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EagleRidge Ignores Fracking Worker Safety

By Sharon Wilson - Originally published on Earthblog, October 16, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We already know that EagleRidge is a terrible neighbor!

  • An EagleRidge Operating worker was indicted in June 2012 on a felony charge of illegally dumping. City employees visiting the company’s well site in the 3100 block of Airport Road found a pump forcing contaminated water into a tributary of Hickory Creek. LINK
  • EagleRidge was operating wells in Denton without a permit. LINK
  • EagleRidge had a blowout in Denton that got "sanitized." LINK But it didn't stay "sanitized." LINK
  • EagleRidge is drilling in a Denton neighborhood less than 200 feet from homes.
  • EagleRidge is drilling in Mansfield and polluting air, violating sound ordinances and dividing neighbors. LINK

So it's no surprise to learn that EagleRidge is an awful employer that lacks regard for worker safety. Yesterday I stopped to take photos and video when I passed the EagleRidge drill site directly across from the University of North Texas athletic facility. (Yes, I know: polluting the air our young people are gulping in while practicing sports is reckless.) The video shows workers walking amidst swirling clouds of silica sand aka frack sand. In May 2012, OSHA and NIOSH issued a HAZARD ALERT regarding exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing. The OSHA info sheet details steps industry needs to take to limit the amount of silica exposure. While they recommend breathing protection, they caution that respirators alone are not sufficient at the levels of exposure seen during fracking. Media reported that workers in Texas were exposed to over 10 times the safe limit.

Good Energy, Bad Energy

Friends of the Earth International, 2013 - copied according to Creative Commons License

The world’s current energy system – the way we produce, distribute and consume energy – is unsustainable, unjust and harms communities, workers, the environment and the climate. Friends of the Earth International's new report demonstrates why a just, sustainable, climate-safe energy system is more urgent than ever.

Key points

  • Our current energy system is unsustainable, unjust, and harming communities, workers, the environment and the climate.  This is fundamentally an issue of power: of corporate and elite power and interests outweighing the power of ordinary citizens and communities.
  • The destructive energy sources on which the world current relies are driving climate change and many social and environmental problems and conflicts, including land grabbing, pollution, deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems, human rights abuses, health problems and premature deaths, and unsafe, insecure jobs and the rupture and collapse of local economies.

Friends of the Earth International believes that it is possible to build a climate-safe, just and sustainable energy system which ensures the basic right to energy for everyone and respects the rights and different ways of life of communities around the world.  To get there we need to challenge corporate power and exert real democratic control over the energy decisions of our governments.

  • We urgently need to invest in locally-appropriate, climate-safe, affordable and low impact energy for all, and reduce energy dependence so that people don’t need much energy to meet their basic needs and live a good life.
  • We need to end new destructive energy projects and phase out existing destructive energy sources, all the while ensuring that the rights of affected communities and workers are respected and that their needs are provided for during the transition.
  • To make the transition happen we also need to tackle the trade and investment rules that prioritise corporations' needs over those of people and the environment.
  • Our vision is guided by an idea called energy sovereignty.  This is the right of people to have access to energy, and to choose sustainable energy sources and sustainable consumption patterns that will lead them towards sustainable societies.

PDF File

The Kochs and Clean Energy Jobs

By staff - International Forum on Globalization, October 2012

This IFG Special Report, “The Kochs and Clean Energy Jobs,” documents spending by the world’s two biggest billionaires intent on dealing a deathblow to green energy jobs and a low-carbon future.

IFG’s report reveals that the Kochs are today’s single largest funder of anti-environment and anti-worker activities, including:At least $643M in spending to block or rollback legal protections for the clean air, clean energy, clean water, and other environmental issues through sketchy scientific research, lobbying lawmakers, contributing to electoral candidates’ campaigns, media manipulation etc.At least $12M in spending to weaken the labor movement’s power through attacking collective bargaining rights, weakening worker protections, and stopping the financing for labor unions’ political activities.

Read the report (PDF).

Labor’s Stake in Decentralized Energy: A Strategic Perspective

By Al Weinrub - Local Clean Energy Alliance, September 20, 2012

This paper sketches some of the implications of the world’s economic and climate crisis for the future of the international labor movement.

It contends that resolving this crisis requires a transition from the globalized capitalist economy based on fossil energy to local sustainable economic development made possible by decentralized renewable energy systems.

Furthermore, it posits that the labor movement, as the most organized expression of the working class around the world, can play a crucial role in this transition. Labor’s challenge is to represent the interests of the world’s working people in averting the economic and ecological collapse now underway and in developing the new economic models needed for our survival.

This is a new role for organized labor. It means breaking with old patterns. It means looking beyond labor’s traditional job-protection focus to join with other sectors within the 99% majority to actively participate in the creation of economic development models—based on decentralized renewable energy systems—that can help assure our survival.

Read the report (PDF).

The Impact of Tar Sands Pipeline Spills on Employment and the Economy

By Lara Skinner and Sean Sweeney - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, March 2012

In debates over proposed tar sands pipelines such as the TransCanada corporation’s Keystone XL, little attention has been given to the potentially negative impacts of pipeline spills on employment and the economy. The proposed route for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline cuts through America’s agricultural heartland, where farming, ranching, and tourism are major employers and economic engines. Ground or surface water contamination from a tar sands oil spill in this region could inflict significant economic damage, causing workers to lose jobs, businesses to close, and residents to relocate. Such a spill could also negatively impact the health of residents and their communities.

A Closer Look at Keystone XL’s Threat to Existing Jobs and Economic Sectors:

» The negative impacts on employment and the economy of tar sands pipelines like the Keystone XL have largely been ignored. To date, a comprehensive risk assessment for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline oil spill has not been conducted. Such an assessment would provide an independent review of the risk of spills and their economic consequences. Since the first Keystone pipeline began operation in June 2010, at least 35 spills have occurred in the U.S. and Canada. In its first year, the spill frequency for Keystone’s U.S. segment was 100 times higher than TransCanada forecast.

» The Keystone XL pipeline would cut through America’s breadbasket. Agricultural land and rangeland comprise 79 percent of the land that would be affected by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It would cross more than 1,700 bodies of water, including the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers and the Ogallala and Carrizo-Wilcox aquifers. The Ogallala Aquifer alone supplies 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the U.S. It also supplies two million people with drinking water.

» Farming, ranching, and tourism are major sources of employment along the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed route. Water contamination resulting from a Keystone XL spill, or the cumulative effect of spills over the lifetime of the pipeline, would have significant economic costs and could result in job loss in these sectors. Approximately 571,000 workers are directly employed in the agricultural sector in the six states along the Keystone XL corridor. Total agricultural output for these states is about $76 billion annually.

» Many of the land areas and bodies of water that Keystone XL will cross provide recreational opportunities vital to the tourism industry. Keystone XL would traverse 90.5 miles of recreation and special interest areas, including federal public lands, state
parks and forests, and national historic trails. About 780,000 workers are employed in the tourism sector in the states along the Keystone XL pipeline. Tourism spending in these states totaled more than $67 billion in 2009.

» Recent experience has demonstrated that tar sands spills pose additional dangers to the public and present special challenges in terms of clean up. There is strong evidence that tar sands pipeline spills occur more frequently than spills from pipelines carrying conventional crude oil because of the diluted bitumen’s toxic, corrosive, and heavy composition. Tar sands oil spills have the potential to be more damaging than conventional crude oil spills because they are more difficult and more costly to clean up, and because they have the potential to pose more serious health risks. Therefore both the frequency and particular nature of the spills have negative economic implications.

» The Kalamazoo River tar sands spill affected the health of hundreds of residents, displaced residents, hurt businesses, and caused a loss of jobs. The largest tar sands oil spill in the U.S. occurred on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010. This spill is the most expensive tar sands pipeline oil spill in U.S. history, with overall costs estimated at $725 million.

» The public debate around Keystone XL has focused almost exclusively on job creation from the project, yet existing jobs and economic sectors could suffer significantly from one or more spills from Keystone XL. According to the U.S. State Department, the six states along the pipeline route are expected to gain a total of 20 permanent pipeline operation jobs. Meanwhile, the agricultural and tourism sectors are already a major employer in these states. Potential job losses to these sectors resulting from one or more spills from Keystone XL could be considerable.

» Renewable energy provides a safer route to creating new jobs and a sustainable environment. The U.S. is leading the world in renewable energy investments, and employment in this sector has expanded in recent years. For every $1 million invested in renewable and clean energy, 16.7 jobs are created. By contrast, $1 million invested in fossil fuels generates 5.3 jobs.

Read the report (PDF).

Pipe dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL a report by Cornell University Global Labor Institute

By Ian Goodman and Brigid Rowan - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011

The purpose of this briefing paper is to examine claims made by TransCanada Corporation and the American Petroleum Institute that, if constructed, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline will generate enough employment to kick-start important sections of the US economy through the creation of tens of thousands—perhaps even hundreds of thousands—of good, well-paying jobs for American workers.

This briefing paper raises a number of questions regarding the jobs claims promoted by the industry, questions that are serious enough to generate a high level of skepticism regarding the value of KXL as an important source of American jobs. With national unemployment levels presently (September 2011) around 9%, and the real unemployment figures considerably higher, jobs are desperately needed both to sustain families and to help the broader economy. However, it is our assessment—based on the publicly available data—that the construction of KXL will create far fewer jobs in the US than its proponents have claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates.

The results presented below should also cast doubt on the recent claim made by American Petroleum Institute that the oil industry could create more than a million jobs over the next decade—if the US government would open public lands, beaches, oceans, to unlimited oil drilling. If the industry’s jobs estimates made in the context of KXL are any indication, then this broader claim should be scrutinized very carefully indeed.

Read the report (PDF).

Transport Workers and Climate Change: Towards Sustainable, Low-Carbon Mobility

By ITF Climate Change Working Group - International Transport Workers’ Federation, August 4, 2010

This report, now more than a decade old, was remarkably forward-thinking for its time (except for the uncritically positive assessment of Carbon Capture and Storage and Cap-and-Trade, positions the authors would likely now no longer hold. It also, interestingly, includes in an appendix, the delegate of one union affiliate, Robert Scardelletti, President of the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), from the US, who dissented from this report's conclusions, because it's green unionist orientation would "destroy jobs", a position held by the most conservative unions in the AFL-CIO.

From the introduction:

Climate change is the biggest single challenge ever faced by human civilization. Human economic activity has put so much carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere that serious global warming is already happening. As a society, we have no choice but to reduce these emissions drastically in order to stand a good chance of avoiding potentially catastrophic changes in our climate. Moreover, emissions from transport are rising faster than emissions from any other sector and in some cases the increase in transport emissions is counteracting emissions reductions achieved in other sectors. Lowering transport emissions presents a series of unique and formidable challenges.

The good news for transport workers is that a serious approach to emissions reductions will create new opportunities for quality employment, particularly in public transport, railways (both passenger and freight), transport infrastructure, road repair, and in developing clean transport technologies. But failure to act on climate change will have the opposite effect.

Read the text (PDF).

Making the Transition: Helping Workers and Communities Retool for the Clean Energy Economy

By Elena Foshay, et. al. - Apollo Alliance and Cornell Global Labor Institute, August 11, 2020

We stand at a critical moment in American history. We face a choice: do we continue with business as usual, ignoring the climate implications of current energy, environmental, and economic policy? Or do we move forward with a new set of priorities aimed at promoting climate stability, energy security, and economic prosperity?

The Mutants are Coming

By Steve Hastings - June 29, 1999

The development of the technology of Genetic Modification (G.M.) stretches back decades but most people have started to become aware of its implications during the 90’s.First in the mid 90’s Monsanto introduced rB.S.T. a G.M. growth hormone designed to increase milk yields in the U.S. After some controversy the E.U. decided to ban its import into Europe, a decision which is likely to be overturned by the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) soon. Then in 1996 shipments of soyabeans genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup started to arrive in this country prompting the first major signs of public disquiet. More recently the sacking of Dr Puzstai from the Rowett Institute for claiming that consuming G.M. potatoes harmed rats provoked quite a food scare frenzy in the capitalist media. Pictures of a green faced Tony Blair with bolts through his neck under the headline "The Prime Monster" probably made all but the hardest of us chuckle but the whole "Frankenstein Foods" paranoia tended to obscure the environmental and social disasters which will follow if the corporations carry out their plans to introduce G.M. on a large scale.

"LET THEM EAT OIL".

G.M. is only the latest stage in the the industrialisation of food production which has been going on throughout the whole post war period under the control of the petro-chemical-pharmaceutical multinationals that have come to dominate the global economy. More powerful than many nation states (in 1995 of the 100 most powerful ‘economies’ in the world 48 were multinational corporations) they, along with the international financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, W.T.O. etc) constitute the economic side of the New World Order with N.A.T.O. taking on the role of political centralisation.

The process of industrialising food production which they have been imposing on us over the last few decades consists of destroying subsistence and organic farming and replacing it with a system based on:

  • Massive inputs of petro-chemicals in the form of fuel for machinery, artificial fertilisers and biocides (herbicides and pesticides).
  • Production for a global market rather than for direct consumption (subsistence) or local markets.
  • More dependence on animal products and the intensification of animal exploitation (factory farming).
  • The concentration of land ownership into fewer hands.
  • Dependence on multinational corporations for seed. Major chemical, pharmaceutical and oil multinationals have taken over more than 120 seed companies since the 60,s. The top 5 seed producers now control 75% of the world market. Hybrid, so-called ‘High Yielding Varieties’, have yields 20-40% lower in the second generation if replanted and are hence economically sterile’.
  • The replacement of mixed cropping systems suitable to local conditions with monocultures.

The results of this process (sometimes known as the ‘Green Revolution’) have been landlessness, poverty & starvation for many in the so-called ‘Third World’ as well as massive degradation of the natural world through chemical pollution and loss of biodiversity.

Our Lives Are at Stake: Workers Fight for Health and Safety (the Shell Strike of 1973)

By Berry Weisberg - OCAW 1-591, July 1973
Background Information by Douglas W. Erlandson - USW Local 12-591

On January 21st, OCAWIU President Bob Grospiron called over 4000 Shell OCAW members from 5 oil refineries and 3 chemical plants, out on strike. Then made a nationwide appeal to the public to boycott Shell Oil while the union continued its fight over the right to bargain health and safety issues.

The union was seeking:

  • 1) The establishment of a Joint Union-Management Health & Safety Committee
  • 2) Wanted the Union committee workers paid while performing official committee duties
  • 3) The right to call in independant Health & Safety inspectors
  • 4) Access to all Company information on both death and disease rates
  • 5) Annual Company medical examinations provided at Company expense

As a tactic for the 1973 strike, OCAW employed the first major "corporate campaign" in U.S. history. OCAW forged alliances with the scientific, academic, environmental and labor communities to fight Shell’s position that it would not bargain over health and safety. The union spent nearly half a million dollars to advertise a nationwide boycott of Shell and to educate the public about the need to protect the health of workers and the communities.

Even though 12 other major oil companies had already signed contracts that provided for the new joint union- management health and safety committees, they assisted Shell by buying their gasoline and blacklisting Shell's strikers. The oil industry's thinking was the new joint H&S committees would get in the way of production and profits.

Shell's corporate spokesman, J.H. Walter called the unions joint H&S committee 'another attempt at featherbedding since the workers could then decide how long they could safely work in the refineries and chemical plants.

Moreover, Shell stated that health & safety was none of the oil workers' business: "We are legally responsible for the health and safety of Shell employees in the workplace and this responsibility cannot be shared". The truth was the oil companies didn't want to give up control in this area.

From 1963-1969, Shell used caged canaries as 'safety devices' at their Houston chemical plant.(true story, no joke!) The canary's job was to detect the presence of carbon monoxide. If the canary died, it was time for the workers to leave. Shell went through a lot of canaries, OCAW was claiming by the time the canary died, the workers would already have been exposed.

The union was also seeking the right to inspect company records and financial reports of the pension funds Shell administered and to be able to grieve the company's arbitrary actions with regard to disability pensions. (The union suspected Shell's pension fund was under funded.) One Anacortes member who worked for Shell for 17 years, was certified by two doctors as being disabled, yet Shell wouldn't allow him disabled benefits even though he met the 15 year employment requirement. For the union, this was an item that needed to be addressed.

The International Representative assigned locally was Virgil Coragliotti, with Representative Tom Burkholder assisting on occasion. Don Yates was the Shell unit chairman and the committee members were Gil Nuessen, Wes Shull, F. D. Ferguson, Bob Melton Sr. Jerry Vrooman was the Local President and Jim Burgess was the financial secretary.

Picket pay was $25 a week. The 1-591 union brothers at General Chemical and Texaco assessed their monthly dues to help support the Shell members. Financial support was also received regularly from the Ferndale OCAW 1-590 local. Because Shell Oil’s daily production was unaffected and they didn’t lose any profits during the strike, the strikers received unemployment benefits under what was then known as the ‘dark plant rule’. Not surprising, Shell Oil later lobbied to get that section of the unemployment law changed.

About a week before the strike Snelsons’ had contracted with Shell to do maintenance work on a recently shutdown furnace. Their plan was to use the Boilermakers union, Local 104 out of Seattle. OCAW had gotten wind of it and a group of about 60 Shell brothers were on site waiting for the 14 building trades members when they attempted to cross the picket line, being led through by Bill Snelson. Several Shell picketers became so upset that they turned over both of Snelsons’ trucks and trailers. At the same time, someone smashed out Snelson's rear window. Out of fear, Snelson romped on the gas throwing John Garner, who was standing in front of him, onto the hood of his car. Garner was able to roll off as Snelson bolted on through. The Sheriff was immediately called.

Fred Nelson, Bob Melton and Charlie Pyburn were identified as the lead individuals involved and were fired. Later, after two days in court, Judge Deierlein had Melton and Pyburn jailed, then sharply criticized Shell management for not maintaining better communications with the union and local law enforcement officials in trying to prevent emotional blow-ups. Later Snelson took OCAW 1-591 to court and won $6700 for the damage done to his vehicles. Shell also fired Virgil Avey for breaking windsphrlds with his picket sign. While the other three were unable to get their jobs back, Fred Nelson was eventually rehired. Old time Union members refer to this incidence as the "Day of the Windstorm."

OCAW also had trouble with the Teamster's Union from Seattle. The same teamster leadership that was scabbing on the United Farm Workers, had ordered their drivers to disregard the picket line established by OCAW. And since there was an injunction limiting the number of pickets to two per gate, the union was unable to do much about the Teamsters pushing through with their trucks.

To keep in the health and safety issue in front of the public, OCAW had teams that traveled the northwest speaking to the news media and public about the need for work place safety. Shell later admitted the mobile speakers bureaus were very effective.

Finally, Shell, in the face of public pressure, bargained a compromised health and safety clause as well as meeting the union's demand allowing the pension fund to be reviewed and grieved if necessary. On June 1st the strike was officially ended.

Download (PDF).

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