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News Bites from Labor Network for Sustainability

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 7, 2017

San Diego area’s Local 569 Is Helping to Lead the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy

Local 569 has a position in support of a transition to a low-carbon economy. How did it come to take such a stand and what is it doing to promote it? ... read more.

We Have to Have an Eye Toward the Future - LA’s IBEW Local 11 Spearheads a Transition to Clean Energy

Los Angeles IBEW Local Union 11 represents 13,000 Electricians, Communications and Systems Installers, Transportation Systems Journeyman, Civil Service Electricians, Apprentices, Construction Wireman and Construction Electricians. It describes itself as “a movement for social justice, safe jobsites, training, green jobs and opportunity for all.” It has become a pioneer in the transition to a climate-safe, worker-friendly energy system ... read more.

We Knew Big Changes Were Coming to our Industry - Tom Dalzell, Business Manager of IBEW Local 1245

This article is based on an interview with Tom Dalzell, Business Manager of IBEW Local 1245 conducted by Jeremy Brecher. Headquartered in Vacaville in northern California but extending into Nevada, Local 1245 has more than 18,000 members, 12,000 in Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the rest in nearly 100 signatory contractors with labor agreements ... read more.

ecology.iww.org web editor's note: in this last article, Dalzell makes some rather unsubstantiated claims about net metering and distributed renewable energy being a subsidy for the rich; this is, in fact, untrue, and--for the most part--a investor owned utility talking point. LNS acknolwedges this and states that Dalzell's position is his own.

Why Union Workers and Environmentalists Need to Work Together with Smart Protests

By Les Leopold - Alternet, June 21, 2017

As Trump slashes and burns his way through environmental regulations, including the Paris Accord, he continues to bet that political polarization will work in his favor. Not only are his anti-scientific, anti-environmentalist positions firing up some within his base, but those positions are driving a deep wedge within organized labor.  And unbeknownst to many environmental activists, they are being counted on to help drive that wedge even deeper.

Trump already has in his pocket most of the construction trades union leaders whose members are likely to benefit from infrastructure projects – whether fossil fuel pipelines or new airports or ...... paving over the Atlantic. His ballyhooed support of coal extraction  has considerable support from miners and many utility workers as well.

But the real coup will come if Trump can tear apart alliances between the more progressive unions and the environmental community. Trump hopes to neutralize the larger Democratic-leaning unions, including those representing oil refinery workers and other industrial workers.  That includes the United Steelworkers, a union that has supported environmental policies like the federal Clean Air Act and California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, and has a long history of fighting with the oil industry – not just over wages and benefits but also over health, safety and the environment.  

To get from here to there, Trump is hoping that environmental activists will play their part -- that they will become so frustrated by his Neanderthal policies, that activists will stage more and more protests at fossil fuel-related facilities, demanding that they be shut down in order to halt global climate crisis.  

Oil refineries present a target-rich arena for protest. On the West Coast they are near progressive enclaves and big media markets in California and Washington.  Yet many who live in fence line communities would like the refineries gone, fearing for their own health and safety. Most importantly, they are gigantic symbols of the oil plutocracy that has profiteered at the expense of people all over the world.

But from Trump's point of view, nothing could be finer than for thousands of environmentalists to clash at the plant gates with highly paid refinery workers. Such demonstrations, even if peaceful and respectful, set a dangerous trap for environmental progress. Here's why: 

Just Transition and Energy Democracy: a civil service trade union perspective

By staff - Public and Commercial Services Union, June 22, 2017

New PCS pamphlet Just Transition and Energy Democracy : a civil service trade union perspective

We urgently need to transition to a zero carbon economy but this doesn’t have to come at a price for workers and communities. PCS will launch a new pamphlet on just transition and energy democracy at its annual delegate conference on 23 May. The pahmphlet makes the case for a just transition and energy democracy from the perspective of a civil service trade union, based on public ownership and democratic control of energy that provides an opportunity to re-vision and rebuild our public services for people not profit.  

ADC Green Fringe: Energy Democracy: A worker-public partnership for a just transition

Tuesday 23 May, 5.30pm

Brighton Conference Centre: Syndicate 2

Chaired by PCS vice president Kevin McHugh

Speakers:   

Chris Baugh - PCS assistant general secretary 

David Hall – Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)

Dorothy Grace Guerrero – Global Justice Now 

How the Light Gets In

By H. Patricia Hynes - Portside, May 25, 2017

Every now and then I re-visit these lines of the Canadian poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that cannot ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

In these times of climate change denial, macho military chest-beating, stagnant wages, and soulless extremes of wealth and poverty, light-bearing cracks are all that we have.  They surface in unexpected places.

Take North American Windpower magazine, a monthly shaft of light.  It was first sent to me by a friend who never subscribed to it. When I told her how informative - and realistically hopeful - it was, she turned her non-subscription over to me.

The March 2017 issue carried the story of an oil sands worker in Alberta, Canada, Lliam Hildebrand, who created a national initiative, Iron and Earth, to retrain out-of-work oil sands tradespeople - among them pipefitters, electricians, boilermakers, drillers, and construction laborers - to enter the Canadian renewable technologies workforce, including solar, wind and hydro.  A survey of 1,000 oil sands sector workers revealed that 63% responded that they could transition directly to the renewable energy sector with some training; and 59% reported that they were willing to take a paycut to transition into the renewable sector.  The Canadian wind company, Beothuk Energy Inc., has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Iron and Earth to retrain oil and gas workers for the company's proposed offshore wind farm project, which has the potential to create 40,000 jobs.

Why not a similar US program for unemployed coal industry workers, given that everyone knows - except the President - that the cost of coal generated electricity cannot compete with renewables, and that solar and wind are the biggest job creators in electric power generation.  A team of developers recently proposed to install a large solar farm atop two mountaintop removal sites in the heart of coal country, Pikeville, Kentucky.  Further, they have pledged to hire as many unemployed coal miners as they can.  What more prescient sign of the times than this: in April 2017, the Kentucky Coal Museum installed solar panels on its roof!

In nearby West Virginia, the Coal River Mountain Watch is fighting to save 6,600 acres of their mountain from being blown up for strip mining of coal with a proposal for a 440 Megawatt wind farm.  The windpower would generate electricity for 150,000 homes, remove only 200 acres of hardwood forest, create 200 jobs with 40-50 being permanent and longer lasting than coal jobs, and provide sustainable income for the local economy.

R&C02-Is renewable energy a commons?

By Cécile L. Blanchet - Energy, commons and the rest, August 24, 2016

How relocating energy in the commons helps scaling-up renewables & saving energy
Is energy a mere commodity, or is it a common good? Why is this relevant in the first place? Here we look at why energy is part of our commons, from the sources to the product itself. In a second time, we will see that relocating energy in the commons has very important implications: it helps solve the energy efficiency dilemma (i.e., we need to reduce our energy consumption but who’s going to pay for that?) and scale-up renewables.

Article also published on the Commons Network.

What is a commons?

Once upon a time… there was an alpine pasture, where cattle from the village came to graze. The air was fresh and brisk, there was enough grass for the animals. But it was also a delicate, sensitive environment: put too much pressure on it (too much cattle) and it would be ruined in no-time… In other words, the pasture was a finite resource, which could support a finite number of cattle.

A (finite) natural resource, that is necessary to all: that’s a natural commons.

There are three way of dealing with natural commons:

  1. The commons (e.g., the pasture) is claimed by someone, who controls its access and monetize it: it becomes a commodity and the usage profits mainly to a few. 
  2. There is no communication in the community and no rules are set to use the commons. Individuals tend to exploit the commons as much as possible in order to maximise their own profit and compete for accessing to it. Eventually, the commons is destroyed. This is how Garrett Hardin described modern humans’ behaviour in the “Tragedy of the Commons” in 1968, which led him to argue that only privatization (as in 1.) or state regulation are successful mode of governance for the commons.
  3. People actually talk to each other and are conscious of the problem of over-using their commons. Therefore, communities organise themselves and set some rules, compensation mechanisms and sanctions against free-riders. Benefits are shared and sustained. This is what Elinor Ostrom (and her colleagues) reported upon throughout her career: communities are able to (and do) manage their common goods by themselves.

Next to the finite or physical resources defining the classical commons framework, we can think of other non-finite and more abstract resources that can be treated as commons and referred to as social commons: digital commons, knowledge commons, health commons, urban commons… Shifting the paradigm from commodity to commons helps to reduce the (artificial) scarcity of these resources (created and sustained by privatisation and monetisation) by having a common-ownership or no-ownership. This is best illustrated by the creative common licences, which allow (for some of them) companies to sell a product but not to claim its ownership (which means that other companies can sell the same product, modify it, etc…).

And finally, there’s the act of commoning: doing together, sharing, benefiting from each other. As we saw in the previous episode, this is one of the recurrent arguments given by members of energy cooperatives as a ground and as a co-benefit from their project.

Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy: an Organizing Proposal

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 29, 2017

The world faces a crises of enormous proportions. Global warming, caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels, threatens life on Earth as we know it, and yet, those most responsible for causing the crisis, the fossil fuel wing of the capitalist class, seems hell bent on doubling down on business as usual. In the United States of America, whose corporate overlords are among the worst offenders, they are led by the recently elected Donald Trump, whose cabinet is bursting at the seams with climate change denialists and fossil fuel capitalist industry representatives. Instead of transitioning to a clean energy economy and decarbonizing society as quickly as possible, as climate scientists overwhelmingly recommend, Trump and his inner circle would seemingly rather not just maintain the status quo; they’ve signaled that they intend to make the worst choices imaginable, putting all of the US’s energy eggs into the oil, natural gas, and coal basket.

Worse still, Trump claims to enjoy a good deal of support for such moves from the Voters who elected him, which includes a good portion of the "White working class" who have traditionally supported the Democratic Party, whose policies are just barely more favorable to addressing the problems of global warming (which is to say, still woefully inadequate). Meanwhile, the leadership of the AFL-CIO, pushed principally by the Building Trades unions, have doubled down on their efforts to continue to serve as capital’s junior partners, even as the latter continues to liquidate them in their ongoing campaign of systemic union busting.  Just recently, science teachers across the country began to find packets in their school mailboxes, containing a booklet entitled "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming", a DVD, and a cover letter urging them to "read this remarkable book and view the video, and then use them in your classroom," courtesy of the climate change denialist Heartland Institute.

One might think, given all of these situations, that…well, to put it mildly…we’re doomed. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in spite of the bleakness of these circumstances, a deeper look behind them reveals that fossil fuel capitalism is in terminal decline, that their hold over our lives hangs by a thread, so much that we the people, the workers and peasants of the world, have the ability to transform the human existence to one based not on plundering the Earth and exploiting the masses for the profit of a few, but one based on true grassroots democracy, free of suffering and want, and one that exists in harmony with the Earth. The key to making this transformation lies with clean energy, and the people who can make this transformation are the very people who helped elect Donald Trump themselves. One may justifiably ask, how is this even remotely possible?

This new organizing proposal, Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy, offers a potential solution and practical steps to achieve it which can not only break the reactionary tide, perhaps once and for all, but also can greatly accelerate the very necessary process of abolishing capitalism and building a new, ecological sustainable world in the shell of the ecocidal old by building an intersectional movement championing "Clean Energy Democracy". Such a movement has the potential to unite workers, rural and rustbelt communities, climate justice activists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and farmers of all backgrounds and revitalize a vibrant and grassroots democratic anti-capitalist left, and it offers goals that help address the intertwining crises of global warming, decadent capitalism, failing economies, and demoralized communities plagued by economic depression, racism, and reactionary nationalism.

While the burgeoning "resistance", loosely led by a coalition of groups and movements with a smorgasbord of goals and demands, many of which are reformist and defensive (though not undesirable if seen as steps along the way to more revolutionary and transformative demands) has so far successfully held back much of the worst intentions of Trump and the forces he represents, making the latter fight tooth and nail for every single inch (as well they should), such resistance still lacks the positive vision needed to truly meet the needs of most people, including especially the most oppressed and downtrodden. By contrast, Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy offers one piece of a revolutionary and transformative vision that can truly help build a new world within the shell of the old, thus putting an end to capitalist economic oppression as well as the ongoing systematic destruction of the Earth's ability to sustain life.

Download the Proposal (PDF File).

Green Jobs and Intergenerational Justice: Trump’s Climate Order Undermines Both

By Dana Drugmand - Common Dreams, March 30, 2017

With the stroke of a pen, President Trump has written off both the biggest economic development opportunity of the twenty-first century, and the security of today’s young people, future generations and the other species inhabiting this planet. Or so it seems.

The White House’s “Energy Independence Executive Order” is clearly a blow to the progress made under the Obama Administration to fight climate change and transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy. The new Order aims to rescind the Clean Power Plan, lift a moratorium on coal mining on federal land and roll back regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas fields. It comes on the heels of Trump’s official approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. These actions are supposedly meant to boost jobs, but the only thing they actually boost is the already enormous share of fossil fuel profits.

A review of the numbers indicates that this is indeed not about jobs. Keystone XL, for example, would result in only 35 long-term jobs post-construction, according to State Department analysis. By contrast, the wind power industry employed 88,000 Americans at the start of 2016, and wind power technician is now the fastest growing profession in the nation. In electric power generation, solar provides more jobs than coal, oil and natural gas combined. According to an Environmental Defense Fund report, both solar and wind jobs are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. In almost every state, there are now more jobs in the clean energy sector than in fossil fuels. For a president that claims to be so intent on creating jobs, ignoring renewables and energy efficiency in favor of fossil fuel exploitation is simply irrational.

It is also completely irresponsible and immoral. Intergenerational equity tends to be overlooked in the climate change conversation, yet it is an important dimension of the issue. Decision-makers have spent decades expanding the fossil fuel economy and running up a huge carbon debt – and their children and grandchildren will be forced to foot the bill. According to a 2016 report by Demos and NextGen Climate, failing to make steep cuts in emissions will cost the Millennial generation nearly $8.8 trillion in lost lifetime income. Beyond this financial implication, exacerbating climate change threatens the very survival of future generations and most other life on Earth. According to famed climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, the climate crisis implies “young people and future generations inheriting a situation in which grave consequences are assured,” and it “requires urgent change to our energy and carbon pathway to avoid dangerous consequences for young people and other life on Earth.” But instead of changing course, the Trump Administration’s fossil fuel frenzy in effect mortgages the future of my generation and those to follow.

Of course this all-out assault on clean air, clean water, and a stable climate will not go unchallenged. Citizens and activists are already gearing up to fight back in the streets and in the courts. One lawsuit in particular pits the federal government and fossil fuel industry against a group of youth plaintiffs, with a trial expected later this year that observers are billing as “the trial of the century.” And following in the spirit and scope of the Women’s March, tens of thousands of people will gather in Washington DC and other cities on April 29th to take part in the People’s Climate March.

State and local governments are also taking action to move forward on addressing the climate crisis. Maryland lawmakers just passed a bill to ban fracking, which the state’s Republican governor is slated to sign. A handful of states in the northeast and on the West Coast currently have pending legislation to implement a fee on carbon pollution. Hawaii has a mandate for 100 percent clean energy electricity by 2045. Municipalities all across the country are taking steps to slash carbon and transition quickly to entirely renewable energy. These and other initiatives become ever more important in this alarming age of science skepticism and “alternative facts.”

What this all comes down to is a power struggle between the ruling elite class of billionaires and the greater populace. Ultimately the authority to govern is derived from the people. We can and must use our collective people power to counter the greed of the fossil fuel industry and the big money polluting our politics. Most importantly, we must continue to fight and refuse to give up.

Even Trump Can’t Stop the Tide of Green Jobs

By Yana Kunichoff - In These Times, February 22, 2017

Donald Trump was elected in November on a platform that included both climate denial and the promise of jobs for Rust Belt communities still hurting from deindustrialization. In the months since, his strategy to create jobs has become increasingly clear: tax breaks and public shaming of companies planning to move their operations out of the country.

Take the case of Carrier, a manufacturing plant in Indianapolis that produces air conditioners. Trump first threatened to slap tariffs on Carrier’s imports after the company announced it would move a plant to Mexico. Then, he reportedly called Greg Hayes, CEO of the parent company United Technologies, who agreed to keep the plant in the United States in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks. (Carrier later admitted that only a portion of the plant’s jobs would remain in the country.)

The company’s decision to keep jobs in the United States was declared a victory for the Trump PR machine, but it’s unclear that it can create a major change in access to jobs in the long-term. Hayes, announcing that the tax breaks would allow additional investment into the plant, noted that the surge of money would go towards automation. And with automation, eventually, comes a loss of jobs.

“Automation means less people,” Hayes told CNN. “I think we’ll have a reduction of workforce at some point in time once they get all the automation in and up and running.”

Unlike traditional manufacturing jobs, green jobs in the clean energy industry have been on a steady upward swing. This past spring, for example, U.S. jobs in solar energy overtook those in oil and natural gas, and a Rockefeller Foundation-Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors study found that energy retrofitting buildings in the United States could create more than 3 million “job years” of employment.

That means green jobs remain one of the key hopes for revitalizing communities. But can they move forward under a climate-skeptic and coal-loving president?

King CONG vs. Solartopia

By Harvey Wasserman - The Progressive, December 5, 2016

As you ride the Amtrak along the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, you pass the San Onofre nuclear power plant, home to three mammoth atomic reactors shut by citizen activism.

Framed by gorgeous sandy beaches and some of the best surf in California, the dead nukes stand in silent tribute to the popular demand for renewable energy. They attest to one of history’s most powerful and persistent nonviolent movements.

But 250 miles up the coast, two reactors still operate at Diablo Canyon, surrounded by a dozen earthquake faults. They’re less than seventy miles from the San Andreas, about half the distance of Fukushima from the quake line that destroyed it. Should any quakes strike while Diablo operates, the reactors could be reduced to rubble and the radioactive fallout would pour into Los Angeles.

Some 10,000 arrests of citizens engaged in civil disobedience have put the Diablo reactors at ground zero in the worldwide No Nukes campaign. But the epic battle goes far beyond atomic power. It is a monumental showdown over who will own our global energy supply, and how this will impact the future of our planet.

On one side is King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes, and Gas), the corporate megalith that’s unbalancing our weather and dominating our governments in the name of centralized, for-profit control of our economic future. On the other is a nonviolent grassroots campaign determined to reshape our power supply to operate in harmony with nature, to serve the communities and individuals who consume and increasingly produce that energy, and to build the foundation of a sustainable eco-democracy.

The modern war over America’s energy began in the 1880s, when Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla clashed over the nature of America’s new electric utility business. It is now entering a definitive final phase as fossil fuels and nuclear power sink into an epic abyss, while green power launches into a revolutionary, apparently unstoppable, takeoff.

In many ways, the two realities were separated at birth.

International Trade Union Confederation unveils a Just Transition Centre at COP22

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, November 16, 2016

The 22nd meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP22) in Marrakesh Morrocco concluded on November 18, having made dogged progress despite the looming spectre of President Donald Trump . (see “7 things you missed at COP22 while Trump hogged the headlines“). 150 trade union members from 50 countries comprised a delegation led by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). On November 18, the ITUC released their assessment of COP22: “ Marrakech Climate Conference: Real Progress on economic diversification, transformation and just transition, but more ambition and more finance needed”.

The three “top line” ITUC demands going in to the meetings can be summed up as: greater ambition and urgency for action; commitments on climate finance, especially for vulnerable countries, and commitment to just transition for workers and communities. The summary of demands is reproduced at the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy website and described in detail in the ITUC Frontlines Briefing: Climate Justice COP 22 Special Edition. (Note that one of the case studies in the Special Edition highlights the president of Unifor Local 707A in Fort McMurray, Alberta, who describes the union’s efforts to lobby government, to bargain for just transition provisions, and to sponsor job fairs for displaced workers.) The union demands are consistent with the issues raised in Setting the Path Toward 1.5 C – A Civil Society Equity Review of Pre-2020 Ambition. The ITUC is a signatory to the Setting the Path document – along with dozens of other civil society groups, including Canada Action Network, David Suzuki Foundation, and Friends of the Earth Canada.

The ITUC Special Edition statement announced “…the ITUC and its partners are establishing a Just Transition Centre . The Centre will facilitate government, business, trade unions, communities, investors and civil society groups to collaborate in the national, industrial, workplace and community planning, agreements, technologies, investments and the necessary public policies.” The “partners” mentioned include the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the B Team , an international network of business executives who believe that “the purpose of business is to become a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit” and We Mean Business, a coalition of business, NGO and government policy organizations promoting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

As an aside: The CEO of We Mean Business wrote A Just Transition to defeat the populist politicians (Nov. 5), summing up the business point of view about Just Transition. See excerpts here.

The European Trade Union Congress, a member of ITUC, promoted five demands in its own Position Statement , adopted by the Executive Committee on the 26-27 October. The ETUC demands largely mirror those of ITUC but also call for concrete action to move the issue of Just Transition from the Preamble of the Paris Agreement, ( where it landed by compromise ) . “The COP 22 must now urge Parties to integrate just transition elements into their national contributions, notably by mandating the Subsidiary Bodies Implementation (SBI) and for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), for they define the terms of this integration.” The ETUC urges that the ILO Principles for a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all provide an internationally recognized reference for governments and social partners concerning just transition.

The Canadian Labour Congress, Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux and Centrale des Syndicats Democratiques in Canada, and the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) are ITUC affiliates. Details, pictures, videos are posted on Twitter at #unions4climate.

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