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Auto Workers Ratify New Contracts at the Big 3

By Dan DiMaggio - Labor Notes, November 17, 2023

After a six-week escalating strike, the Auto Workers (UAW) ratified agreements with each of the Big 3 automakers. The deals are a sharp about-face from decades of concessions.

The new contracts go further than many people thought possible, on issues that the companies had insisted were off the table. Stellantis agreed to reopen its idled Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant. The companies will include most new battery plant workers in their master agreements.

While the contracts don’t abolish tiers for benefits, they mostly get rid of the wage tiers the Big 3 had created to drive down pay. Some workers will see their pay more than double.

The gains are a testament to the UAW’s aggressive strategy under its new leaders, which ramped up the strikes slowly at first and then faster until the companies caved one by one. The strategy threw the companies off guard and kept them guessing throughout.

The Stand-Up Strike began September 15 when 13,000 workers walked out at three Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis assembly plants; by the end it grew to 50,000, out of 146,000 UAW members at the Big 3. The agreements came after a major escalation: striking each company’s most profitable truck plant.

Workers approved the deals at GM, Ford, and Stellantis this week.

At Ford and Stellantis, two-thirds voted in favor. But at GM, the numbers were close. Just 55 percent of workers voted yes, reflecting workers’ heightened expectations and frustration with years of givebacks. Many higher-seniority assembly plant workers at all three companies voted no, saying the raises and retirement gains were not enough.

“They wanted higher increases in pay, higher than the 25 percent, and they wanted it all up front,” said Katie Deatherage, the recently elected president of Local 2250 at GM’s plant in Wentzville, Missouri. “Pensions and post-retirement health care were a huge topic and have been for a long long time.”

Deatherage estimates that 70 to 75 percent of workers at her plant have been hired since 2007, meaning they don’t get a pension or retiree health care. Still, in her 20 years at GM, “it’s the best contract I’ve seen in my career.” She voted yes.

Loading the DICE against pension funds Flawed economic thinking on climate has put your pension at risk

By Steve Keen - Carbon Tracker, July 2023

Pension funds are risking the retirement savings of millions of people by relying on economic research that ignores critical scientific evidence about the financial risks embedded within a warming climate.

This report reveals that many pension funds use investment models that predict global warming of 2 to 4.3°C will have only a minimal impact on member portfolios, relying on economists flawed estimates of damages from climate change, which predicts that even with 5 to 7°C of global warming, economic growth will continue. The report underscores that such economic studies cannot be reconciled with warnings from climate scientists that global warming on this scale would be “an existential threat to human civilisation.”

Loading the DICE against pension funds is a call to action for investment professionals to look at the compelling evidence we see in the climate science literature, and to implement investment strategies, particularly a rapid wind down of the fossil fuel system, based on a ‘no regrets’ precautionary approach. Behaving cautiously now and acting to avoid a 1.5°C increase (let alone the 4°C outcome featured in this report) will enable future generations to secure the prosperity and quality of life that comes from a healthy planet.

The Impact of Energy Investments on the Financial Value and the Carbon Footprint of Pension Funds

By Michael Zonta, Melanie Issett, Celinda Ma, and Olaf Weber - School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED), University of Waterloo, June 26, 2023

This report presents the results of analyses conducted on a group of pension funds that face popular demands to decarbonize their investment holdings (Climate Safe Pensions Network (CSPN)). A key argument made by advocates is that fossil fuel-free portfolios would have seen superior investment performance during the last decade. The scope of the analyses includes the historical public equity investments of the funds and are based on data provided by either Bloomberg or Capital IQ2. The analyses were conducted between 2013 and 2022 for the funds with publicly accessible data. Data for eight of the funds were available, including:

Data for eight of the funds were available, including:

  • Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC)
  • Alaska Retirement Management Board (ARMB)
  • California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS)
  • California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)
  • Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association (CoPERA)
  • New York State Teachers' Retirement System (NYSTRS)
  • Oregon Public Employees' Retirement Fund (OPERF)
  • State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB)

if six of the eight U.S. public pension funds had divested 10 years ago, they would have been $21 billion richer, an average 13% higher return rate. These six pensions collectively represent approximately 3.4 million people.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

‘Sustainable’ pension funds accused of greenwashing over billions held in oil and gas firms

By James Tapper - The Guardian, May 14, 2023

People investing their pensions in funds that claim green credentials are being warned they may actually be backing the world’s largest oil and gas companies.

Carbon Tracker Initiative said that asset managers have invested $376bn (£295bn) in oil and gas companies, despite publicly pledging to back efforts to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. The environmental thinktank based in London and New York found that more than 160 funds with a green label held $4.6bn in 15 companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron and TotalEnergies.

It also found that 25 members of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative had invested in those companies and some had increased their holdings in 2022. NZAM said its international initiative started two years ago and investors needed time to change their strategies.

The warning comes as the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority prepares to publish anti-greenwashing rules that are intended to clean up how investment funds are labelled.

California public pension divestment bill building momentum; passed Senate Labor and Judiciary Committees

By Shana DeClercq - Fossil Free California, April 18, 2023

Today, SB 252 – a widely-supported bill for CalPERS and CalSTRS to phase out fossil fuel investments – passed its second Committee hearing in the California State Senate at the Senate Judiciary Committee. After an opening statement from bill author Senator Lena Gonzalez (D), Long Beach), and expert testimony from Hannah Estrada, Youth vs. Apocalypse, and Ron Rapp, Legislative Director, California Faculty Association. The Committee opened the floor to in-person and phone call public testimony. Nearly 150 Californians called in or joined in person to support SB252 yesterday. The phone lines overflowed with Central Valley community members, Bay Area youth, organizational representatives, and pension beneficiaries from across California striving to make their enthusiasm for divestment heard.

Eight Senate committee members voted Aye, and the bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. This momentum for public pension divestment comes as Californians recover from record-shattering floods, while also girding themselves for ever-lengthening wildfire seasons in the Western U.S. – climate impacts directly caused by the extraction, transportation, and burning of fossil fuels.

Carlos Davidson, CalPERS recipient and California Faculty Association member, gave the following statement: 

“What we are seeing with SB 252 is tremendous momentum, in no small part due to the strong labor support for divestment of CalPERS and CalSTRS. Just as our pensions are the largest in the United States, our union workforce that contributes to those pensions is also a force to reckon with. Unions supporting the bill, such as the California Faculty Association, AFSCME California, the California Nurses Association, the American Federation of Teachers California, and more, together represent over 470,000 California workers.” 

How Effective Has Engagement Been?

By Sheila Thorne - Fossil Free California, April 15, 2023

CalPERS insists engagement is the most effective way to address climate change. In 2017 it co-founded Climate Action 100+, a coalition of 700 large investors who engage with 167 of the worst carbon-emitting companies in order to promote climate awareness in the company's governance and persuade them to disclose the company's climate risk and reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.

How effective has it been?

An evaluation of the impact of CalPERS climate engagements authored by Dr. Clair Brown, Professor of Economics at U.C. Berkeley, profiles 10 major oil companies with which CalPERS engages. It shows that only five of the ten have set emissions targets of net zero by 2050, and none of them have set short or medium term emission reduction goals. There are no consequences for these failures. A review of the 2022 proxy season along with past votes shows that CalPERS usually continues to support directors regardless of a company's failure to make progress in reducing emissions.

CalPERS' own "Addressing Climate Change Report" ( June 2020) admitted that only 9% of companies in the Climate Action 100+ group had targets in line with the Paris Agreement goals and only 8% had lobbying efforts aligned with necessary climate action.

This report considered one of its "significant impacts of engagement" the fact that Shell announced targets for reductions every 3 to 5 years towards a goal of shrinking its net carbon by about half by 2050 and agreed to include its emissions across its supply and demand chains (Scopes 1,2, and 3). However, one half of net carbon emission by 2050 is hardly something to boast about. Worse, a Financial Times article (May 17, 2020) revealed a disclaimer at the end of Shells's announcement that it will NOT change its strategy or capital deployment plans in line with its announcement until society acts. Thus it is going ahead with a new project in Nigeria to produce 30 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year to meet with what it expects to be doubled demand by 2040. And, according to Carbon Brief, Shell's global energy vision "Sky 1.5" plans for continued use of oil, gas, and coal until the end of the century.

The CalPERS Report also claimed it an accomplishment of engagement that Chevron announced reduction goals for GHG intensity in production. However, Chevron at the same time announced plans to double its production in the Permian Basin over 5 years and expected 900,000 barrels by 2023; thus its overall emissions and especially Scope 3 emissions could only rise.

We Must Ask: Does Fossil Fuel Divestment Work?

By Ted Franklin - Common Dreams, April 4, 2023

As it hits its 10th year, the divestment movement claims many moral victories, yet fossil fuel companies keep booming and carbon keeps rising. Divestment fails to turn off the taps.

"After a decade of action, we are making a difference in the fight against climate change,"proclaims DivestInvest, the global divestment network. Dozens of leading climate organizations from 350.org to the World Council of Churches have enlisted as core partners or endorsers of DivestInvest.

According to DivestInvest's website, 1,585 institutions have publicly committed to "at least some form" of fossil fuel divestment, representing an enormous $39.2 trillion of assets under management.

"That's as if the two biggest economies in the world, the United States and China, combined, chose to divest from fossil fuels," the site goes on.

DivestInvest's 2021 glossy prospectus intimates that, thanks to divestment, the fossil fuel industry has begun to collapse. At the very least, oil and gas moguls should be trembling with fear that divestment activists will soon force them to close their spigots and relinquish their financial and political power.

If only this were true.

The balance sheets of the fossil fuel companies say otherwise. Instead of the industry tailspin portrayed in DivestInvest's report, the fossil fuel giants are awash in record profits. In 2021, The Hillreports, "the four largest oil and gas companies made over $75 billion in profits, returned billions to their shareholders through record dividends and share buybacks, and handed out millions in compensation to their chief executive officers."

Divestment Trade Union briefing

California is wary of taking this big step to fight climate change. One Democrat says it makes them ‘hypocrites’

By Joe Garofoli - San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, 2023

State Sen. Lena Gonzalez is calling out California as “hypocrites” when it comes to tackling climate change. 

Specifically, the Long Beach Democrat says the state’s massive public pension funds should put its money – $11 billion worth of investments in fossil fuel companies – where its mouth is, by divesting those funds from polluters and moving toward renewable energy sources.

Pension fund leaders say that divestment may sound good and feel good, but will “accomplish nothing” – and potentially put at risk the retirement benefits of teachers and other public-sector workers. 

Notably silent on this issue is California’s leading climate advocate: Gov. Gavin Newsom. And carefully watching this battle unfold from the sidelines – for now – is the politically powerful, 310,000-member California Teachers Association union. Just under 9% of its members are retirees.

Gonzalez would like to see Newsom take a more active position. She was a leader in writing the package of leading-edge climate bills that Newsom signed into law last year. 

But she’s dumbfounded as to why a state that has positioned itself as a leader by demanding electric vehicles, pledged to be carbon neutral by 2045, called a special session of the Legislature to penalize oil companies for “price-gouging” and is ready to ban gas-powered water heaters is balking at leveraging the massive economic power of its pension funds to force fossil fuel companies to be more green.

California Aims To Boot Dirty Investment With California Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (SB 252)

By Zachary Shahan - Clean Technica, February 9, 2023

California continues to be a climate and cleantech leader. One of its big recent announcements in this regard is that state policymakers have introduced the California Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (SB 252).

Naturally, this divestment move was stimulated by young adults, students. It was then introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), and Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) in the California Senate. The package actually covers a range of topics. It is “a suite of bills that work together to improve transparency, standardize disclosures, align public investments with climate goals, and raise the bar on corporate action to address the climate crisis.”

One of the shocking stats that the parties use to emphasize the importance of this matter and the stunning reality of human-induced global heating is that 71% of greenhouse gas emissions to date have come from just 100 companies. “Without corporate action to reduce these emissions, California would be unable to meet its climate goals,” the state senators surmise. “At a time when rising anti-science sentiment is driving strong pushback against responsible business practices like risk disclosure and ESG investing, these bills leverage the power of California’s market to continue the state’s long tradition of setting the gold standard on environmental protection for the nation and the world.”

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