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Bay Area and California Green Unionism Report: May 2024

By x344543 - IWW Eco Union Caucus, May 20, 2024

This report, unfortunately, does not cover the numerous and growing student occupations of university campuses in support of Palestine (or the support from unions and strike votes by unionized campus workers), because they’re simply too many to comprehensively mention here, but these are not unrelated to green unionism. A detailed report may be forthcoming in the future. Watch this space for more details.

World Resources Institute (WRI) Just Transition Framework:

  1. World Resources Institute has produced a very thorough and well written article on just transition for refinery workers: In a Clean Energy Future, What Happens to California’s Thousands of Oil Refinery Workers? - https://www.wri.org/insights/ca-oil-refineries-just-transition
  2. They recently presented their findings at a recent meeting of the Richmond Refinery Transition Working Group and announced their intent to conduct ongoing research with the intent of developing a set of policy recommendations for the state, for affected unions, communities, and environmental organizations;
  3. Their recommendations will incorporate previous studies by the UC Labor Center (including Putting California on the High Road: a Jobs and Climate Action Plan for 2030 - https://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/putting-california-on-the-high-road-a-jobs-and-climate-action-plan-for-2030/ and Fossil fuel layoff: The economic and employment effects of a refinery closure on workers in the Bay Area - https://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/fossil-fuel-layoff/), PERI (including especially the California Climate Jobs Plan, aka “The Pollin Report” - https://www.californiaclimatejobsplan.com/), and Labor Network for Sustainability - https://www.labor4sustainability.org/)

Phoenix Passes Historic Ordinance Giving Outdoor Workers Protection From Extreme Heat

By Cristen Hemingway Jaynes - EcoWatch, April 1, 2024

A historic new law in Phoenix, Arizona, will provide thousands of outdoor workers in the hottest city in the country with protections from extreme heat.

In a unanimous vote, the Phoenix City Council passed an ordinance requiring that workers have easy access to rest, potable water and shade, as well as training to recognize signs of heat stress, a press release from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said. Vehicles with enclosed cabs must also have access to air conditioning.

“People who work outside and in hot indoor environments in Phoenix suffer unacceptably during our deadly summers, with too few protections,” said Katelyn Parady, a Phoenix-based expert on worker health and safety with National COSH, who assisted unions and local workers in advocating for the new extreme heat protection measures, in a press release from National COSH. “This ordinance is a critical first step toward getting workers lifesaving protections and holding employers accountable for safety during heat season. It’s also a model for how local governments can leverage their contracts to protect the workers who keep their communities running from climate change dangers.”

In 2023, there were a record 31 consecutive days of 110-plus degree heat in Phoenix. The city had 340 deaths related to the extreme heat, with 645 in Maricopa County, according to the county health department. Three-quarters of the heat-related fatalities happened outdoors.

In the United States, more than 40 percent of outdoor workers are Hispanic or Black, while making up approximately 32 percent of the population, reported The Guardian.

People of color and low-income workers are the most impacted by the hazards of extreme heat. According to Public Citizen, the risk of Latinx workers dying from heat stress is more than three times higher than that of their peers.

Winning Fossil Fuel Workers Over to a Just Transition

By Norman Rogers - Jacobin, March 18, 2024

This article is adapted from Power Lines: Building a Labor-Climate Justice Movement, edited by Jeff Ordower and Lindsay Zafir (The New Press, 2024).

I have a dream. I have a nightmare.

The dream is that working people find careers with good pay, good benefits, and a platform for addressing grievances with their employers. In other words, I dream that everyone gets what I got over twenty-plus years as a unionized worker in the oil industry.

The nightmare is that people who had jobs with good pay and power in the workplace watch those gains erode as the oil industry follows the lead of steel, auto, and coal mining to close plants and lay off workers. It is a nightmare rooted in witnessing the cruelties suffered by our siblings in these industries — all of whom had good-paying jobs with benefits and the apparatus to process grievances when their jobs went away.

Workers, their families, and their communities were destroyed when the manufacturing plants and coal mines shut down, with effects that linger to this day. Without worker input, I fear that communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry face a similar fate.

This nightmare is becoming a reality as refineries in Wyoming, Texas, Louisiana, California, and New Mexico have closed or have announced pending closures. Some facilities are doing the environmentally conscious thing and moving to renewable fuels. Laudable as that transition is, a much smaller workforce is needed for these processes. For many oil workers, the choice is to keep working, emissions be damned, or to save the planet and starve.

United Steelworkers (USW) Local 675 — a four-thousand-member local in Southern California, of which I am the second vice president — is helping to chart a different course, one in which our rank-and-file membership embraces a just transition and in which we take the urgent steps needed to protect both workers and the planet. Along with other California USW locals, we are fighting to ensure that the dream — not the nightmare — is the future for fossil fuel workers as we transition to renewable energy.

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Shouts Down Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro Over a Proposed ‘Hydrogen Hub’

By Kiley Bense - Inside Climate News, March 12, 2024

Activists want more public participation in a proposal to produce hydrogen in southeastern Pennsylvania. Touted by the Biden administration as “crucial” to the nation’s climate goals, advocates fear the federally-funded project will create more pollution and further burden environmental justice communities.

Protestors disrupted a public meeting on Monday about a federally-funded “hydrogen hub” to be located in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware that would produce, transport and store the controversial fuel at sites across the region.

While the Biden administration considers these hubs a key part of its climate agenda that would decarbonize greenhouse-gas intensive sectors of the economy like heavy industry and trucking, climate activists consider hydrogen a false solution based on unproven technology that will only lead to more fossil fuel extraction and further pollute the environment.

Minutes after Governor Josh Shapiro took the stage at a union hall in northeast Philadelphia to speak in support of the project, which will be funded with $750 million from the Department of Energy as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya van Rossum, stood up from her seat and demanded his attention.

“The Department of Energy said that community engagement is supposed to be a highest priority. You have yet to have a meeting with the impacted community members to hear what they have to say,” she shouted, interrupting Shapiro as he was speaking about the buy-in for hydrogen hubs at all levels of government in Pennsylvania. “When are you going to have a meeting with those community members?” she asked.

A California Strategy for a Just Transition to Renewable Energy

By Veronica Wilson - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 1, 2024

Workers in California have allied with environmental, environmental justice, and community groups to move the state closer to a just transition to renewable energy. 

California has a strong movement for Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which allows municipalities to bargain with electricity suppliers over both price and environmental responsibility. Nine Community Choice Aggregators are united in a joint power procurement agency called California Community Power. 

California’s Workforce and Environmental Justice Alliance has been pushing California Community Power to establish policies to protect workers in the transition to climate-safe energy. In a recent win, Ava Energy in the East Bay adopted these policies – the fourth member of California Community Power to do so. According to Andreas Cluver, Building Trades Council of Alameda County:

Any approach to climate action must also factor in the sustainability of our workforce. By passing this package of policies, Ava Community Energy uplifts local workers while fulfilling its obligation towards responsible environmental stewardship. We look forward to partnering with Ava on these important community projects. 

This marks a pivotal moment for workers and communities as the region looks to ramp up investments in green technology and decarbonization. Ava’s new policies underscore the positive impact CCAs can have on labor standards, environmental stewardship, and community well-being.

Learn more about the Alliance’s impactful work: https://action.greencal.org/action/wej 

Lithium and Environmental Justice in Imperial Valley Webinar

Can the Private Jet Industry Really Clean Itself Up?

‘Capitalism is anti-us’: ex-GKN workers champion ecological transition

By staff - People and Nature, February 6, 2024

On 9 July 2021, Melrose Industries announced the closure of its GKN Driveline (formerly FIAT) factory at Campi di Bisenzio, near Florence in Italy, which produced axles for cars. More than 400 workers were laid off. While in many such cases the workers and unions settle for negotiating enhanced redundancy benefits, the GKN Factory Collective took over the plant and kickstarted a long struggle against its closure.

But what makes the ex-GKN Florence dispute really unique is the strategy adopted by the workers, who sealed an alliance with the climate justice movement by drafting a conversion plan for sustainable, public transport and demanding its adoption.

This strategy engendered a cycle of broad mobilisations – repeatedly bringing tens of thousands to the streets – so that the dispute still continues, and the permanent sit-in at the factory remains until today.

The workers were meant to be finally dismissed on 1 January 2024. The GKN Factory Collective had thus turned New Year’s Eve into a final call to action to defend their conversion plan. Such pressure from below probably played a role in a decision by the labour court, announced on 27 December 2023, to overturn the layoffs for the second time.

The workers’ current plan is to set up a cooperative for the production of cargo bikes and solar panels, as part of a broader vision for a worker-led ecological transition. This needs material solidarity, now. A popular shareholding campaign has been started, to launch this co-operative: so far more than 600,000 euros have been collected, towards a target of one million euros.

All information on how to contribute, individually or as an organisation, can be found at the website Insorgiamo.org.

This interview with some GKN workers, by Luca Manes, was published in December on Comune-Info in Italy, and was translated into English by Lorenzo Feltrin.

Environmental Justice Community & Labor Victory at Ava Community Energy

Earthworkers Unite!

By members - Earthworks Unite, January 17, 2024

The following statement was issued on September 12, 2024

We, the eligible staff of Earthworks, are excited to announce that we have formed a union with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Earthworkers Unite. We ask that the Leadership Team (LT) and Board recognize Earthworkers Unite and agree to come to the bargaining table with us immediately. We currently have 21 workers signed up in the union, which we believe represents at least 77% of eligible staff.

We have formed this union in solidarity with our fellow workers, colleagues, and partners. Core to creating a just world is deep democracy and we cannot work towards this future without first modeling it within our own organization. We deserve a workplace where we are respected, empowered to create the strategy which determines our work, and know that when there is conflict there is a just and impartial process available to us. We believe deeply in the work we do and love the communities we work with, and have organized this union to do this work more sustainably and equitably. This announcement is an invitation for Earthworks to continue to align its actions with its mission to promote a just future and address systems of oppression both within and outside the organization.

We know Earthworks can and must be better for its workers and for the communities we serve. We can only effectively organize, advocate, or support partners when we are respected and supported by our workplace. We unionize in solidarity with peer organizations including the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and the League of Conservation Voters, and the more than 9,000 workers IWW represents in the so-called United States. The next great labor movement is here, and we are proud to be a part of it.

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