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Berta Cáceres assassinated. Allies fight for the release of Gustavo Castro

By Michael O’Neil - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, March 11, 2016

A week after the assassination of Berta Cáceres, coordinator and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), devastated colleagues and allies in the global movements for indigenous people’s rights and energy democracy are demanding justice.

That justice begins with Honduran officials immediately releasing Gustavo Castro Soto, founder and director of Otros Mundos/Amigos de la Tierra México and the only witness to Berta’s murder. Gustavo was shot twice in the attack and his life is in danger.

The Center for International Environmental Law is circulating a letter to the Honduran, Mexican and embassy authorities to demand that the perpetrators – AND architects – of Berta’s murder are brought to justice.

The Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, the AFL-CIO and other unions and allies have signed an open letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry calling for pressure to produce an international, independent investigation into Berta’s murder along with meaningful safety measures for others who are still in danger. Trade unions and other organizations that would like to join as co-signers can email Angelika Albaladejo at the Latin America Working GroupThe letter is also calling on the US to “suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity.”

The government has issued an alert barring Gustavo from returning to his home in Mexico for 30 days, to keep him as a “protected witness”. Meanwhile, Gustavo himself has published an open letter asserting that the scene of Berta’s murder was altered. The government has shown Gustavo photos and video in a supposed attempt to identify the assailants, but all materials are from marches organized by Berta’s own organization.

Prior to her murder, Berta faced systematic harassment and death threats from government officials, security services and others who would benefit from the Agua Zarca Dam poject, which Berta and the Lenca people have opposed. Now it appears that her horrific assassination is being used as a pretext to further target members of that struggle.

Already, the government has detained Aureliano “Lito” Molina, the number two figure in COPINH, as a “suspect” in what they preposterously claim was a crime of passion, while also maintaining it was a robbery gone violent.

TUED asks that we stand together for Berta and all those facing violence and repression in the fight for basic rights and a safe and healthy environment.

Berta Cáceres, Presente!

Backing Corbyn, UK Unions Call for Energy to be Returned to Public Ownership and Democratic Control

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 12, 2017

5.7-Million-Member TUC Supports Labour Party’s Manifesto Commitments on Climate Change and Energy Transition

When addressing climate change, “public ownership of energy under democratic control is crucial” – Iain Dalton, USDAW

September 12, 2017, Brighton, U.K.

The annual congress of the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) has passed a historic composite resolution on climate change that supports the energy sector being returned to public ownership and democratic control.

The resolution—carried unanimously—calls upon the 5.7-million-member national federation to work with the Labour Party to achieve this goal, as well as to: implement a mass program for energy conservation and efficiency; lobby for the establishment of a “just transition” strategy for affected workers; and, investigate the long-term risks to pension funds from investments in fossil fuels.

The Labour Party’s 2017 election manifesto, For the Many, Not the Few, pointed to the failures of electricity privatization, energy poverty, the need the honor the UK’s climate commitments, and to put the UK on course for 60% of its energy to be met by zero carbon or renewable sources by 2030.

The Manifesto also committed to “take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.” It calls for the creation of “publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers.”

Moved by Sarah Woolley, Organising Regional Secretary for the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the resolution refers to the “irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment,” as well as the risks to meeting the climate challenge posed by Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and by the chaotic approach to both Brexit and broader policy by the current Conservative government.

Report on TUED Strategy Meeting at COP23

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, November 28, 2017

On November 10th, during COP23, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) convened a “Strategy Roundtable” in Bonn, Germany. The meeting was attended by more than 40 representatives of roughly 25 unions from 14 countries as well as several allies from the environmental movement, media and research bodies.

Union participants came from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, UK and USA. The meeting was organized with support from the New York office of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS–New York). Participants were welcomed by Stefanie Ehmsen of RLS-NYC, and TUED Coordinator Sean Sweeney of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute, City University of New York.

The meeting provided a rare opportunity for unions that are not yet part of the network to be exposed to TUED’s analysis and to participate in a lively debate about the struggle for the future of global energy systems. Copies of TUED’s most recent working paper, “Preparing a Public Pathway: Confronting the Investment Crisis in Renewable Energy,” were circulated.

Setting the context for the meeting, Sweeney provided a brief overview of the 5-year history of the 60-union network, and the political origins of the “Resist, Reclaim, Restructure” framework. There was broad consensus among participants that the current, market-driven approach, focused on “mobilizing the private sector,” is failing to produce a just energy transition and that, given the Paris targets, there is an urgent need to pursue public alternatives that advance social ownership and democratic control of the power sector and the broader energy economy, including energy options, management, and research and development.

Participants also provided updates on recent developments in their regions, including reports on: the Philippines and the challenges facing trade unions under Duterte’s government; the September meeting in Buenos Aires on “The Energy Grid and the Commons”; the UK Trades Union Congress resolution to support public ownership of energy; developments and next steps to follow the June 2017 meeting in Geneva of TUED unions in Europe; why “Public Renewable Power” is gaining support among unions in Australia; latest developments in Canada, particularly Alberta and Quebec; and the recent sharp debate around the AFL-CIO resolution on climate change in the US. Participants also heard about ITF’s campaigning work on public transportation.

Identifying points of agreement and shared analysis, representatives of Friends of the Earth International (FOE-I) and Friends of the Earth Europe (FOE-E) also participated in the discussion.

Unions in Philippines Commit to Defend Power Generation Cooperatives, Drive Public Renewables

By Wilson Fortaleza - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 4, 2016

Pasig City, Philippines, Sept 24th, 2016 — The Center for Power Issues and Initiatives (CPII) was very grateful to have, as its main speaker to the Conference on Financing Renewable Energy and Energy Democracy, Prof. Sean Sweeney of the Murphy Institute, City University of New York, and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED).

Held in 23-24 of September 2016, the conference, composed mainly of unions from the power sector, NGOs, and members of the academe, energetically discussed the concept of energy democracy and whether the Philippine government’s policies, specifically on financing renewable energy, would lead to the advancement of this alternative framework. Unions present were from the electric cooperatives and power generation and are affiliated to SENTRO. Unions from NAGKAISA also sent representatives. Finally, the unions resolved to include in their collective bargaining provisions on the shift to RE and just transition for those needing it.

The conference, which got a generous support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Philippine Office, was the fourth of a series on renewable energy organized by FES and the CPII. The first was on the proposed re-commissioning of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP); the second was on the impending power crisis; and the third was Getting There, which discussed about the gaps in policies and program implementation that hinder the advance of green energy in the Philippines.

While acknowledging that energy democracy is a “contested” concept, Sweeney insisted that an alternative framework, which is an independent trade union and working class approach based on eco-socialist principles, must be vigorously pursued by the trade unions and social movements in addressing energy emergency, climate change, and the continuing control of private monopolies of the energy sector.

In his presentation Sweeney argued that despite the compelling statistics on climate and health crisis, energy production, particularly on power, continues to be dominated by fossil fuels,especially coal. Likewise, despite the rapid rise of renewable energy in the global energy mix, fossil fuel is not likely to be displaced soon as shown in the latest data of global energy consumption and carbon emissions.

However, Sweeney was very optimistic that the shift is reversible, not only because of the advancement in RE technology but also because the concept of energy democracy is gaining wide recognition and practical application all over the world. In Germany, for instance, 60 cities have reclaimed their grids from private companies and 5 UK cities are soon to follow.

Unfortunately, he added, acceptance of pro-market ideas is still dominating the union approach as in the case of social partnership and social dialogue framework that influence many EU trade unions.

(TUED Bulletin #62) Changes at TUED, new unions, report from Asia-Pacific Region

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 31, 2017

Dear TUED unions and movement allies:

Please welcome John Mark Mwanika to the TUED global advisory group. He will represent the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union of Uganda(ATGWU – Uganda)  The ATGWU is affiliated to two Global Union Federations, namely ITF and UNI, and joined TUED last week.

Please also welcome Alex White, representing UnionsACT, the Trades and Labour Council of the Australian Capital Territory, the peak body representing all unions in Canberra. UnionsACT is now part of TUED and working with the growing TUED community in the region.

SEIU Local 1021, representing 54,000 workers in Northern California, has also joined TUED.  The local will for now be represented by Martha Hawthorne (Martha attended COP 21 in Paris in late 2015)

Click here for an updated list of unions participating in TUED

TUED Asia-Pacific 

Meanwhile, here are the minutes of the TUED Asia-Pacific discussion that took place on August 10. The coordinator of this meeting was Tom Reddington, formerly of Earthworker Cooperative. Tom is now working on climate and energy democracy for Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA. Tom is also new to the TUED community, but he’ll be very involved in the Asia-Pacific work alongside Kate Lee

Global Advisory Group

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) of Australia will be represented by Trevor Gauld. Trevor is the ETU’s National Policy Officer.  Lance McCallum is now the National Campaign Coordinator at the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Lance is still very involved in the work of TUED and chaired the August 10th meeting.

Due to staff changes, Alison Arron will now represent the Public Services Association – New Zealand and Michael Seville will represent District Council 57, AFSCME, based in California. Cheryl Brown is now with SEIU Local 521 (thanks for everything Cheryl!)

Thank you James Hare! 
Everyone at TUED would like to express our appreciation to James Hare of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung NYC Office, who will be moving on from RLS-NYC at the end of summer. Thank you, James, for your role in strengthening and guiding the growth of TUED for five full years. We wish you the best in all things to come!

Korean Unions Call for a “Just Energy Transition” to Move Away From Coal and Nuclear

By Staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 4, 2017

In a series of landmark statements following the May 2017 election of the pro-reform President Moon Jae-in, Korean energy, transport and public service workers have called for “a just energy transition” allowing the sector to “function as a public asset under public control.”  Unions support the new government’s decision to close the country’s aging coal-fired and nuclear power stations, and its planned reconsideration of two new nuclear facilities, Kori 5 and Kori 6. In a statement issued in late July, the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) and the Korean Labour and Social Network on Energy (KLSNE), a coalition of unions and civil society organization, said, “We actively support the policy of phasing out coal and nuclear and expanding clean renewable energy.” The statement urged the development of, “A roadmap for energy transition that ensures public accountability and strengthens democratic control of the energy industry.” KPTU and KLSNE also committed  “to work together with the public and civil society to achieve a just transition.”

The Korean Labour and Social Network on Energy (KLSNE) and the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) Support the Government’s Policy of a Transition towards a Coal-free, Nuclear-free Energy System

The Moon Jae-in government, which was elected on a pledge to phase out coal and nuclear generation and scale up clean renewables, is now moving quickly to enact these promises. Following a temporary shutdown of old coal-fired power plants, the Kori 1 nuclear reactor was permanently closed down on June 19. The government is now reconsidering plans to build new nuclear reactors Kori 5 and 6. The KLSNE and KPTU declare our support for these policies and our intentions to play a leading role in bring about a just energy transition.

The government’s establishment of a commission to assess public opinion on the plans to build Kori reactors 5 and 6 on July 24 sparked immediate outcry from nuclear power business interests and pro-nuclear power scholars. The press has exacerbated this conflict with sensational reporting. It is deeply regrettable that those who oppose the government’s policies are speaking only from their individual self-interest without putting forth viable alternatives.

It is even more regrettable that the voices of workers at the Korean Hyro & Nuclear Power Corporation and other nuclear-power related companies who support a just transition are being stifled in the process. We stress the importance of recognising the difference between nuclear power business interests and the nuclear power workers. These workers are the people most easily exposed to radiation and at the most risk in the case of accidents. Electricity and gas workers, who have been discussing paths for a just transition for many years now, are sure that nuclear power workers will soon join us in this effort.

During the last nine years of conservative rule, South Korea’s energy policy has been focused on restructuring aimed only at meeting the interest of corporations (i.e. privatisation). The result has been the expansion of nuclear power and private coal and LNG generation and massive profits for corporations. Energy policy has been consistently undemocratic and anti-climate.

With South Korea now facing the threat of earthquakes and air contaminated with fine dust it is only natural that we energy workers, who have fought for almost two decades to stop privatisation and protect our public energy system, would take a leading role in the fight for a just energy transition.

TUED energy and climate retreat, Cutchogue, Long Island, April 3-4, 2017, hosted by Local 3, IBEW

By Staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, February 25, 2017

A Discussion on Union Strategy and Policy in a Time of Resistance

April 3rd & 4th at Local 3 IBEW’s Education and Cultural Center in Cutchogue, Long Island, New York. Dinner and reception to follow (check out morning of April 5th).

See below for information about the purpose of the retreat and discussion topics.

Confirmed international participants:

Daniel Angelim (Trade Union Confederation of the Americas)
David Boys (Public Services International)
Daniel Chavez (Transnational Institute, Netherlands)
Hector de la Cueva (CILAC-Mexico)
Bruno Dobrusin (CTA, Argentina)
Simona Fabiani (CGIL, Italy)
Luz Gonzalez (CUT, Brazil)
Kate Lee (Union Aid Abroad /APHEDA, Australia)
Wol-san Liem (KPTU, Korea)
Maite Llanos (TUED, Geneva)
Sam Mason (PCS, UK)
Josua Mata (Sentro, Philippines)
Lance McCallum (Electrical Trades Union, Australia)
Philip Pearson (TUED, UK)
Allison Roche (UNISON, UK)
Ashim Roy (NTUI, India)
Asbjorn Wahl (NUMGE, Norway)

We are all energy unions now.

The retreat is being convened at a time when President Trump has made clear his enthusiastic support for more fracking of shale gas and shale oil, and his desire to remove regulations on fossil fuels. Executive Orders have indicated President Trump’s support for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. A number of key US unions have endorsed these actions. Meanwhile, The White House has removed all references to climate change from its website, and the President has vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and reign in the EPA.

Jobs and Climate Justice

We share a common atmosphere and all rely on the ecosystems that sustain life. All over the world unions and social movements are being drawn into struggles over the future of energy. Therefore a clear, compelling, and effective strategy for a transformative transition for energy is needed in order to meet the political challenges in the US and elsewhere.

Likely discussion questions:

  • The Trump Agenda: How can progressive labor in the US respond to the “energy superpower” argument?
  • What is the record of “labor-environmental” alliances and coalitions in the US and internationally?
  • Should we defend the Paris climate agreement?
  • Centers of resistance: What role for cities and states?
  • What is happening in key “carbon battlegrounds” countries like Australia, India, South Africa and the UK?
  • How can unions champion public renewable power and build union strength in the renewables sector?

A recent TUED Working Paper, Energy Transition: Are We Winning?, explains what is going on in the global energy system and the need for progressive and forward-looking unions internationally to work together to develop a more coherent and compelling approach to energy transition.

Hemispheric Congress of Unions in São Paulo Urges Governments to Stop Fracking

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, April 28, 2016

More than 500 delegates representing unions in the Americas today adopted a ‘base document’ that included a call for governments in the hemisphere to issue a moratorium on fracking. Via the TUED-initiated Unions Against Fracking, five trade union centers in the Americas had earlier supported the call for a moratorium, namely CTA Argentina, CSN Quebec, the Canadian Labour Congress, CUT Brazil, and CUT Peru. A growing number of individual unions are also on board. The TUCA-CSA Congress document also declared, “We fight against the extractive model imposed by the business logic of large oil production and mining transnational corporations that do not foster development.”

Convened once every four years, the 3rd Congress of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americasis meeting at a time when unions in Brazil and across the region believe that a coup against president Dilma Rousseff is imminent. A right-wing government replacing the governing Workers Party is expected to push forward with an aggressive privatization agenda and a full-force attack on collective bargaining.

At a pre-Congress international seminar on April 26th titled “Democracy & Development in the Americas: Trade Union Strategy for the 2016-2020 period,” João Felício, current ITUC president and former leader of the main Brazilian union federation, CUT, underscored the seriousness of the situation. Referring to Dilma's period of incarceration during the 1964-1985 dictatorship, Felício said, “The torturers of Dilma, our democratically elected president, are poised to seize power. This is a coup. The CUT will never sit across the table with murderers and thieves.”

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow told the main session of Congress today, “This is about greed and corruption — corporate greed. We say, ‘No to coups, no to corruption.’ Dilma is the one person not charged for any personal corruption. Dilma is being tortured today in a different way.”

On climate change and the need for a ‘just transition,’ Burrow delivered a strong message: “Workers in fossil fuels should not be simply cast aside in the shift to a new economy. But there are no jobs on a dead planet. After the Paris Agreement, we need to act on the commitments made.”  Thanking Sharan for her work, TUCA president Hassan Yussuff acknowledged the ITUC's role at COP 21 in Paris. "Temperatures can not be allowed to rise above 2 degrees," he said, "We must ensure that unions are at the front of this fight." 

Representing TUED at the Congress, coordinator Sean Sweeney said, “Oil and gas multinationals have set their sights on Latin America in particular, and those supporting their agenda are playing their part in the attack on democracy in Brazil and across the continent. Unions at this Congress have seen with their own eyes what happens when mining and drilling companies move into their countries. They don't just go after fossil fuel deposits and water supplies, they also target democratic institutions and worker and human rights."

Pope’s encyclical sets the tone for June 29th Trade Union Climate Summit in New York

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 17, 2015

Just 11 days after Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, New York will host a major gathering of 40 unions from 14 countries. With resistance to ‘extreme extraction,’ austerity and inequality all rising, unions see opportunities to begin to build a united global movement for fundamental change.  The Pope’s radical critique of the existing system is sure to resonate with the 100-person gathering.

More than 40 unions from 14 countries will participate in a one-day Trade Union Climate Summit in New York City on June 29th, 2015.  Hosted by 32BJ SEIU, approximately 25 unions from the US will be present, representing workers in energy, nursing and health care, public transport, food and retail, building services, as well as new organizing efforts among precarious workers in the New York City area. Roughly 30 allied organizations will also participate, including the Climate Justice Alliance, 350.org, and the Emerald Cities Collaborative. A full list of registered participants is here.

Why a summit?

The summit is being organized nine months after the massive People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014, and just 5 months before the ‘last chance’ UN climate negotiations (COP 21) in Paris in early December 2015. Unions and close allies will come together in New York determined to find ways to help better connect the rising climate movement with the growing global struggle against austerity and inequality.  Unions have been playing an important role in both movements, but in most instances fighting for climate protection (read: people protection) and building opposition to austerity, low pay and precarious work remain separate struggles. But the potential for building a new and tranformational ‘climate and class movement’ appears to be growing.

This potential seems particularly visible in Southern Europe where the left has won impressive electoral victories in recent months. Importantly, this is a left for which atmospheric and ecological degradation is not an afterthought, but a central question that reveals a basic truth: we live in a political economy that takes but does not give back. Both nature and labor are inseparable, and both are treated as a ‘resource’ from which value is extracted as needed and then dumped.

The June 29 summit in New York will hear from unions from Greece (Thessaloniki water workers) and Spain (Comisiones Obreras) as well as from Italy (CGIL) where the traditional political parties are also losing support. With an eye on the Paris climate talks, the summit will hear from two representatives from the main French trade union federation (CGT) regarding the preparations for the events around COP21.  The UN climate meetings have been the scene of large mobilizations in recent years, particularly Copenhagen in late 2009 and Durban in late 2011.

Energy Democracy and Just Transition Endorsed at Launch of South Africa’s New Trade Union Federation

By John Treat - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, May 1, 2017

At a historic launch event held outside Johannesburg on April 21-23, 2017, almost 1,400 voting delegates from two-dozen unions representing 700,000 workers convened to launch the new “South African Federation of Trade Unions” (SAFTU).

In addition to adopting the name, logo and colors — red, black and gold — delegates also endorsed a range of principles adopted at a preparatory “Workers’ Summit” convened by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in April 2016, adopted a new constitution, and approved a report from the Steering Committee proposing a range of campaigning priorities for the next period.

In a recent article, then SAFTU convener Zwelinzima Vavi said:

We’ve got a mix of workers in the private sector, manufacturing, transport, mining and construction. And we’ve got unions in the public sector – the biggest ones are the South African Policing Union and the National Union of Public Servants and Allied Workers.[SAFTU] is independent but not apolitical. It is truly worker controlled and democratic and not ‘sloganising’ over the issues. SAFTU is truly fighting and militant.”

At a TUED strategy meeting in New York in early April, Karl Cloete, NUMSA’s Deputy General Secretary, told union representatives from 12 countries that while the new federation’s campaigning priorities will focus on the many grave and urgent challenges facing South Africa’s highly exploited workers and exceptionally vulnerable poor, SAFTU would also make energy democracy and just transition part of its core agenda.

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