Did someone just say “Industrial Policy”?

by Stan Sorscher

  • sorscher-2017

Let’s take a breath and step back from our circus-like introduction to the Trump era.

A few weeks ago, we were trying to decode voters’ messages in the US and UK. Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and millions of voters said we have lost trust in the way we’ve managed globalization. Brexit and the US presidential campaigns broke the spell we had been under during 20 years of neoliberal free trade orthodoxy. Even before the election, growing public opposition had worn away support for TPP, the 12-country trade deal. TPP failed because our free trade approach to globalization is exhausted.

Decades of neoliberal market fundamentalism had conditioned us to accept millions of lost jobs, reduced bargaining power for workers, deindustrialization, stagnant wages, and unchecked climate change.

We are ready for a new approach that would balance trade and share the gains from globalization. Labor, environment, and other civil society groups have specific goals – deal with inequality, climate change, access to medicine, food security, internet freedom, and other non-economic issues at home and abroad.

Donald Trump openly endorses industrial policy. To me, “industrial policy” means intervening in markets to prevent or correct market failures. For decades, it was the policy that could not be named in Washington DC. Industrial policy is the conceptual opposite of neoliberal free market – free trade orthodoxy.

Industrial policies can be good or bad. Good ones can serve legitimate national interests and bad ones cause grief – just like good or bad policies for health care, banking, infrastructure, and education. Good industrial policies can help us manage globalization better.

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The Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor

by Jeremy Brecher

Labor Network for Sustainability

dakota-pipeline-solidarity-poster

As United States Energy Transfers Partners began building the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the tribe began an escalating campaign against the pipeline. By this summer nearly 200 tribes around the country had passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and many hundreds of their members joined nonviolent direct action to halt it. Amidst wide public sympathy for the Native American cause, environmental, climate protection, human rights, and many other groups joined the campaign. On September 9, the Obama administration intervened to temporarily halt the pipeline and open government-to-government consultations with the tribes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has become an issue of contention within organized labor. When a small group of unions supported the Standing Rock Sioux and opposed the pipeline, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka issued a statement discounting Native American claims and urging that work on the pipeline resume. Other constituencies within labor quickly cracked back. Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?

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SEIU and the Standing Rock Conflict

SEIU Statement on Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access Pipeline

indiancountrytodayWASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Service Employees International Union issued the following statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from disturbing their sacred lands and burial grounds and to avoid the threat of contaminating the Missouri River which provides the Tribes’ drinking water.

“The two million members of SEIU stand beside the Standing River Sioux Tribe in their fight to protect their sacred lands and burial grounds from being dug up if the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is allowed to continue as planned.

“This instance of disregard for the Standing Rock Sioux and the potential impact to their lives and livelihoods from a potentially hazardous crude oil pipeline is unfortunately not an isolated incidence. Over the last three years there have been over 200 known pipeline leaks in the United States. We call on the government to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe immediately and find a solution that will not pose risk to the Tribe, their water sources or their sacred grounds.

“The history, culture and lives of Tribal people, the first Americans, should be respected and protected. SEIU stands with them in assuring that what remains of their precious and sacred lands and resources are not be taken away from them once again.

“Historical disregard for low income communities and communities of color, including those where many SEIU members live and work, has subjected them to toxic air pollution and contaminated waterways for decades. In these communities, asthma and other respiratory ailments caused by toxic air and poisonous toxins such as lead in the water supply, affect our children’s health and ability to thrive. As the nation’s largest healthcare union, we stand with the growing movement of environmental organizations, businesses, students, parents and others demanding cleaner air and water and to address the growing threat of climate change for the health and safety of our families and communities. Continue reading

Some Labor vs Some Environmentalists

Some Labor vs Some Environmentalists
Jonathan Martin. New York Times. May 17, 2016. Page 1.
The rift developed after some in the labor movement, whose cash flow has dwindled and whose political clout has been increasingly imperiled, announced a partnership last week with a wealthy environmentalist, Tom Steyer, to help bankroll a new fund dedicated to electing Democrats.
That joint initiative enraged members of the nation’s biggest construction unions, already on edge about the rising influence of climate-change activists. The building-trades unions view Mr. Steyer’s environmental agenda as a threat to the jobs that can be created through infrastructure projects like new gas pipelines.
The dispute, laid bare in a pair of blistering letters sent on Monday to Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., underscored the tensions between the two pillars of the Democratic coalition.
For decades, organized labor was among the most powerful forces on the left, financing Democratic candidates and reliably delivering working-class votes, and political foot soldiers, for the party in crucial states and districts.
But with blue-collar white voters shifting to the Republican Party and Democrats growing more reliant on higher-income voters and liberal donors like Mr. Steyer, environmental activists are increasingly muscling out unions.

Document: Letter From Presidents of 7 Building-Trade Unions to Richard Trumka

Jobs, Justice and Climate Rally and March to Defend New England’s Future

by Paul Garver

jobsjusticeclimate

By 12th December the Paris climate talks will have ended.  Political leaders will have made promises to voluntarily reduce carbon emissions. Whether these promises are kept or not kept over the coming decades depends upon us.

We know what we need: real climate solutions that create secure union jobs and strengthen community power and resiliency.

To get there, we must build an unstoppable grassroots movement that unites workers and  labor unions with immigrant rights. racial justice and climate justice movements.

Representatives of these movements are calling for a rally and march in Boston on 12th December to Defend New England’s Future. Organizers include 350 Mass for a Better Future and Jobs with Justice.  Endorsers include labor unions [Vermont State AFL-CIO, SEIU Locals 1199 and 509, Mass. Nurses Association/National Nurses United, Boston Musicians, Local 3844 American Postal Workers Union], worker centers from Vermont, Southern Maine and New Bedford, and numerous community and social rights groups like City Life/Vida Urbana, the Migrant Center and Interfaith Workers Justice.

They will join with a broad network of climate justice and environmental groups including numerous 350 MA nodes, campus divestment groups, Mass Peace Action and the Sierra Club in rallying in Boston Common and in front of the Mass. State House.   The march will also take support for organizing low wage workers at McDonald’s and Primark.  Flyers are being prepared in Spanish and Portuguese as well as English to help reach out to immigrant communities.

Although social movements have been gathering momentum and winning specific legislative victories in Massachusetts and other New England states in the years since the Occupy movement, they have been somewhat isolated into separate “silos.”  Organizers of the 12th December Rally and March hope to help spark a more inclusive and unified grassroots’ movement that reaches broader mass constituencies beyond their organizational leaders.

For some background on how the 12th December actions being organized throughout the world relate to the Paris talks, see http://www.religioussocialism.org/global_climate_justice_a_new_great_awakening.

Spring Awakens in the Boston Area: Climate Justice Joins Movements for Social and Racial Justice

by Paul Garver

Divestement and People of Color

As the piles of snow finally melted and spring blossomed in the Boston area, the movements for climate, economic, social and racial justice burgeoned and filled the assemblies and the streets with voices demanding genuine changes.

The reawakened Boston movements seems more numerous, more diverse, and more youthful than in previous years. The banners and chants are livelier, and the demands both more radical and more inclusive than before. The bravado and defiance of the Occupy Movement persists, but with greater direction, purpose and a sense that breakthrough victories are inevitable, even though to be achieved painfully and incrementally.

I spent much of Harvard Heat Week on the campus, in the assemblies and at the occupation. What struck me was the positive energy and patient eloquence of the students and their community and alumni supporters, along with their conviction that while Harvard University was not about to accede to the demand for divestment from fossil fuels, it would sooner or later be forced to do so. Tufts University students organized their own substantial protest action the following week. And as of May 17, Harvard students demanding divestment have again occupied the administration building.

Supporters of the campus divestment movement with their banners joined the massive and spirited march of the Fight for $15 the same week. For a number of years it has seemed that there been insufficient convergence between the campaigns for higher wages, for worker rights, for jobs for youth and against police brutality with those of the climate justice movement. Though these equally legitimate and parallel movements are all gaining traction in the Boston area streets, they are only now beginning to join together in mutual support.

But the silos that serve to isolate activists from each other are beginning to break down. Coalitions like Jobs for Justice are bringing together very diverse persons and organizations for mutual support and solidarity. And the effective climate justice organization Better Future Project/350Mass is not only building its own grassroots “nodes” to campaign for fossil fuel divestment and related climate issues – it is urging its members to join wholeheartedly in solidarity campaigns for economic, social and racial justice.

Following is a May Day statement from Emily Kirkland, Alissa Zimmer, and Craig Altemose of the Better Future Project {Cambridge, MA). Visit its web-site at http://www.betterfutureproject.org/ for information on all Massachusetts events related to climate justice.
Standing in Solidarity, from Baltimore to Boston and beyond
MAY 01, 2015 BETTER FUTURE PROJECT/350 MASS

Many of us are part of this movement because we see climate change as a social justice issue. We’re fighting for a clean energy economy because we know that the use of fossil fuels has devastating consequences for people already facing economic and racial injustice — especially communities of color here in the US and around the world. From poisoned air to polluted water, from droughts to flooding to extreme storms, communities of color are hit first and hit hardest.

But to truly stand in solidarity with the communities most impacted by fossil fuel use and global warming, we need to do more than demand action on climate change: we need to confront the other types of oppression and injustice that affect communities of color. When people of color are beaten or killed by the police, we have an obligation to speak out.

At the 350 Mass campaign summit a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to share our core values with one another, and compassion and solidarity came up again and again. Putting those values into practice means fighting to end structural racism and state-sanctioned violence against Black people and other people of color.

We  urge members of the Better Future Project / 350 Mass community to show solidarity with those protesting the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department. 
Our commitment to solidarity should not be limited to a single event or a single crisis. As a community, we need to continue to find ways to stand with other movements and integrate social, racial, and economic justice into everything we do

There are multiple events happening over the next few weeks, including:
• Our Jobs. Our Truths. Our Lives. Wednesday, May 20, 3:00pm, Park Street Station, Tremont Street, Boston.

Funeral for Youth Jobs and People Lost to Police Violence

Youth Justice

Seattle City Council Opposes Fast Track

by Bill Yates

Puget Sound DSA

Striking Oil Workers Emerge Victorious Thanks in Part to Green Group Solidarity

by Kate Aronoff

Due, in part, to the environmental concerns posed by unsafe refineries, strikers quickly gained the support of green groups. (Photo: USW Oil Workers)

Yesterday afternoon, the United Steelworkers reached a tentative contract agreement with negotiators from Shell Oil Co., which has represented Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil companies affected by the union’s now nearly six-week strike. Even as the strike continues in many workplaces, yesterday’s victory is the hard-won result of careful organizing and some promising collaboration.

Beginning on February 1 — after a particularly contentious round of negotiations — an estimated 3,800 workers kicked off a strike action across nine refineries in Texas, California, Kentucky and Washington. As of Thursday’s truce, the strike had grown to include 7,000 workers across 15 refineries, petrochemical and cogeneration plants, including the nation’s largest refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. In total, the United Steelworkers, or USW, represents 30,000 members, and holds leverage over an impressive 64 percent of the United States’ refining capacity.

United Steelworkers’ spokeswoman Lynne Hancock says that she hopes the past several weeks’ events will serve as a sign to oil companies “that we are serious when we bring up issues … that they come from the membership.”

Although the oil workers brought demands around wages and benefits, union negotiators’ central demands were for safer working conditions and a scale-back in companies’ hiring of non-union, often temporary workers. Chiefly, Hancock said, health and safety concerns were “key in this round of bargaining.” Long hours, scant safety regulations and lax training requirements — the oil workers argued — have contributed to workplace environments harmful to not only employees, but the communities surrounding the plants and refineries where they work.

While the four-year contract — covering wages, benefits, working conditions, and health and safety measures — received unanimous support from the rank-and-file National Oil Bargaining Policy Committee, the end of the strike remains contingent on plant locals’ negotiations with management over “local concerns,” such as seniority and vacation time. Because the national agreement has yet to be approved by either USW locals or international leadership, the union is not yet discussing the details of the pending contract. Hancock, however, said that she does not “anticipate there being any problems with it getting ratified at local union bargaining tables.”

A press release by the USW yesterday stated that the proposed contract includes “calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility,” as well as “daily maintenance and repair work in the plants,” yearly wage increases, a joint review of plant staffing needs, and an agreement that hiring plans be developed “in conjunction with recruitment and training programs.” Negotiators had rejected seven previous contract proposals from Shell before Thursday’s agreement.

In addition to the strike, workers took part in an ongoing series of rallies and guerrilla film screenings at refineries and corporate headquarters. One delegation of workers traveled to Europe to garner international support for their actions; alongside the British union UNITE and Divest London, oil workers demonstrated outside a speech by Shell CEO Ben van Buerden in the British capital. USW Local 675 in Torrance, Calif., took a particularly creative route, delivering a pile of horse manure to ExxonMobil offices in response to the company’s failure to respond to inquiries about the health impacts of a mid-February refinery explosion that left four workers injured.

Due, in part, to the environmental concerns posed by unsafe refineries, strikers quickly gained the support of green groups, including the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Sierra Club and Communities for a Better Environment in the Bay Area, which walked the picket line with workers at a Tesoro refinery in Martinez, Calif. Joe Uehlein, a long-time unionist and executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, urged fellow environmentalists to support USW workers in a statement released at the strike’s onset.

“As we work to protect the earth from climate change,” he said, “it is particularly important that we advocate for the needs of workers in fossil fuel industries whose well-being must not be sacrificed to the necessity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Hancock echoed this sentiment, noting, “The workers are like canaries in the mine … They can see what’s going on and what happens before something tragic happens.” She also saw environmental groups’ support as a major boon to the strike. “It is encouraging to other unions to see that working with environmental groups helps you in your bargaining strength and in improving the work situation for the workers,” Hancock told me. Notably, the United Steelworkers were a founding member of the Blue Green Alliance, which seeks to unite “America’s largest labor unions and its most influential environmental organizations,” according to the group’s website.

The fight for the United Steelworkers is far from over, but the last six weeks have proven a galvanizing force for the union’s membership. Just coming off conference calls with locals around the country, Hancock observed “a lot of energy [among workers], and the motivation to stay involved and support the locals that are still having trouble on local issues.”

As collective bargaining comes under fresh attack by Republicans in Illinois and Wisconsin, the oil workers’ victory this week might be one of the month’s most hopeful headlines — especially with regards to organized labor. Amid dropping oil prices and divestment campaigners, fossil fuel companies, now more than ever, are on the defensive. Given thenot-so-secret ties between fossil fuel magnates and the GOP, ties between unions and green groups built during the strike could well have just bolstered the foundation for one of history’s most powerful — and necessary — alliances.

Kate Aronoff is a History major at Swarthmore College active in the climate justice movement, including Swarthmore Mountain Justice‘s campaign to divest the college’s endowment from fossil fuels. She currently serves as a Board Member for the Responsible Endowments Coalition. Find her on Twitter @KateAronoff.

Tony Mazzocchi’s Spirit Lives on in Oil Refinery Strike

by Steve Early

Mazzochu

Twelve years ago, America’s leading advocate of occupational health and environmental safety succumbed to pancreatic cancer. In the U.S., where the influence of organized labor has long been contracting, the death of a former trade union official is often little noted. Yet Tony Mazzocchi was no ordinary labor leader. His passing from the scene, at age 76, was widely recognized and correctly mourned as a great loss for the entire union movement.

As a top strategist for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), Mazzocchi pioneered alliances between workers concerned about job safety and health hazards and communities exposed to industrial pollution generated by companies like Shell, Chevron, and Mobil.

In 1973, members of the OCAW (who are now part of the United Steel Workers) conducted a national contract campaign and four-month strike at Shell Oil over workplace safety rights and protections. As Mazzocchi’s biographer, Les Leopold notes, “the strike helped build a stronger anti-corporate movement” because OCAW members learned “that you can’t win these fights alone.” To win—or even just battle Big Oil to a draw—workers had to join forces with the very same environmental organizations long demonized by the industry as the enemy of labor and management alike.

Striking Big Oil Again

Four decades later, echoes of that struggle could be heard on the refinery town picket-lines that went up in northern California, Texas, Kentucky, and Washington state this week. Thousands of oil workers walked out, for the first time in 35 years, over issues and demands that Tony Mazzocchi helped publicize and build coalitions around for much of his career.

About 30,000 refinery employees are still covered by the USW agreement that expired last weekend. Nearly 4,000 of them are on strike at nine plants already, including Tesoro refineries in Martinez and Carson, CA. Other USW members, including those employed at Chevron in Richmond, may join the walkout if industry negotiators fail to address non-wage issues summarized by USWA vice-president Gary Beevers as follows:
Onerous overtime, unsafe staffing levels, dangerous conditions the industry continues to ignore; the daily occurrences of fires, emissions, leaks and explosions that threaten local communities without the industry doing much about it and the flagrant contracting out that impacts health and safety on the job.” Continue reading

Unions for Energy Democracy

Unions for Energy Democracy

 Rosa Luxemburg Foundation

[ed. note – Excellent video with clear and convincing case for social ownership and worker control of energy sources].