You are here

labor and environment

Global Climate Jobs Conference: How to Cut Emissions

Global Climate Jobs Conference 2022: Fossil fuel workers and climate jobs

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Strategic Orientation

Divest from Fossil Fuels and Reinvest in Workers and Communities

By staff - American Federation of Teachers, July 16, 2022

WHEREAS, climate change represents an urgent and accelerating crisis, as extreme weather, forest and wildfires, infectious disease outbreaks, rising sea levels, and pollution wreak havoc on the ecosystems and societies in the U.S. (where the cost of climate disasters doubled in 2020) and across the globe; and

WHEREAS, the climate crisis exacerbates already existing systemic injustices along racial, regional, social and economic lines, concentrating harm in frontline communities (including Indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities and youth); and

WHEREAS, teachers, nurses, academic staff, public workers and higher education faculty have taken leadership in educating students on the climate emergency, in forging alliances with climate movements, and in promoting action to reduce carbon emissions, notably:

· In 2017, the American Federation of Teachers executive council resolved to “urge its locals, state federations and members’ retirement systems to … review strategies to mitigate the risk of climate change in their investment portfolios, including, … possible divestiture from other types of fossil fuel companies that contribute substantially to climate change. …”

· In 2017, the AFT executive council passed the “Resolution on a Just Transition to a Peaceful and Sustainable Society” (referred from the 2016 AFT national convention) and committed therein, “to a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy … [such that] most fossil fuels must be left in the ground.”

· In 2020, the AFT national convention resolved “that the American Federation of Teachers will fully participate in shaping the definition of ‘a just transition to a peaceful and sustainable economy,’ … in accord with the latest climate science regarding the need for very rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions;” and

WHEREAS, shareholder resolutions and even director votes at fossil fuel companies—as alternatives to divestment—have never resulted in significant change at coal, oil or gas companies nor led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from those companies' products; and

WHEREAS, the fiduciary duty of retirement funds obligates them to consider divestment from declining assets or at high risk of being stranded, a category that Blackrock, Makeda and the World Bank now believe includes fossil fuels; and

WHEREAS, there are now more than 1,500 institutions with assets over $39 trillion that have committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment, including the following funds (many explicitly in order to reinvest in environmentally and socially responsible industries): 

· Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York; 

· New York State Common Retirement Fund and the Maine Public Employees’ Retirement System; 

· City of Boston’s and the City of Baltimore’s investment funds; 

· London Pensions Fund Authority;

· La Banque Postale of France;

· Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec;

· Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Vatican;

· The endowments of Harvard, Oxford, Rutgers and the University of California, among other institutions of higher education; and

WHEREAS, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, each $1 million reinvested from fossil fuels to green energy results in a net increase of five jobs—often unionized jobs in solar and wind farms or in other sectors suitable for organizing; and

WHEREAS, Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act of 2021 and the federal Build Back Better bill provide models for reinvestment in local, green jobs; and

WHEREAS, AFT members participate in public and private pension plans totaling roughly $5.8 trillion (of which an estimated $255 billion is invested in fossil fuel corporations) and, therefore, possess significant financial means to address the climate crisis and promote a just transition for workers and communities:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will urge boards managing the retirement funds of its members to divest their assets—in consultation with all members and their local unions—from all corporations or other entities that extract, transport, trade or otherwise contribute to the production of coal, oil and gas—and to reinvest those funds in projects that benefit displaced workers and frontline communities in the state or region of the given AFT members; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will urge the board of TIAA to divest the retirement funds of higher education members—in consultation with their local unions—from all corporations or other entities that extract, transport, trade or otherwise contribute to the production of coal, oil and gas—and to reinvest those funds in socially responsible, climate-positive projects that benefit displaced workers and frontline communities; and

RESOLVED, that AFT’s Climate Justice Task Force members and chair(s) shall convene quarterly or more frequently (beginning with the third quarter of 2022) to (1) assist in the implementation of this resolution, (2) identify means by which AFT may divest its own assets from fossil fuel corporations and reinvest them in workers and communities, and (3) promote all of AFT’s other work toward climate justice.

Wars, Inflation, and Strikes: A Summer of Discontent in Europe?

By Josefina L. Martínez - Left Voice, July 12, 2022

Strikes over wage increases or working conditions are occurring in response to high inflation, aggravated by the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. These labor actions show a change in the mood of the European working class.

Are we heading toward a summer of discontent in Europe? Can we foresee a hot autumn on the Continent? It would be hasty to make such statements, but new strike activity is beginning to unfold among sectors of several countries’ working class. Inflation reached 8.8 percent as a European average in May (with higher rates in countries like the UK and Spain). After years of inflation below 1.5 percent, this is a significant change that is causing a fall in the population’s purchasing power, especially among the working class. Many analysts are already talking about the possibility of stagflation: a combination of recession and inflation.

This is in addition to the political instability of several governments and a widespread dissatisfaction with the traditional parties. The latter was expressed in France in the last elections, with high abstention and the growth of Marine Le Pen’s far-right party and of the center-left coalition grouped around Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority in the National Assembly and now faces a five-year period of great political uncertainty. Another government in crisis is that of the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stepping down.

In this context, recent weeks have seen strikes taking place in key sectors, including transport, steel, ports, and public services, as well as in more precarious sectors. Although there are differences among these countries, the strikes are opening a breach in the climate of “national unity” that governments tried to impose a few months ago, when the war in Ukraine began. In this article we review some of these labor conflicts in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and other countries.

Greens must back striking British Airways workers to build the coalition we need for a just transition

By Matthew Hull - Bright Green, July 3, 2022

A quiet revolution is underway. Across two weeks and through three days of industrial action by the RMT trade union, the British public may have rediscovered what it feels like to take the side of organised workers against a recalcitrant UK government.

Amid soaring bills and prices, and with the Tory government steadfastly refusing to put people’s lives before profits, it is easy to understand why sympathy for striking workers is growing.

Of course it would be easy to overstate this case. Trade unionism never left these shores, and the power of militant unions like the RMT has been built up over years of hard organising work.

Equally, it would be presumptuous in the extreme to argue that one still-ongoing dispute could undo decades of neoliberal policies designed to mute and muzzle trade unions.

Nevertheless, something is taking hold. Polls revealed that striking railway workers have the undisputed support of a majority of people in the UK, should they opt for further industrial action. What’s more, that support has grown with every media performance by the RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch, whose directness and refusal to pander to the nonsense so typical of broadcast media has proved a winning combination.

This progress is precious, and it is our responsibility as trade unionists and the broader Left to preserve and expand it.

For Greens and environmentalists, the response to the RMT strikes so far has an additional, special resonance.

In June, hundreds of environmental justice campaigners joined RMT members on picket lines, raised money for their national dispute fund, and made their public support for the strikes impossible to ignore. This included many Greens across England and Wales, led by the party’s Trade Union Group. The Greens were the only UK parliamentary party to be unambiguously supportive of the RMT’s actions.

Defending and expanding national and municipal railway networks is centrally important to winning a just transition to a zero-carbon economy. Without massively increasing our capacity to move around using collective and sustainable modes of transport, the work of the environmental justice movement is over before it has begun.

In this process, protecting jobs and improving the pay, conditions and security of workers on our railways is key. There can be no just and fair transition to a zero-carbon world without worker empowerment.

Environmental justice campaigners and Greens should take this insight and apply it to workers’ struggles across all
sectors.

As heat rises, who will protect farmworkers?

By Bridget Huber, Nancy Averett and Teresa Cotsirilos - Food & Environment Reporting Network, June 29, 2022

Last June, as a record-breaking heatwave baked Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Sebastian Francisco Perez was moving irrigation lines at a large plant nursery in 104 degree Fahrenheit heat. When he didn’t appear at the end of his shift, his co-workers went looking for him, and found him collapsed between rows of trees. Investigators from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division determined that Perez died of heat-related hyperthermia and dehydration. 

They also found that Perez had not been provided with basic information about how to protect himself from the heat. It wasn’t the farm’s first brush with regulators; it had previously been cited for failing to provide water and toilets to its workers. Later, in a closed conference with Oregon OSHA, an Ernst Nursery & Farms official blamed Perez for his own death, claiming that employees should “be accountable for how they push their bodies.”

This year, in a move to avert similar deaths — and force employers to take responsibility for protecting workers during hot weather — Oregon adopted the most stringent heat protections for outdoor workers in the country. The rule kicks in when temperatures reach 80 degrees F and requires employers to provide cool water, rest breaks and shade, as well as to make plans for how to acclimatize workers to heat, prevent heat illness and seek help in case of an emergency. 

The new standard has been praised by advocates, but industry is already pushing back. On June 15, the day the rule took effect, a coalition of Oregon business groups representing more than 1,000 companies filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the heat standard and another new rule governing workers’ exposure to wildfire smoke, arguing that they are unconstitutional. But the rules stand for now, making Oregon the third state to enact such standards for outdoor workers, after California and Washington. 

In the rest of the country, as climate change drives increasingly brutal heat waves, farmworkers lack protection. How they fare will largely depend on whether their employers voluntarily decide to provide the access to water, shade, and rest breaks that are critical when working in extreme heat. There are currently no nationwide regulations that spell out what employers must do to protect workers from heat and, while efforts to draft a federal rule recently began, it will likely be years before the standards are in place.

A park for the people: Jack Mundey and the Eastlakes green ban

By Alison Wishart - Overland, June 23, 2022

On 13 August 2021, the Geographical Names Board officially approved Bayside Council’s request to rename Eastlakes Reserve as Jack Mundey Reserve. Mundey was neither a local resident, councillor nor mayor. Yet sixty years ago, he led a movement that saved these four acres of land as a park for the local people.

The reserve, situated within the centre of a new housing development christened ‘Eastlakes’ (a much more appealing name than ‘Botany Swamps’, as it was previously known) is used for recreation, exercise and community events. To understand how Mundey—a rugby player, labourer and communist who left school at the age of fourteen—came to be honoured in this way, we need to go back to 1961.

Jack Mundey Reserve was once part of the much larger Rosebery Racecourse. In 1961, Sydney Turf Club contracted L.J. Hooker Real Estate to sell the racecourse to the highest bidder. The sales brochure proclaimed that this 56.5 acre site was just ‘four miles from the heart of the city’; ‘perfectly cleared and level’ and ready for development. In characteristic sales hyperbole, the brochure confidently declared that ‘without a doubt, it was this century’s greatest opportunity for developers and investors.’

Despite the sales pitch, the land was passed in at auction on 26 September 1961. Sydney Turf Club negotiated with the highest bidder and signed a contract for Rosebery Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Parkes Development, to purchase the site for £450,000 (£75,000 below the reserve price). Six acres on the eastern and western edges of the racecourse were reserved for the Housing Commission of NSW and not included in the sale. Harry Seidler, the famous modernist architect, would design the housing commission unit block on Maloney Avenue.

Why Climate campaigners should support the rail unions

By Paul Atkin and Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 23, 2022

What is the link between climate action and stopping the decline of public transport?

From the RMT: “We want a transport system that operates for the interests of the people, for the needs of society, and our environment – not for private profit”.

This government is failing on the climate crisis. It has no integrated transport plan, is not realising the need to address aviation and motoring and to prioritise public transport. It favours private companies which make vast profits rather than making transport affordable and our air breathable.

Why are our railways being subjected to a ‘managed decline’ just when we need them the most?

From the TUC “Network Rail plans to cut annual expenditure by £100 million, mainly through the loss of 2,500 rail maintenance jobs. RMT analysis of Network Rail data finds that this will lead to 670,000 fewer hours of maintenance work annually. Network Rail responsibilities include track maintenance – essential to avoiding fatal accidents like Hatfield, which was the result of the metal tracks fatiguing”. 

The government is committed to following free market ideology, the ‘logic’ of which produces a managed decline of much-needed rail services, imposing a 10% annual cut to the running costs of the railways (and even more on the buses in London, with 20% of services threatened).

Meanwhile £27Bn is planned to be spent on roads. This can only increase car use, with negative effects on air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, accidents, inhibition of active travel and hitting commuters hard in the pocket while boosting the profits of the fossil fuel companies.

170+ Organizations Sign Letter Opposing Subsidies to Delay Closure of Diablo Canyon Power Plant

By staff - Nuclear Information and Resource Service, June 21, 2022

Over 170 organizations, including Beyond Nuclear, North American Water Office, Food & Water Watch, Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), Center for Biological Diversity, International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and more sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm opposing the misuse of the Department of Energy’s Civil Nuclear Credit program (CNC) to dismantle the fossil-free phaseout and just transition plan for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. 

The CNC was created by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to mitigate potential greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) increases due to the closure of unprofitable nuclear reactors that operate in competitive electricity markets. The letter explains how applying the CNC program to Diablo Canyon would violate the letter and intent of the law. The nuclear power plant is not eligible for funds under the CNC program because it does not meet the basic requirements of the IIJA, nor those of the CNC program guidance DOE published to implement the program. 

The letter highlights climate, economic, environmental justice, and power supply concerns with abandonment of the just transition agreement dictating the planned closure of Diablo Canyon’s nuclear reactors in 2024 and 2025. 

Over 50 organizations from the State of California signed onto the letter, including San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, SoCal 350 Climate Action, Tri-Valley CAREs, Physicians for Social Responsibility/Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oceanic Preservation Society, Electric Vehicle Association of CA Central Coast, Californians for Energy Choice, Parents Against Santa Susana Field Lab and more. 

Tim Judson, NIRS executive director said, “Diablo Canyon’s planned phaseout and just transition accelerates California’s climate and renewable energy goals, supports Diablo workers and local communities, and promotes economic and environmental justice. Misusing the CNC program to unravel that progress would betray President Biden’s commitments to climate and environmental justice.” He added, “The Diablo Canyon phaseout plan which California is implementing is a just transition model DOE should promote instead of seeking to preempt it. The basis for the plan shows how phasing out nuclear power plants along with fossil fuel generation can help accelerate emissions reductions, the growth of the renewable energy economy, and a just and equitable transition for workers and communities. Is DOE afraid to let that happen while it is spending billions of dollars to promote the idea that we need to invest in overly expensive, failure-prone nuclear power plants?”

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.