Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
September 28, 2009

Warm Air, Hot Air
Bryan Walsh wrote on Wednesday,

“Global warming - the very term sounds gentle, like a bath that grows pleasantly hotter under the tap. Many people might assume that's how climate change works too, the globe gradually increasing in temperature until we decide to stop it by cutting our carbon emissions. It's a comforting notion, one that gives us time to gauge the steady impact of warming before taking action.

“There's just one problem: that's not how climate change is likely to unfold. Instead, scientists worry about potential tipping points - triggers that, once reached, could lead to sudden and irrevocable changes in the climate, almost without warning.”

The next day, an announcement from the United Nations Environment Program began,

“The pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). An analysis of the very latest, peer-reviewed science indicates that many predictions at the upper end of the IPCC’s forecasts are becoming ever more likely.”

Juliet Eilperin commented in the Washington Post,

“Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world's leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago....”

This increase is nearly double what scientists have identified as the upper limit of warming the world can afford in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

Greenpeace immediately followed up on the UN report by hanging a huge banner from a bridge in Pittsburgh–site of the G20 summit–reading

Danger, Climate Destruction Ahead, Reduce CO2 Emissions Now

But Iran bashing, which has served five administrations so well in shifting attention from other troublesome questions, is what President Obama brought to Pittsburgh. You had to dig pretty deep in the pliant media for articles such as AFP’s Climate groups dismayed by G20's lack of interest.

All this is sure to please the traditional advocates for the captains of industry and finance–the Chamber of Commerce. They have a new front group called–ready for this?–“C02 Is Green.” They also have a companion group, “Plants Need CO2,” for “education.” They campaign against jobs being destroyed by “bad science.”

An old Minneapolis friend, Christine Frank, coordinator of the Climate Crisis Coalition of the Twin Cities (3CTC), has written an excellent, comprehensive assessment of where things stand, World Leaders Stall Endlessly in Tackling Climate Change. She opens,

“Another UN climate conference is scheduled for December in Copenhagen, Denmark, where negotiators expect to hash out an agreement for the post 2012 period. However, with nothing significant having been done up until now, it is doubtful that the Kyoto signatories, whose ranks the U.S. has yet to join, will work any kind of miracle to stabilize the climate.”

She reminds us where cap-and-trade–the heart of the Democrat climate bill passed in the House–came from,

“Carbon trading came into being because of the Clinton/Gore intervention in Kyoto in 1997, when Al Gore successfully pushed for this climate-abatement sham. The EU Carbon Trading Scheme (ETS) merely offers the illusion that something is being done while granting carte blanche to polluters...The peddling of carbon offsets is another Kyoto mockery, which grants over-consumers and big polluters the privilege of buying their way out by planting trees that would supposedly absorb their carbon emissions somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. In reality, natural forests are being razed and replaced with industrial tree farms while local folk are being denied entitlement to their ancestral lands.”

Sister Frank is spot on when she says, “Earth is dying, and capitalism is killing her....the ruthless system of commodity production for private profit is what is destroying our planetary home.”

The kind of effective action, guided by science she advocates to save our home world--a crash program of renewable energy and clean mass transit--will create jobs on a scale not seen since the Pharos built the pyramids. It’s the global warming deniers of the Chamber of Commerce–as well as other bosses that have signed on to cap-and-trade scams--that are destroying our jobs and planet too.

We’ve had more than fair warning to turn off that tap of gentle warming before we’re scalded. A key test for the new leadership in the house of labor is whether they can summon the vision and courage to make a decisive break with corporate “partners” and earn a proud place in history by educating and mobilizing the only force capable of saving the day–the working class.

A Lesson From UC Berkeley
Not only unions have been cautious to the point of timid over the past year; the campuses have been quiet for a long time as well. Last Thursday both exploded in Berkeley.

UPTE-CWA Local 9119, representing 9,000 research and technical workers, called a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike, after going nineteen months without a contract. Twelve thousand clerical workers organized by the Coalition of University Employees, also without a contract, honored Local 9119's picket lines.

The strike received support from a petition signed by more than a thousand unorganized faculty. And it was endorsed by a newly formed student group, Save UC.

The students have big complaints of their own: the Board of Regents has approved a 45 percent increase in tuition while moving to cut many campus services. The students didn’t just skip class for a day–thousands showed up for a rally where they chanted, “Education should be free. No cuts, no fees.” An impromptu march then formed and many sat down blocking the main entrance to the campus. For us old folks, it was reminiscent of the beginning of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement 45 years ago that helped launch a decade of youth struggles against war and racism. For a good account in Labor Notes click here.

Hyatt’s Hospitality Solution
Suspicions started piling up for housekeeping workers at three Boston-area Hyatt hotels. There were those new workers they were asked to train “to work vacations.” Then they were told to empty their lockers for an unprecedented “cleaning.” Finally, about a hundred were told at quitting time not to come back the next day–or any future day. Their jobs had been outsourced to Georgia-based Hospitality Staffing Solutions.

The workers were earning 14-16 dollars per hour, plus health benefits. Their replacements are being paid eight dollars an hour with no benefits. Though the fired employees were not unionized, UNITE HERE has taken up their cause. They paid travel expenses for one of the displaced housekeepers to go plead their case with Penny Pritzker, who was national finance chairman of President Obama’s campaign last year and whose family is Hyatt’s principal owner. The union also organized a massive sit-down protest blocking the street in front of Hyatt’s Chicago corporate headquarters.

There was so much public outrage over the treatment of the housekeeping workers even the Governor called on state employees to boycott Hyatt properties until the workers are reinstated.

In Brief...
¶ Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279, who shut down Ottawa’s transit system for 52 days last winter, has rejected a proposal from the city that future negotiations be settled by compulsory arbitration. 62 percent of the union’s 2500 members voted to keep the hard won right to strike.
¶ Avery Johnson in the Wall Street Journal wrote, “The health-system overhaul proposed by Sen. Max Baucus would create millions of new insurance customers without subjecting health insurers to government-run competition -- two key victories for the much-maligned industry.”
¶ Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one-- the worst ratio since the government began tracking.
¶ The Social Democratic Party of Germany–long the dominant working class party--scored its lowest result in a national election since the fall of the Weimar Republic in 1933. They had been in a “Grand Coalition” with the right-wing for the past five years. They lost many votes to the Left Party who oppose cuts in social services and demand withdrawal from Afghanistan.
¶ I don’t often pitch music videos but
We’re #37 by Paul Hipp is worth a view.
¶ Toyota, who is closing the only auto assembly plant in California, is billing the state for the cost of training workers.
¶ The
Wall Street Journal reports, “A federal judge approved a civil-court settlement requiring the Social Security Administration to repay $500 million to 80,000 recipients whose benefits it suspended after deeming them fugitives. The supposed fugitives include a disabled widow with a previously suspended driver's license, a quadriplegic man in a nursing home and a Nevada grandmother mistaken for a rapist.”

Don’t forget to check out our Daily Labor News Digest, updated by 7AM Central, Monday-Friday.

That’s all for this week.

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