil train tragedy that killed 47 people, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) raised a banner from cranes today calling out unfair labor practices and protesting unsafe oil at the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

The Port of Vancouver is under intense scrutiny because it has not supported the locked-out ILWU Local 4 who have worked the docks in Vancouver since 1937. The port refuses to assist the ILWU during a labor dispute with the multinational United Grain Corporation. 

At the same time, the port is trying to ram through a dangerous and dirty crude-by-rail terminal proposed by Tesoro. This terminal would send 42 percent of the capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline—360,000 barrels per day—by train to Vancouver, where the oil would be loaded onto oceangoing vessels to sail down the Columbia River. The ILWU has taken a stand against the massive crude-by-rail project.

“Longshoreman would be the guys tying up and letting the ships go, but our local said, ‘no, the risk isn’t worth the reward,’” said Cager Clabaugh, president of the Local 4, ILWU. “We don’t believe in jobs at any cost.” 

The 1,500 square foot banner read:

    Unfair grain
    Unsafe oil
    Community
    Under Attack

The ILWU Local 4 is requesting people call Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to ask him to end the labor lockout and reject the Tesoro oil terminal. Now is the time for labor and enviros to stand together for clean water and safe working conditions.

24 People Arrested Blocking Entrances to FERC to Protest Proposed Fracked Gas Export Facility

By Chesapeake Climate Action Network - Originally Published at Popular Resistance, July 14, 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.

WASHINGTON, DC—Residents impacted by shale gas infrastructure and their supporters blocked the entrances to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) headquarters today in protest of the proposed Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility and others proposed around the country.

This is the second consecutive day of action to demand that the Obama administration take the voices of impacted communities seriously in the federal regulatory process, and that FERC reject Dominion Resources’ proposed LNG export facility in Cove Point, Maryland, just 50 miles south of the White House on the Chesapeake Bay. Over a thousand people rallied on the National Mall and marched to FERC yesterday despite scorching heat and high humidity.

Protesters linked arms and blocked the main entrance and a secondary entrance of FERC as employees came in to work this morning. A total of 24 people were arrested for the shut down, including participants from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C. The protesters were arrested by Homeland Security police and then turned over to the DC Metropolitan Police for processing. They were charged with “incommoding,” or blocking a public passageway, and are being released with a citation and $50 fine.

Join the Anti-capitalist Protest Against FERC on July 13th, 2014

By x365252 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 11, 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.

On July 13th, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) will be organizing a march from the Capitol Building to the office of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to protest FERC's refusal to conduct an environmental impact statement on the liquid natural gas export plant Dominion is planning to build in the Cove Point area of Lusby, MD. FERC has also basically been cozying up to Dominion, and has not taken the residents of Cove Point's concerns about health and environmental safety into account.

While CCAN's efforts against the proposed LNG plant at Cove Point is being supported by some mainstream unions and environmental groups alike, there has been growing frustration from the residents and rank-and-file members of CCAN that the group is ineffective in stopping the plant.

To this end, some Fellow Workers from the DC GMB and members of Chesapeake Earth First! will be forming an anti-capitalist bloc at the protest to show that unless capitalism is abolished, agencies like FERC will do the bidding of companies like Dominion, with no regard for the environment or the safety of working class citizens.

We are meeting at the Capitol Building on Sunday, July 13th, at 12:30 pm. We will be marching from the Capitol Building to the FERC office, which will end at 2:30pm.

If you're free on Sunday afternoon, please come out and show your support! While I'm not sure the bloc alone will be effective in any immediate change, it can serve to help us get contacts with people interested in organizing workers around environmental safety issues.

For further details, contact x365252 [at] iww.org

Enviro-Unionists

A Speech by Jess Grant; transcribed by Brian Wiles-Heap from video – Industrial Worker, November 1990

Web editor's note: the following speech was given at a rally jointly organized by Earth First! and the IWW as part of Redwood Summer, held at the L-P export dock in Samoa, California, on June 20, 1990.

I’ll go ahead and introduce myself. I’m an “outside agitator” named Jess Grant. I’m an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies.

I like to think of myself as an enviro-unionist. That’s a new word I made up for Redwood Summer. An “enviro-unionist” is somebody who is concerned with trees and forests, and the people who live and work in them. And that’s what we all are, I think; that’s sort of the twin goal of this thing.

I’d like to talk about the ecological and the social costs of the current practices of the timber industry: The companies have tried to pit one against the other; they’ve tried to pit the workers against the environmentalists. It’s the classic divide-and-conquer tactic. But it’s not going to work, because I think we’re all starting to realize that the interests of both the workers and the forest ecosystems are best served by sustainable-yield logging and a worker-community buyout of the timber companies.

Now, you’ll be hearing these two phrases a lot. You’re going to hear this “sustained-yield logging” and “worker-community buyout”, so I’d like to briefly explain what they mean to me:

Sustained-yield logging is cutting at a rate lower than the growth rate, so that the trees can grow back and we can have some forests again. Given the past devastation, we now actually need to cut less than is growing, to catch up with what we’ve done.

A worker-community buyout is pretty self-explanatory. The companies are motivated by profit; they’ll always clearcut, because that’s where the profit is. But if the power and the decision-making are put into the hands of those doing the work, logging would convert to sustainable yield, because the folks doing the work recognize that their long-term job security lies in preserving and sustaining the forests.

Log Export History: Mill Jobs Exported

By Edie Butler - Hard Times, Vol. 3, #1, February 1983

Observing the frequent loading of logs on ships, during daily drives past Fields Landing several years ago, aroused in me a strong curiosity about the exporting of logs. At the same time as I was so frequently driving past this docking facility, the expansion of Redwood National Park, and its potential impact on the local lumber mills, was a very big news item and the controversy was evident everywhere in the community. Why, I asked, are these logs being exported, in their raw resource form, from an area where steady employment is already a problem and, if the dire forecasts about the (Redwood) Park expansion are to be believed, there will be a much greater problem in the future? As I raised this question with a wide variety of people over the ensuing months and years, I concluded that the average citizens of Humboldt County has very little understanding of the log exporting matter.

Local Self-Sufficiency

This matter takes on added historical significance when viewed against the backdrop of the economy of this area from the last 1800’s on to the present day. At one time Humboldt County was largely self sufficient and the resources available here were, to a large extent used and manufactured here. Some examples of the diversity of Humboldt County industry are the following businesses which are listed in a 1895-96 Business Directory: Arcata Tannery, Eureka Brewery (with the slogan of “Patronize Home Industry and Call for Eureka Beer”), Eureka Bicycle Factory, Humboldt Mineral Water, Bendixin Shipbuilders, twenty-two creameries, three dairies, twelve milliners and fancy goods, and fifteen shoemakers. [1] A 1902 map of Eureka has a border of pictures of prominent buildings, among which are Jackson’s shirt Factory, Eureka Foundry, and Humboldt Bay Woolen Mills.

Bit by bit these industries have withered and a pattern of exporting of resources and importing of products can be seen. There is no longer a woolen mill to process the wool produced locally. While most fish is processed locally, shrimp is sent to an automated picking plant in Santa Rosa and foreign processing ships buy hake directly from fishing boats.

Hides from local cattle are sent out of the area for tanning. These are but a few examples of this trend. (At this point mention should be made of the many industrious and sincere people who are currently working to reverse this trend and reestablish a broad economic base of small industries. They have had some impact and show promise for the future.)

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.