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Harbor Commissioners Approve ‘Once in a Generation’ Project Labor Agreement for Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project; Union Reps Laud Unanimous Decision

Text and images by Isabella Vanderheiden - Lost Coast Outpost, August 11, 2023

Local contractors and labor union members packed Eureka’s Wharfinger Building Thursday night to give the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners their two cents on a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project that could guarantee local jobs for years to come.

The PLA outlines the general terms and conditions for labor employment affiliated with the first stages of port development on Humboldt Bay. The agreement has sparked opposition from some local construction companies that run non-union shops as it will require non-union workers to pay toward the union trust fund.

The Harbor District has spent the last year working with members of the Humboldt-Del Norte County Building and Construction Trades Council, the State Building and Construction Trade Council of the State of California, and other local labor representatives to develop the agreement, which is required by federal law. The contractors and subcontractors who are awarded contracts to work on the heavy lift marine terminal will be subject to the provisions of the agreement, including no-strike, no-lock-out clauses to eliminate delays associated with labor unrest. 

“This is an agreement between the district and the labor unions that we’re going to have a smooth labor transition and that there’s going to be no disruption to the workforce,” said Larry Oetker, executive director of the Harbor District. “But in return, there are some hiring stipulations that are included in [the document].”

The agreement details hiring priorities for “disadvantaged workers,” or local residents who, prior to the project, experienced barriers to employment, as noted in section 2.9.

In a Summer of Record Heat, These Striking Workers Are Making Climate Demands

By Sarah Lazare - Workday Magazine, August 8, 2023

July was the hottest month on record, and possibly the hottest in the history of human civilization, and August is bringing more scorching temperatures and supercharged storms. On July 16, the heat index at the Persian Gulf International Airport weather station in Iran climbed to 152 degrees Fahrenheit, a level that tests humanity’s ability to survive. Meanwhile, in vast swaths of the United States, people watched smoke from Canadian wildfires turn their skies noxious hues of orange and gray, only to then be hit with storms and heat waves. The scientific consensus has long held that climate change is human-made and real. But this summer, it seems a threshold has been crossed.

Amid this climate crisis, 1,400 locomotive builders and clerical workers on strike in Erie, Penn. are modeling how unions—and workers walking off the job—can make climate justice demands of an employer. 

Locals 506 and 618 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) have been on strike since late June. One of their demands has already captured nationwide attention for its centrality to building labor’s overall power. They are insisting on the right to strike over non-discipline grievances—things like subcontracting work, or forcing someone to take vacation they don’t want to. Such language, the workers hope, will build more accountability into the grievance process, as well as protect the union’s strongest tool: the strike. Workers are also asking for the guarantee that their employer will not make unilateral changes to their healthcare benefits throughout the duration of the contract, and they are asking for improved pay to keep pace with inflation. Their employer is the Fortune 500 company Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation (or Wabtec), which is valued at some $20 billion and manufactures railway locomotives. The mammoth company acquired GE Transportation for $11.1 billion in 2019.

The union’s demands are also aimed at improving society as a whole. There is another stipulation that workers put forward in the bargaining process: They want the company to help the union win a green overhaul of the rail locomotive industry, with the overall goal of drastically reducing emissions that spew carbon and pollution into the atmosphere.

This is not the first time that a union has pushed for environmental improvements. Unions threw their support behind an Illinois law passed in 2021 aimed at creating clean energy jobs and retraining fossil fuel workers. And the United Auto Workers, under the leadership of reformer Shawn Fain, are calling for the growing electric vehicle industry to provide dignified union jobs. But UE general president Carl Rosen says that the fact that UE is “directly challenging a private-sector major employer on this has made environmental justice groups very excited.”

Sierra Club Rail Transportation Statement

By Clyde Anderson, et. al. - Sierra Club, August 7, 2023

(Statement from Railroad Workers United): This report is fantastic for several reason, not the least of which is its quality and completeness. We respectfully disagree on the strategy of privatization but they do call for 'Open Access' which we see as a half measure at best. Electrification is a shared interest as the only realistic path to zero emissions while creating lots of union jobs on both sides of the wire. Rail workers will be especially intested in Pages 32-33.

(From the Summary): Effective rail transportation is essential to avert the worst effects of human-caused climate change. Increasing rail and transit, and moving away from our current heavy emphasis on road and air travel, will bring many environmental, economic, and social benefits.

Rail transportation is inherently much more energy efficient than road transport, especially for freight. Reducing one of the basic factors of production – transportation – reduces the costs of virtually every sector of the economy, thereby increasing sustainability. Electrifying railroad operations will further increase these benefits. Therefore, improving passenger and freight rail transportation needs to be a national priority for the US. The purpose of this statement is to inform the public about how rail is a sustainable transportation solution and to provide a guide to action to improve the nation’s railroads.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Building Worker and Community-focused Economic Transitions in Coal Country

Workers and the Green-Energy Transition: Evidence from 300 Million Job Transitions

By E. Mark Curtis, Layla O'Kane, and R. Jisung Park - National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2023

Using micro-data representing over 130 million online work profiles, we explore transitions into and out of jobs most likely to be affected by a transition away from carbon-intensive production technologies. Exploiting detailed textual data on job title, firm name, occupation, and industry to focus on workers employed in carbon-intensive (“dirty”) and non-carbon-intensive (“green”) jobs, we find that the rate of transition from dirty to green jobs is rising rapidly, increasing ten-fold over the period 2005-2021 including a significant uptick in EV-related jobs in recent years. Overall however, fewer than 1 percent of all workers who leave a dirty job appear to transition to a green job. We find that the persistence of employment within dirty industries varies enormously across local labor markets; in some states, over half of all transitions out of dirty jobs are into other dirty jobs. Older workers and those without a college education appear less likely to make transitions to green jobs, and more likely to transition to other dirty jobs, other jobs, or non-employment. When accounting for the fact that green jobs tend to have later start dates, it appears that green and dirty jobs have roughly comparable job durations.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

UAW Begins Big 3 Negotiations in a BIG WAY

Losing altitude: The economics of air transport in Great Britain

By Alex Chapman - New Economics Foundation, July 17, 2023

The environmental downsides of growth in flight numbers are significant. The sector has no short-term technological solution to its greenhouse gas emissions; over the medium to long term, much uncertainty remains as to the pace of emissions reduction achievable. All scenarios published by stakeholders such as the Climate Change Committee, the Department for Transport (DfT), and air transport sector bodies, suggest that future air traffic growth would necessitate the use of costly, and unproven, carbon capture technologies.

Despite these risks, the government continues to provide conditional support to air capacity growth on the (often tacit) basis that the economic upsides outweigh the negative impacts and future risks. But, the economic assumptions that underpin this position favouring growth are dated and have not been reviewed for some years. Given the urgent and sizeable nature of the climate risk, it is imperative that the evidence, and relative balance, of the economic and environmental impacts of air transport growth are kept up to date and under constant review.

This report shows that since the government’s last comprehensive review of the economic impacts of air transport in 2012, trends in the British air transport sector have changed dramatically. Contrary to expectations, growth in business passenger numbers has effectively ceased and new passengers now derive exclusively from the leisure market. In particular, passenger growth has been driven by wealthy British residents rather than foreign tourists or those on lower incomes. Early evidence suggests the pandemic has accelerated this trend. This report reviews the current evidence on the impact of air transport growth across four core economic domains: welfare, jobs and wages, tourism, and wider facets of economic growth, business productivity, and trade.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

A Turning Point: The Critical Raw Material Act’s needs for a Social and Just Green Transition

By staff - European Environmental Bureau, July 10, 2023

The 21st century demands global efforts that provide solutions to multiple social and environmental crises that negatively impact economies. Many solutions are available to us, and demand a political will to advance on some existing tools (such as product ecodesign legislation or product bans), and a political discourse to develop new tools (such as energy production limits) that will all potentially result in societal transformation that brings humanity comfortably back within planetary boundaries in an equitable way.

Most of the converging social and environmental crises we are facing are a result of the over-consumption of resources due to unsustainable production and consumption patterns in increasingly unequal societies regardless of the level of development of any given country.

This Position Paper (download file here) delves into the main issues that arise within this context in regard to the Critical Raw Materials Act, and has been written by a multitude of civil society organisations.

The version in other languages:

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

AB 525 Port Readiness Plan

By Brooklyn Fox and Sarah Lehman - California State Lands Commission, July 7, 2023

Assembly Bill (AB) 525 (Chiu, Chapter 231, Statutes of 2021) was signed by the Governor in 2021 and requires the Californica Energy Commission (CEC), in coordination with the California Coastal Commission, Ocean Protection Council, State Lands Commission (CSLC), Office of Planning and Research, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, Independent System Operator, and Public Utilities Commission (and other relevant federal, state, and local agencies as needed) to develop a strategic plan (AB 525 Strategic Plan) for offshore wind development in federal waters by June 30, 2023.

On August 1, 2022, the CEC established a planning goal of 2 to 5 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 25 GW by 2045 (Flint 2022). To meet these goals, the AB 525 Strategic Plan shall include, at a minimum, the following five chapters:

  1. Identification of sea space, including the findings and recommendations resulting from activities undertaken pursuant to Section 25991.2 of AB 525.
  2. Waterfront facilities improvements plan, including facilities that could support construction and staging of foundations, manufacturing of components, final assembly, and long-term operations and maintenance, pursuant to Section 25991.3 of AB 525. Economic and workforce development and identification of port space and infrastructure, including the plan developed pursuant to Section 25991.3 of AB 525.
  3. Transmission planning, including the findings resulting from activities undertaken pursuant to Section 25991.4 of AB 525.
  4. Permitting, including the findings resulting from activities undertaken pursuant to Section 25991.5 of AB 525.
  5. Potential impacts on coastal resources, fisheries, Native American and Indigenous peoples, and national defense, and strategies for addressing those potential impacts.

Per Section 25991.3 of AB 525, based on the sea spaces identified pursuant to Section 25991.2 of AB 525, the CEC, in coordination with relevant state and local agencies, must develop a plan to improve waterfront facilities that could support a range of floating offshore wind energy development activities, including construction and staging of foundations, manufacturing of components, final assembly, and long-term operations and maintenance facilities. The purpose of this AB 525 Port Readiness Plan is to perform a detailed assessment of the necessary investments in California ports to support offshore wind energy activities, including construction, assembly, and operations and maintenance. This report will inform the AB 525 Strategic Plan.

For more details, see: AB 525 Reports: Offshore Renewable Energy

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Green Jobs or Dangerous Greenwash?

By Tahir Latif, Claire James, Ellen Robottom, Don Naylor, and Katy Brown - Working People, July 7, 2023

Greenwash is not always easy to challenge: the claims to offer climate solutions; the PR offensive in local communities; and promises of 'green jobs' that in reality are neither as numerous or as environmentally friendly as promised.

But whether it’s a ‘zero carbon’ coal mine, heating homes with hydrogen, importing wood to burn in power stations, ‘sustainable aviation growth’ or offsetting, there are common themes that can give a reality check on greenwash claims and misleading jobs promises.

Speakers:

  • Claire James, Campaign against Climate Change
  • Ellen Robottom, Campaign against Climate Change trade union group
  • Don Naylor, HyNot (campaigning against HyNet greenwash and the Whitby hydrogen village)
  • Katy Brown, Biofuelwatch (using slides from Stuart Boothman, Stop Burning Trees Coalition who was unable to make it).

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