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Turkish mine disaster: Unions Take Strike Action, Blaming ‘Murderous’ Lack of Safety and Privatisation

By John Millington - Red Pepper, May 15, 2014

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.

Turkish trade unions staged a one day strike on Thursday (May 15) in protest at the Soma mine disaster which has left over 200 dead. An as yet unexplained explosion took the lives of 246 miners and around 700 may still be trapped underground.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the area but had his car attacked as hundreds of protesters and angry relatives besieged his car. Unions in Turkey have put the blame for the disaster at the feet of the mine owners and the government for privatising the industry, labelling them “murderers.”

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions in Turkey who took part in the one day stoppage called on people to wear black and demand answers. “It is a workplace murder, not an industrial accident,” a statement read. “Hundreds of our brothers working in Soma mines have been forced to work in inhuman production process in order to make maximum profit since the matter of promoting workers’ health and security measures are considered in accordance with the pros and cons of expenditures. It means they have been left for dead since the beginning.”

The Public Workers Confederation told the BBC: “Those who pursue privatisation… policies, who threaten workers’ lives to reduce cost… are the culprits of the Soma massacre and they must be held accountable.” Global union INDUSTRIALL demanded the government comply with basic International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards on health and safety to prevent further deaths in the future. “We once again call upon the political authorities to take the lives of mineworkers seriously and to place it above profit,” a statement read.

And the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing 90 million workers across the world, denounced the Turkish government and a “murderous lack of safety measures” leading to the deaths. They said: “The WFTU denounces the Government of Turkey and the companies exploiting the mines for their murderous lack of safety measures and demands the end of privatization of the people’s wealth, the natural resources, the modernization of the technology used in the mines, the immediate implementation of safety controls and the application of all necessary measures in all mines to protect the lives of the working people.

“The World Federation of Trade Unions expresses its condolences to the families and the loved ones of the victims and demands the immediate full compensation of the victims’ families and the injured workers.”

Five Liberal Tendencies That Plagued Occupy

By Mark Bray - Roar Magazine, May 14, 2014

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. 

In a country so devoid of genuinely left politics as the United States, it was little surprise that Occupy Wall Street (OWS), the most dynamic American social movement in decades, surged to the fore of national politics riding a robust wave of liberal euphoria. As I argue in Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street, OWS never would have attained historic proportions without tapping into the pervasive despair that plagued left-liberal and progressive circles after Obama’s failure to live up to the “savior of the left” hype that was so recklessly bestowed upon him in 2008.

But it was liberal support for a movement that a core organizing group of anarchists and anti-capitalist anti-authoritarians shifted in an autonomous, directly democratic, non-electoral, class struggle, direct-action-oriented direction that made OWS popular, radical, and radicalizing. Without the anarchists it would have been ineffectual; without the liberals it would have been irrelevant. By carving out space for liberals and progressives to engage with anarchist praxis, OWS made a profound contribution to the development of anti-authoritarianism in the USA and beyond.

However, some of the most debilitating obstacles that we encountered stemmed from a number of liberal tendencies infecting a predominantly radical anti-capitalist organizing network. No, I’m not talking about attempts to turn Occupy into a voter-registration drive for the Democratic Party, or run “Occupy candidates” in local elections, or morph the movement into a new, hip political party that “breaks all the rules.” No, those tendencies were always peripheral and idiosyncratic within OWS, and they were cloaked in the stench of putrefying electoralism.

Instead, I’m referring to unacknowledged, internalized perspectives and orientations infected with liberalism through their constant exposure to the individualistic, capitalist climate we endure in this country. I hope that by examining a handful of them (space and time do not permit a complete list), we can better resist them next time.

In Chicago, Nurses Take Up Fight Against Petcoke Piles

Story and image by Kari Lydersen - Midwest Energy News, May 14, 2014

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. IWW member Tom Morello took part in this event!

“Stunning, just stunning, just stunning,” said Sheilah Garland, shaking her head as she stared out the window of the bus rolling along a dirt road next to towering black piles of petroleum coke on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

As an organizer of National Nurses United, a labor union representing about 6,000 nurses in Chicago and 185,000 nationwide, Garland has seen a lot. She represents nurses working in grueling and traumatic situations on a daily basis. And the union has picked fights with powerful politicians, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

But Garland was shocked by the piles of petcoke, about six stories high, located across the street from homes. She was also perturbed to see employees walking onsite without respiratory masks.

The nurses union has joined local residents’ fight to get petcoke transportation and storage banned in Chicago. They see it as a serious public health issue and part of their larger social justice advocacy mission.

Rallying At Koch-Owned Facility, Nurses Experience Petcoke Pollution Firsthand

By Emily Atkin - Think Progress, May 12, 2014

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.

Standing on South Burley avenue in southeast Chicago on Monday morning, Rolanda Watson-Clark began to feel droplets of moisture forming on her arms. But it wasn’t raining. The fluid being sprayed on nearby piles of petroleum coke was blowing on to her skin.

“It’s so scary,” Watson-Clark told ThinkProgress. “We were just standing there for a press conference taking pictures with our signs close to the plant, and we’re saying ‘Oh my God! Did you feel that?’ We’re feeling it dropping on us and we’re like — can we go now?”

Watson-Clark, a nurse at the Illinois-based Robbins Health Clinic, was part of a Monday rally demanding Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel put an immediate stop to petcoke — a dusty byproduct of tar sands oil refining — which is stored in large piles along the Calumet river on Chicago’s southeast side. The nurses and activists attending claim that, on windy days, the uncovered piles coat primarily low-income areas of Chicago with thick, black, oily dust that harms children’s respiratory systems and otherwise threatens public health.

“One of the women here is a mother with children, and when the wind blows her house is covered with this soot,” Watson-Clark said. “Her 5-year-old even knows that when it’s windy, she can’t go out and play.”

As part of the rally, members of National Nurses United, the Southeast Side Environmental Task Force, Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, and Progressive Democrats of America, took a bus tour of oil refineries that produce petcoke, and sites that store petcoke piles in the area. This included the controversial KCBX Terminals Company storage site on South Burley avenue, owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The brothers were recently threatened with a lawsuit over air pollution from the piles, some of which Watson-Clark said were six stories high.

Associated Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) Position Statement on Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

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.

The ad hoc committee, by majority, supports the position that PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) campuses are not appropriate locations for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), that given the environmental and health hazards of the fracking process, including all of its infrastructure and associated enterprises, its presence on PASSHE campuses is inconsistent and potentially deleterious to the PASSHE educational mission as well as to the health and welfare of PASSHE community members. 

A growing body of research is beginning to quantify and characterize the negative environmental, societal, economic, and ecological impacts on those close to such activities. Local impacts include but are not limited to gas migration, air pollution, and surface and near-surface water quality degradation as well as potential chronic impacts to air, water, landscapes, habitat, and ecosystems. Shale gas development in the United States) states, “Having one of these sites near a home, school or business can be distracting, inconvenient, annoying, and disruptive” (Soeder (2012).

Moreover, APSCUF opposes SB 367--the Indigenous Mineral Resources Development Act--as inconsistent with the PASSHE education mission for the same reasons and because it effectively pits some PASSHE campuses against others for revenue which could accrue to the permitting of fracking operations on PASSHE lands.  Such potential competition, or implementation of SB 367 in any form, could accelerate the presence of such operations--including pipeline construction, compressor infrastructure, waste management, heavy industrial truck traffic, and thereby increase exposure to pollution and hazards for members of PASSHE communities. 

Lastly, APSCUF takes a position against a PASSHE contribution to climate change, as induced by increased greenhouse gas emissions, as this is also inconsistent with a mission committed to the educations and welfare of future citizens of the Commonwealth.

Chapter 13 : They’re Closing Down the Mill in Potter Valley

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“A year before (the closure) was announced, they told us we’d work ten more years…if they hadn’t gone to two shifts five years ago, we could’ve gone twice as long.”

—Ray Smith, 14 year L-P employee commenting on the closing of the Potter Valley Mill.

“Harry Merlo, L-P’s president, makes a million dollars a year in salary and fringes. Forty-five Potter Valley mill jobs at $20,000 per year out of Merlo’s annual booty would still leave Harry a hundred grand a year.

—Bruce Anderson, Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 28, 1989

“Now Ray says there’s timber back there, They’ll haul it right past town,
Sam says the only way they’ll reopen, Is if another mill burns down,
The company says it’s environmentalists, Crampin’ up their style,
But as I look out on the Mendocino Forest, I can’t see a tree for miles…”

—Potter Valley Mill, lyrics by Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari, January 1989.

The ideological battle being waged between Corporate Timber and the environmentalists continued. Although the Louisiana Pacific workers had been largely silent since the unions had been busted three years previously, they were about to be shocked out of their malaise. Despite announcing record company quarterly earnings of $51.5 million at $1.34 per share (in contrast with $36.8 million at $0.97 the previous year) [1] L-P announced, on November 28, 1988, that they would be clos­ing their lumber mill in Potter Valley in Mendocino County, which had been in operation for fifty years and employed 132 full-time employees, the following spring. L-P’s Western Division manager, Joe Wheeler admitted that the timing of the announcements, just before the Christmas holiday season, was “especially difficult”, but felt it was necessary so the workers would not “extend themselves financially through the holiday season.” [2]

Rumors of the closing had been circulating for some time. The company confirmed them in their usual fashion. As they had prior to the temporary mill closures in the earlier part of the decade, L-P management bought the workers donuts. “For the past 15 years it was the same rumor. ‘Here come the donuts,’ the workers would say, expecting the worst, but it was usually a (temporary) layoff,” declared Linda Smith, whose husband, Ray, worked as a saw-filer in the mill. Indeed, many initially thought that the latest layoff would be no different, but this time they were mistaken.

Climate Change is Evidence of the Death-Wish of Capitalism

By Renfry Clark - Green Left Weekly, April 26, 2014

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.

If modern industrial capitalism were a person, he or she would be on suicide watch. The system that has brought us quantum physics and reality television, modern medicine and the columns of Andrew Bolt is set on a course which, by all the best reckoning, points directly to its doing itself in.

If capitalism goes on — everything goes. Climate, coastlines, most living species, food supplies, the great bulk of humanity. And certainly, the preconditions for advanced civilisation, perhaps forever.

Moreover, we’re not just talking risk, in the sense of an off-chance. These are the most likely outcomes for capitalism’s current policies and performance in the area of climate change.

As far back as 2010 the famed US paleoclimatologist Lonnie Thompson told a gathering of scientists in Phoenix, Arizona: “Climatologists, like other scientists, tend to be a stolid group … Why then are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? The answer is that virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.”

Rulers in the capitalist world are not remotely contemplating action on the scale needed to contain the crisis. In recent years, the Climate Action Tracker, a scientific partnership that includes Germany’s high-powered Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, has issued an annual report detailing the climate commitments of governments around the world, and spelling out the implications for global warming. The most recent report, from last November, concludes: “Weak government action on climate change will lead to a projected 3.7°C of warming by 2100.”

Almost certainly, though, the warming that will result if action is limited to current promises will be much greater than this. Like the reports issued in recent months by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Climate Action Tracker figures do not take account of so-called “slow feedbacks”. These are factors, such as the melting of polar ice and releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost, that cut in only on a time-frame of decades to centuries.

Mining Strike: Whose Reality is ‘The Real World’?

By Dick Forslund and Jeff Rubin - Daily Maverick, April 25, 2014

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.

Everyone, other than lunatics, troublemakers and the economically illiterate, is supposed to know that the demand by the striking platinum workers for a starting basic wage of R12,500 is plainly unaffordable. Indeed, anything even near R12,500 is supposedly so outrageous as to guarantee the bankruptcy of the mining companies and the closure of the mines. The fact that the mining companies are now only nudging towards this claim, after more than 12 weeks of all out strike, and despite the major concession by AMCU, the trade union involved, of a four-year phasing in of the claim, ought to be sufficient proof of the magnitude of the workers’ unreality. A closer look at the actual numbers, however, suggests something very different.

The absurdity does not go away; instead we are forced to ask: Whose reality determines ‘the real world’?

An “unskilled” worker at Angloplats, for instance, has a basic monthly wage of R5,400. To reach R12,500 in the fourth year means an annual increase of R1,775 for each of the four years. This would appear to be a whopping 32.9% increase for the first year, falling gradually to a still large 16.6% in the fourth year. However, excluding other allowances and pension costs that, as a further concession, AMCU agreed to peg at the rate of inflation and assuming official inflation of 6% for four successive years, means that the total nominal wage increase falls to 21.6%, in the first year, and 12.1% in the fourth year.

For skilled and professional workers, the situation is far easier, for their basic salary is already close to R12,500. Indeed, the highest grades have it already. We don’t know the precise number of employees in each pay grade because the employers seek to hide this information. However, we can confidently say that the total wage bill for all AMCU’s members would be far less than a 20% increase in the first year and close to or below 10% in year four. Keeping inflation below 6% would reduce these numbers even further.

But the cost of meeting these increases – whatever they might be – is not small. This is not something to conceal but rather to affirm: We are indeed speaking of a wage revolution but with a difference: the cost would come from profits, rather than at the expense of the production of wealth.

AMCU Statement on the Breakdown of Possible Wage Settlement in the Platinum Industry

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union press release, April 25, 2014

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.

It is with dismay that our latest proposal at reaching a settlement was arrogantly rebuffed by the platinum cartel of Angloplats, Impala and Lonmin.

We made several different proposals based on increases to the basic pay of the lowest paid workers. These proposals looked at ways of addressing the affordability concerns of the employers within the mandate of our members. In spite of all our efforts we were faced with complete intransigence and games of smoke and mirrors.

The employers refused to provide information on the cost of these different proposals. When Angloplats eventually presented us with their calculation today after 13 weeks of the strike, it was found to be exaggerated by between R300 and R500 million. Their unaffordability argument collapsed when they were forced to acknowledge their false claim. Even the government officials observing the negotiations were left bewildered by their methods.

AMCU will address mass meetings of its members exposing the behaviour of the employers. We were extremely livid at these underhand methods. It is difficult to predict how our members will react and what mandate they will give us faced with this
situation.

The lack of seriousness with which the Cartel is approaching the negotiations was evidenced by the failure of most CEOs and CFOs to attend. We are left with the strong impression that there is a hidden agenda at play. This too will be discussed with our members and we will work out a joint strategy to break their intransigence and arrogance. This will include solidarity actions and efforts with our brothers and sisters all over the world where these companies operate and market their metals. The employers must know that we will not be diverted from our just struggle for a decent life for our members and for all mineworkers in our country. Nevertheless, we as a responsible union remain optimistic that we will find a solution to this impasse.

15 Now Conference Report

By John Reimann - Oakland Socialist, April 30, 2014

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.

On Saturday, April 26, some 400 activists and socialists gathered in Seattle to participate in the national "15 Now" conference. They came primarily from Seattle, but also from all over the country, including from as far away as Mobile, Alabama.

Mood

The conference and Socialist Alternative’s 15 Now campaign should be considered in its context. For decades now, there has been a general mood of resignation within the US working class – a feeling that nothing can be done to reverse the general course of things. This ranges from the most obvious issue of income levels and economic security to other issues like poisoning of the environment. In 2012, one of the first warning signs of a new movement sprang to life in the form of the Occupy movement. According to one person I talked with here (who is not a member of any socialist group), Socialist Alternative was really the only socialist group that was very present in Occupy Seattle and consistently sided with the left wing of that movement. Most prominent of the Socialist Alternative members in Occupy was Kshama Sawant, and that played an important role in Socialist Alternative and Sawant winning a base among the radicalized youth.

It is also clear that Sawant’s election victory has helped the consciousness here in Seattle. For instance, I was in a coffee shop here and got to talking with a young mother sitting next to me. This was a pretty middle class woman, but she was definitely aware of Sawant (she liked her “passion”) as well as the issue of the fifteen dollar minimum wage. She had some doubts about it, but those doubts were easily put to rest. Although Socialist Alternative had been hoping for up to 1000 at the fifteen now conference, even 400 is not a bad outcome and would not have been possible had Sawant not won the election. (Probably close to 200 were Socialist Alternative members.)

Involving Low Wage Workers

However, the conference also showed that the campaign has not really made any major headway in breaking into exactly that sector who most need a $15 per hour minimum wage – single working parents, black and Latino youth, etc. From the outside, it is impossible to know for sure if this is because of the orientation of Socialist Alternative or because it is exactly these layers who feel the most depressed and abandoned. Whatever the reason, it must be admitted that the orientation and strategy of Socialist Alternative – who run “15 Now” – does not help.

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