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Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS)

Rutgers Educators Fight for Climate-Safe New Jersey

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 2022

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The faculty and graduate worker union at Rutgers University has stepped out to oppose a plan to haul liquified fracked gas across southern New Jersey. The Star-Ledger has just published an op ed by two union leaders explaining why:

A proposal to transport liquified fracked gas on trains and in trucks through densely populated Camden, Philadelphia and southern New Jersey threatens enormous harm across the region. As Rutgers-Camden faculty, we stand with Camden residents and community groups in opposing this dangerous and potentially catastrophic proposal.

Our faculty and graduate worker union at Rutgers believes in “bargaining for the common good”; a labor strategy that builds community-union partnerships to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future. As this project demonstrates, our lives and well-being are deeply interconnected. We are stronger when we organize together with our partners against threats to our communities, our environment, and our collective future. We must work together to make our communities safer and more sustainable. Opposing the transport of LNG is one way to address these concerns, given the risks of the proposed plan and the carbon emissions associated with LNG.

The opinion piece was written by Jovanna Rosen, assistant professor of Public Policy at Rutgers-Camden and a member of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Climate Justice Committee and Jim Brown, associate professor of English at Rutgers-Camden and president of the Camden Chapter of Rutgers-AAUP-AFT.

Multiplying Labor's Power

A Child Shall Lead Them: to Heat Pumps for Europe

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 2022

While the Russian military continues to devastate Ukraine and the US sends billions for military aid to Ukraine, European countries continue to support the Russian war effort by purchasing Russian oil and gas. Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies reap a bonanza on shortages that are impoverishing American consumers at the gasoline pump. And even as climate catastrophe is causing still more devastating heatwaves, droughts, and floods those companies are planning to expand fossil fuel production to exploit the Ukraine crisis still more.

Why not starve the Russian war machine by a crash program to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy? Among those asking that question is Lillian Fortuna, an 11-year-old activist who started this petition to President Joe Biden:

Dear President Biden:

Right now your administration is taking advice from big fossil fuel companies regarding what to do about Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gas. These companies want to increase production of natural gas here and ship it to Europe as a replacement for Russian gas, which, surprise, happens to be enormously profitable for them. Sadly, your administration has granted more drilling leases than the Trump administration just as data has emerged showing the industry was undercounting its methane emissions by 70%. It is really surprising that you are choosing this solution instead of using this moment as an opportunity to help Europe switch to ever-cleaner electricity, which is what will really undercut Putin’s power. Environmentalist Bill McKibben has an amazing plan to do just that.

We are writing to ask you to immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin’s power.

To read and sign the full petition: https://www.change.org/p/joseph-r-biden-stop-putin-by-sending-heat-pumps-to-europe

To read Bill McKibben’s “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom”: https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/heat-pumps-for-peace-and-freedom?s=r

Unions Making a Green New Deal From Below: Part 2

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 2022

This second of two commentaries on “Unions Making a Green New Deal from Below” portrays what it looks like when unions in a town decide to create a local Green New Deal or when unions in a state decide to transform their economy to expand jobs and justice by protecting the climate.

Workers and unions are among those who have the most to gain by climate protection that produces good jobs and greater equality. That’s why unions in the most diverse industries and occupations are creating their own Green New Deal-type programs in localities around the country. Here are some examples:

Workers and Communities in Transition: Virtual Discussion on the Just Transition Listening Project

By J. Mijin Cha, Vivian Price, Dimitris Stevis, and Todd E. Vachon - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 3, 2022

The Center for Global Work and Employment, Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN) and Center for Environmental Justice at Colorado State University have recently sponsored a virtual discussion on the Just Transition Listening Project (JTLP)’s 2021 report Workers and Communities in Transition. You can watch the recording online on LEARN-TV.

Enviros Protect Steelworkers’ Backs

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

On April 29, activists from the environmental group Greenpeace USA and oil workers and Steelworkers Local 5 deployed a “boat picket” at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA composed of three Greenpeace boats floating in formation near the oil tanker delivery dock, with striking refinery workers, banners and picket signs on board.

According to Greenpeace Co-Executive Director Annie Leonard, “The boats intend to notify all incoming and outgoing tankers and tugs of their presence as a “picket line” and ask that they do not cross it by refusing to arrive at or leave the refinery’s dock.”

Why were Greenpeace boats and activists, famous for blocking whale hunts, supporting a strike by oil refinery workers? Annie Leonard explains:

Fossil fuel executives and their lobbyists have maintained their dominance by pretending to have the best interest of workers and communities at heart. But while they are raking in record profits (just this morning Chevron announced they brought in $6.3 billion in just the first quarter this year), they are holding out on fair pay and safe working conditions. That’s why we chose to show up for fossil fuel workers. The only way we can break these companies’ stranglehold on our wallets, our communities, and the planet is by standing together in the call for a livable future.

She adds,

Nearly 500 workers from Chevron’s Richmond refinery have been on strike for over a month as they demand a fair contract from Chevron’s greedy executives. Greenpeace believes that walking our walk in our commitment to a just economic future for all communities means that in the meantime, we must be dedicated to struggle alongside oil workers against the industry that is not giving them a fair shake. Today’s protest is the next step in displaying a powerful front of environmentalists and workers united against fossil fuel corporations. If we stand (or sometimes float) together, we can win.

Greenpeace activist Ben Smith tweeted from a floating picket boat, “We’re also out here to walk the walk. It’s past time for the workers movement and the environmental movement to build bonds of solidarity because our fates are bound up together.”

Warehouse Workers Call for Zero-Emission Trucks

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

A growing convergence between climate protection and worker justice is embodied in a new report from Warehouse Workers for Justice titled “For Good Jobs and Clean Air: How a Just Transition to Zero Emission Vehicles Can Transform Warehousing.”

Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) is a worker center founded in 2008 to win “stable, living wage jobs with dignity” for the hundreds of thousands of workers in Illinois’ logistics and distribution industry. WWJ “provides workshops about workplace rights, unites warehouse workers to defend their rights on the job, builds community support for the struggles of warehouse workers and fights for public and private policies that promote full-time work at decent wages in the warehouse industry.”

The new report, which includes both scientific information and vivid accounts by warehouse workers themselves, documents the toxic, diesel-driven air quality, public health, and labor impacts of warehousing at the nation’s largest inland port, Will County, IL. Its findings were generated by community-driven air quality monitoring, truck counting, and interviews.

The report finds that through environmental racism and poor labor standards, companies like Amazon put their predominantly Black and Latine workers at a “double jeopardy” of exploitation on the shop floor and toxic air pollution in the community.

The report shows that the transition to electric trucks creates an opportunity to uplift labor standards for warehouse workers and truckers while mitigating diesel-related public health crises — but only if the shift to EVs adequately prioritizes workers and residents.

EPA Workers Demand Scientific Integrity in Their Union Contract

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

The American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, which represents 7,500 scientists, engineers, and other employees at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, is demanding a contract that insulates agency science from political interference.

According to Nicole Cantello, an EPA lawyer and union leader, “We are looking to be the first union in the nation to have a scientific integrity article in our contract.” The union plans to introduce its proposal at a bargaining session with management in June.

At the top of Council 238’s website is the banner “Protecting the Workers Who Protect the Planet.” Their mission statement:

EPA employees have committed our careers to protecting human health and the environment. Our fight for a fair workplace is a fight to continue our mission to protect all Americans and preserve the soul of the EPA. The health and future of our country and planet depend on it.

Protecting the health of our country and our planet depends on a fully functioning EPA, where all employees – from climate scientists to pollution analysts, lawyers, and enforcement personnel – are free from political interference to do their jobs.

EPA employees and their unions have a long history of fighting political interference with their duty to protect people and the planet. In 2007, leaders of 22 EPA unions petitioned Congress to “allow U.S. EPA’s scientists and engineers to speak frankly and directly with Congress and the public regarding climate change, without fear of reprisal.”

For more on this story: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zahrahirji/epa-unions-trump-science-protections

For more on AFGE Council 238: https://afge238.org

For the 2007 petition by EPA workers and unions: https://www.jeremybrecher.org/a-clarion-call/

Unions Making a Green New Deal from Below: Part 1

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

While Washington struggles over job and climate programs, unions around the country are making their own climate-protecting, justice-promoting jobs programs.

While unions have been divided on the Green New Deal as a national policy platform, many national and local unions have initiated projects that embody the principles and goals of the Green New Deal in their own industries and locations. Indeed, some unions have been implementing the principles of the Green New Deal since long before the Green New Deal hit the headlines, developing projects that help protect the climate while creating good jobs and reducing racial, economic, and social injustice.

Even some of the unions that have been most dubious about climate protection policies are getting on the clean energy jobs bandwagon. The United Mine Workers announced in March that it will partner with energy startup SPARKZ to build an electric battery factory in West Virginia in 2022 that will employ 350 workers. The UMWA will recruit and train dislocated miners to be the factory’s first production workers. According to UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer Brian Sanson, “We need good, union jobs in the coalfields no matter what industry they are in. This is a start toward putting the tens of thousands of already-dislocated coal miners to work in decent jobs in the communities where they live.”[1]

Germany going fossil-free – and Protecting Fossil Fuel Workers

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

Germany, which imports around two-thirds of its gas from Russia and other former Soviet Union states and which aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, is planning to require nearly 100% renewable electricity by 2035. Robert Habeck, German’s economic affairs and climate minister, said Germany needs to triple its rate of emissions reductions.

In response to the Russian attack on Ukraine, Germany has denied a license to the recently constructed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was to be a major conduit for gas from Russia to Germany. It is also scheduled to close its three nuclear plants by the end of this year.

Germany adopted a plan two years ago to close all coal-fired power plants by 2038. It includes compensation for coal regions, coal companies, and their workers. The total government investment to diversify the regions’ economies and create new jobs over the coming two decades as coal is phased out is $47.3 billion.

For the new German policy: Germany’s New Government Had Big Plans on Climate, Then Russia Invaded Ukraine. What Happens Now? – Inside Climate News

For more on Germany’s just transition program for coal regions and workers: What should coal communities do when power plants shut down? Ask Germany. – Vox

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