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An Open Letter to Developer Phil Tagami

By Ted Franklin - No Coal in Oakland, April 7, 2017; image by Brooke Anderson

On Saturday, April 8, the Alameda Labor Council will sponsor a Labor, Climate & Jobs Forum with plenary and workshop sessions devoted to how Unions are addressing climate and environmental challenges by organizing workers and communities.  Speakers will include Josie Camacho, executive secretary-treasurer, Alameda Labor Council; Kathyrn Lybarger, president, California State Federation of Labor; Cesar Diaz, State Building and Construction Trades Council; and Carol Zabin, UC Berkeley Labor Center Green Economy Program.

The Forum follows the Labor Council’s pathbreaking support for the No Coal in Oakland campaign.  In September 2015, in one of the first actions by any labor council in the United States to oppose a developer’s plans on environmental grounds, the Alameda Labor Council passed a resolution calling on Mayor Libby Schaaf, the Oakland City Council, and the project developers “to reject the export of coal through the Oakland Global project, to not take funds from Utah to secure use of the terminals for coal, and to execute a binding agreement or adopt an ordinance that will bar export of coal from this public land.”

With strong support from Labor, faith, environmental, and community organizations, the Oakland City Council banned the storage and handling of coal in the City of Oakland by adopting an ordinance prohibiting bulk storage and handling of coal within Oakland’s city limits.

The City supported its decision by reviewing extensive evidence of serious local health and safety impacts that would result from locating a large coal export facility in West Oakland as well as disastrous effects on global climate that would result from burning the vast quantities of coal that would be shipped overseas.

Unions Congratulate the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Denial of Authorization for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)

Statement from 1199 SEIU; Amalgamated Transit Union; Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way Employees Division, Pennsylvania Federation–Teamsters; National Domestic Workers Alliance; National Nurses United; New York State Nurses Association; United Electrical Workers - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, December 9, 2016

We are unions representing members in health care, domestic work, public transit, railroads, manufacturing and other sectors.

We congratulate leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and thousands of supporters for the news that the federal government will deny authorization for the Dakota Access Pipeline to go through tribal lands posing a threat to water sources and sacred sites.

The Obama Administration’s decision respects the sacred grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux and takes into consideration the potential of a hazardous pipeline leak that would harm the community’s life and livelihood.

This is a historic victory, and an organizing victory that every union member can identify with, against one of the most powerful economic and political forces in the world: the fossil fuel industry and its many allies inside and outside government. These forces have used private police that have not hesitated in using violence to intimidate those participating in peaceful protest.

Mindful of our own history in facing private police and vigilantes in the fight to establish workers’ rights, trade unionists have stood shoulder to shoulder with the First Nation water protectors, environmental and community supporters, and many allies who have mobilized and rallied for months against huge odds.

Our unions will continue to join with opponents of the Dakota Pipeline along other routes and fight to halt similar projects that transport dirty crude oil that jeopardize public health and contribute to the climate crisis.

We also stand in solidarity with the construction workers who build our country’s infrastructure, and also with the workers in coal, oil and gas, many of whom have lost their jobs due to the collapse in global prices. In accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement, we call for a “just transition” for workers whose jobs and livelihoods may be threatened by the move away from fossil fuels.

But there is much work to be done in modernizing and repairing bridges, roads, tunnels, public transit systems, etc., many of which have become dilapidated and dangerous to workers and the public.  But jobs based on expanding (and exporting) fossil fuels will simply lead to more environmental destruction, worsening health, climate instability and social upheaval at home and abroad.  Business as usual is not an option.

Together we can demand the development of sustainable energy production and resource initiatives that unequivocally provide good, safe union jobs while salvaging the health and well-being of the earth’s population.

Our future depends on our willingness to engage and organize among progressive forces and social movements in order to effectively meet the challenges ahead.

Resolution Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Resolution passed by Railroad Workers United - November 2, 2016

Whereas, the  unprecedented  $3.78  Billion,  1,172-mile  Dakota  Access  Pipeline would carry over half a million barrels of dirty crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in  North  Dakota,  through  South  Dakota  and  Iowa  to  Illinois  to  connect  to  other pipelines bringing oil to the East Coast and the Gulf; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is slated to pass through the tribal lands of Standing Rock Sioux  near  Cannon  Ball,  North  Dakota,  and  underneath  the  Missouri  River,  the main source of water for the tribe; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is  slated  to  pass  under  the  Missouri  River  a  second  time before  passing  under  the  Mississippi  River,  a  total  watershed  coving  40%  of  the continental United States; and

Whereas, the pipeline has already disturbed the lives of millions of Americans; and

Whereas, millions  of  workers--including  many  union  members  and  their  their families--live in communities that are in thepath of the proposed pipeline; and

Whereas, the transport of heavy crude is particularly volatile, leading to 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals spilled, leaked, or released into the air, land, and waterways  between  2006  and  2014  in  North  Dakota  alone,  causing  death,  contamination of soil and water, and numerous types of disease; and

Whereas, scientists  have  warned  that  in  order  to  avoid  wide-scale,  catastrophic climate disruption, the vast majority of known remaining fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground; and

Whereas, people  engaged  in  protecting  their  land  and  water  have  been  brutally attacked by private security forces in both Iowa and North Dakota; and

Whereas, Native  Americans  and  other  activists  defending  their  land  and  water have  the  same  right  to  defend  their  land  and  engage  in  non-violent  protest  as workers who are protesting the actions of an unfair employer; and

Whereas, the  U.S.  Congress  has  repealed  the  ban  on  exporting  oil,  meaning  that the oil transported by the pipeline is likely to be sold overseas and not contribute to US energy independence; and

Whereas, we know that a very real threat to workers’ lives and livelihoods is the prospect of catastrophic climate change; and

Whereas pipelines  accidents,  such  as  the  recent  Helena,  Alabama  gas  pipeline explosion  which  killed  one  and  injured  five,  pose  a  threat  to  workers  and  their communities; and

Whereas, many  large  corporations,  and  especially  fossil  fuel  corporations,  have been  putting  profits  ahead  of  the  common  good  of  workers,  the  public,  and  the environment, and these corporations have been unjustly granted the constitutional  rights  and  powers of “person-hood”, diminishing  democracy and  the  voice  and power of the people; and

Whereas, numerous national and international unions have already passed resolutions against construction of the pipeline, including National Nurses United, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Communications Workers of America, the United Electrical Workers, Service Employees International Union, and others; and

Whereas, these unions have an economic, environmental and racial justice strategy which has been employed to win membership strikes through broad base support by non-unionized workers and community members; and

Whereas, unions  in  support  of  Standing  Rock,  and  against  the  Dakota  Access  Pipeline  have  come  under  attack from reactionary unions who have engaged in the bad practice of collaborating with bosses, such as the virulently anti-union Koch Brothers; and

Whereas, Railroad  Workers  United  is  already  on  record  supporting  the  development  of  a  just  transition  plan  for

workers affected by fossil fuel elimination; and

Whereas, more long-term good paying jobs would be created by investing in sustainable energy infrastructure projects using already existing technologies while at the same time reducing greenhouse gases; and

Whereas, we support the rights of our union brothers and sisters building the pipeline to work in safe environments at jobs that are consistent with respect for the environment and the rights and safety of frontline communities;

Therefore Be  it Resolved, that we call upon the Federal Government to  make permanent the moratorium  on  construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline by revoking permits for construction issued by the Army Corps of Engineers; and

Be it Further Resolved, that Railroad Workers United calls on the labor movement to support a just transition to a renewable energy  economy  and  investment  in  the  construction  of a  nationwide sustainable energy  infrastructure that will address the growing threat of climate change and its consequent droughts, floods, fire, crop failure, species extinction and other dire consequences of global warming;

Be it Finally Resolved, Railroad Workers United urges all railroad craft unions and the rest of the labor movement to become actively involved in promoting a just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that protects the  environment and respects  the rights of all working people to good paying safe  jobs, human  rights and justice for all.

Climate Emergency: Global Insurgency

By Jeremy Brecher - Common Dreams, October 14, 2016

Note: The new, updated 2016 edition of Jeremy Brecher’s Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival, from which the following is drawn, can be now be downloaded for free at the author's website here.)

The Lilliputian defenders of the earth’s climate have been winning some unlikely battles lately. The Standing Rock Sioux, supported by nearly two hundred Native American tribes and a lot of other people around the globe, have put a halt, at least for now, to completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that threatens their sacred burial sites and the water supply for 17 million people—not to mention the world’s climate. Before that a seven-year struggle terminated the Keystone XL pipeline. Other fossil fuel extraction, transport, and burning facilities have been halted by actions around the world.

But as Bill McKibben has said, "Fighting one pipeline at a time, the industry will eventually prevail."[1] Is there a plausible strategy for escalating today’s campaigns against fossil fuel infrastructure to create an effective challenge to the escalating climate threat? How can we get the power we need to counter climate catastrophe? My book Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival (download) grapples with that question and proposes a possible strategy: a global nonviolent constitutional insurgency. Now that strategy is being tried – and may even be overcoming some of the obstacles that have foiled climate protection heretofore.

Standing Rock Solid with the Frackers: Are the Trades Putting Labor’s Head in the Gas Oven?

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 14, 2016

This article first appeared in New Labor Forum. It has been updated to reflect the rising level of union opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

If anyone were looking for further evidence that the AFL-CIO remains unprepared to accept the science of climate change, and unwilling to join with the effort being made by all of the major labor federations of the world to address the crisis, the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) provides only the most recent case in point. Taking direction from the newly minted North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), the federation stood against the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations.

In a recent video interview, NABTU president Sean McGarvey dismissed those who oppose the expansion of fossil fuels infrastructure. “There is no way to satisfy them…no way for them to recognize that if we don’t want to lose our place in the world as the economic superpower, then we have to have this infrastructure and the ability to responsibly reap the benefits of what God has given this country in its natural resources.”[i] Although the leaders of NABTU no longer identify with the AFL-CIO and the letterhead does not mention the Federation, the Trades continue to determine the shape the AFL-CIO’s approach to energy and climate. This is despite the fact that a growing number of unions have opposed the DAPL, among them the Amalgamated Transit Union, Communication Workers of America, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Nurses United, New York State Nurses Association, Service Employees International Union (SEIU); SEIU 1199, and the United Electrical Workers. Union locals (branches or chapters) have also opposed the DAPL, among them, GEU UAW Local 6950 and Steelworkers Local 8751.

These unions have been joined by the Labor Coalition for Community Action, which represents well established AFL-CIO constituency groups like LCLAA, APALA, Pride at Work, CBTU, CLUW and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Reacting to the progressive unions’ solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux, NABTU’s president Sean McGarvey wrote a scathing letter to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, copies of which were sent to the principal officers of all of the Federation’s affiliated unions. In a fashion reminiscent of the Keystone XL fight, McGarvey disparaged the unions that opposed DAPL. A day later, on September 15th, the AFL-CIO issued its own already infamous statement supporting DAPL. “Trying to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved” said the statement. “The AFL-CIO calls on the Obama Administration to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue.”[ii]

No Coal in Oakland: a Report on the Campaign

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

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

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

Margaret Rossoff
margaretmft@gmail.com

Strategy

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

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

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

Dakota Access opens rift in AFL-CIO and debate within labor movement

By Paul Roland - KBOO, September 28, 2016

Audio File

After AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement on September 15 (link below) harshly criticizing Native Americans and others opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline DAPL), a growing number of progressive unions and labor organizations--many of them AFL-CIO affiliates--stepped forward to stand with the Standing Rock and other Native Nations and their allies.

While a similar conflict surfaced during the KXL pipeline controversy, it remained less openly contentious because the section that would have passed through the Dakotas was ultimately cancelled by President Obama. Now, with DAPL construction massively underway and hundreds of Native Nations uniting against the pipeline and gathered in an encampment of thousands, the battle lines are being more clearly drawn.  Perhaps Native troubadours there are singing the old United Mine Workers song from the 1930's, "Which Side Are You On?" 

Among the unions and organizations opposing the pipeline are Oregon's SEIU 503, the Pacific Coast Pensions Association--ILWU, the Labor Coalition for Community Action (which includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the labor council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work), National Nurses United, ATU transit workers, California Faculty Association, Communication Workers of America, IWW Environmental unionism Caucus, National Writers Union UAW Local 1981, UE ( United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America) and others.

Today's guests are Gregory Cendana, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, an AFL-CIO member organization (http://www.apalanet.org/national-staff.html); Roben White, enrolled Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge and long-time local union activist;  Laura John, Blackfeet/Seneca and member-activist of SEIU Local 503 who pushed her local to adopt a statement in support of the Standing Rock and against the DAPL, and Rob Sisk, President of SEIU Local 503.

Work Week Radio: AFL-CIO and Opposition To Pipeline and Brazilian Workers Strike

By Steve Zeltser - Work Week Radio KPFA, September 27, 2016

WorkWeek looks at the growing conflict in the labor movement over the Dakota Access Pipeline project and the protests by Standing Rock Sioux Native Americans and other tribes and supporters against the pipeline. LIUNA, the Teamsters, Operating Engineers and Richard Trumpka of the AFL-CIO have supported the pipeline. Additional LIUNA, IBT, Pipefitters and Operating Engineers have also called for calling in the National Guard to protect the pipeline workers from protest.

Unions including the National Nurses Union NNU, Amalgamated Transit Union ATU, Communication Workers Of America CWA and American Postal Workers Union have opposed the pipeline and supported the protesting Native American tribes.

WorkWeek interviews NNU Director of Director of Environmental Health and Climate Justice for National Nurses United (NNU) Fernando Losada. We also interview Jeremy Brecher who is a labor writer and with Labor For Sustainability.

They discuss the split in labor, what is behind it and also the labor management partnership between the building union leadership and the oil and fossil fuel corporations.

Next WorkWeek looks at the upcoming strike in Brazil of auto and metal workers along with bank and public workers with Fabio Bosco who is with the Sao Paulo Metro workers union and Conlutas a labor federation which is supporting the strike.

Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, September 28, 2016

As United States Energy Transfers Partners began building the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the tribe began an escalating campaign against the pipeline. By this summer nearly 200 tribes around the country had passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and many hundreds of their members joined nonviolent direct action to halt it. Amidst wide public sympathy for the Native American cause, environmental, climate protection, human rights, and many other groups joined the campaign. On September 9, the Obama administration intervened to temporarily halt the pipeline and open government-to-government consultations with the tribes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has become an issue of contention within organized labor. When a small group of unions supported the Standing Rock Sioux and opposed the pipeline, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka issued a statement discounting Native American claims and urging that work on the pipeline resume. Other constituencies within labor quickly cracked back. Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?

Big Labor has an identity crisis, and its name is Dakota Access

By Aura Bogado - Grist, September 28, 2016

A growing rift has split the country’s biggest union federation, the AFL-CIO. Many labor activists and union members are outraged that Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, threw the AFL-CIO’s support behind the Dakota Access pipeline project earlier this month.

The AFL-CIO’s statement backing the pipeline was announced a week after the Obama administration put construction on hold. Trumka acknowledged “places of significance to Native Americans” but argued that the more than “4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs” attached to the pipeline trumped environmental and other considerations.

That move rankled many in the AFL-CIO’s more progressive wing, highlighting strains within the federation of 56 unions representing 12 million workers. Recent tensions within the AFL-CIO have deepened a long-running divide between a more conservative, largely white, jobs-first faction and progressive union members who are friendly to environmental concerns and count more people of color among their ranks.

Grist interviewed five staffers at the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. Trumka’s public support for the pipeline caught these senior-level and mid-level staffers by surprise, they told Grist — especially because he had recently taken progressive positions on Black Lives Matter, immigration, and criminal justice.

A call to Trumka’s office was not returned. The federation’s policy director, Damon Silvers, who is said to have helped write the statement, also did not respond to an interview request.

Union opponents of the pipeline project and their advocates quickly responded on social media with satire. One post on Twitter likened Trumka’s position to helping the wrong side in Star Wars.

Other frustrated union members and staffers placed calls to Climate Workers, an organization of union workers focused on climate justice, to vent. Brooke Anderson, an organizer at the group, says she fielded dozens of calls from members upset about the AFL-CIO’s position.

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