Week In Review December 18

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Dec 182015
 

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

All Roads Start From Paris
The recently concluded COP21 climate summit in Paris was supposed to be transformational. In some ways perhaps it was. Not a single government any longer denies that global warming is real–and they acknowledge how humans produce, consume, and destroy is mainly responsible for this palpable threat to civilization.

But as reported in the last WIR, and in postings this week on Labor Advocate, this recognition didn’t produce meaningful action. While they endorsed “1.5 to stay alive”–capping global warming at 1.5C over preindustrial levels—they collectively submitted emission goals that will actually increase greenhouse discharge in the short term and put warming on a long run disastrous course of 3C or more. Nevertheless, the Parties to the Conference hailed the fruits of their fortnight of deliberations as the biggest thing since bagels were first sliced to accommodate lox.

So have many traditional environmental groups, seemingly blessed with the patience of Job. Unfortunately, neither they nor we have been granted the longevity of Methuselah who is said to have stuck around nearly a millennium to prepare his grandson Noah to save all species from extinction during the Great Flood.

But even some who preach such scriptural accounts are more measured than the secular pale greens in their response to the Paris deal. Radio Vatican began a report,

“World leaders have hailed the climate change agreement they struck in Paris at the weekend as historic, while some environmentalists have warned the deal does not go far enough to curb the effects of global warming on our planet.”

Pope Francis is among those who believe COP21 didn’t go far enough. But even with the help of fact-supported arguments by Naomi Klein, the Holy Father hasn’t had much luck in getting Church bodies to even agree to divest their extensive holdings of fossil fuel stocks.

I have no suggestions for the Bishop of Rome for how to get his flock of one billion on board for climate justice. My faith is in the diverse corporal legion who do the world’s work for wages. An encouraging development on the Road Through Paris is uneven progress by the global trade union movement in confronting climate reality.

My friend Traven in Vermont reminded me of a past AFL-CIO statement that concluded,

“The AFL-CIO Executive Council therefore calls upon the President to refrain from signing the proposed Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.” – AFL-CIO Executive Council statement, January 30, 1998.

Whether they were the motivation is questionable, but they got what they asked for. Even though the U.S. representative in Kyoto, then Vice-President Al Gore, largely shaped the Milquetoast first global climate agreement, President Clinton never signed on to send it to Congress.

Last Tuesday the White House Choir at the House of Labor sang a different tune about Paris–“The AFL-CIO applauds the U.N. Paris climate change agreement as a landmark achievement in international cooperation that is both sensible and achievable.”

They still don’t have it completely right but they did at least include–

“Workers must be at the center of any successful effort to address climate change. Workers in certain sectors will bear the brunt of transitional job and income loss. For this reason, the agreement appropriately recognizes ‘…the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs….’”

Unlike eighteen years ago, this opens up new space in the labor movement to advance the fight for class and climate justice.

Some are already boldly stepping in. Outside the official COP21 gathering, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy scheduled a number of well-received events in Paris. TUED is made up of 47 union bodies in 17 countries. Affiliates in the USA include the National Education Association, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers, New York State Nurses Association, and the Labor Network for Sustainability. They have had considerable impact in Britain where they now have the enthusiastic support of Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition Labor Party Shadow Prime Minister.

Just what do they mean by Energy Democracy? This excellent video explains all. I’ve seen no better popular presentation of what we mean by Class & Climate Justice. We should be showing this at union meetings and community forums at every opportunity.

And this is a class perspective we need to take in to the developing global climate action movement. The next big advance on the Road Through Paris was announced this week by 350.org and others. They say,

“After the Climate Summit in Paris we need to redouble efforts to end the use of destructive fossil fuels and choose a clean and just energy future. This May we hope to see more people than ever commit to joining actions that disrupt the industry’s power by targeting the world’s most dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel projects, and supporting the most ambitious climate solutions.”

You can find out more about these May 7-15 actions, and sign up to support them, here.

The road to Paris led to a dead end. But coming out of Paris we can get back on course.

Leave the Coal in the Ground—Not the Miners
Hating what coal is doing to our planet in no way diminishes our respect for and solidarity with those who dig and process it. The bosses and politicians who love coal are just the opposite.

This past week a talented labor investigative writer, Mike Elk posted on the Media Workers Unite site a copy of an article he had written for Politico–but had been censored back in August. An updated introduction datelined December 17 begins,

“Yesterday, a bill died on the Senate floor, which would have protected the 90,000 beneficiaries of the United Mine Workers Multiemployer Pension and Retiree Fund. Despite, the bill having wide bipartisan support in both houses, the bill died because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote as part of a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill. ‘It is simply immoral’ said United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts about the decision. In August, I wrote a story for POLITICO about how a certain Super PAC donor, billionaire non-union coal magnate Joe Craft, was stopping McConnell from supporting a pension bailout bill that would negatively affect tens of thousands of Kentuckians and enjoyed wide support on both sides of the aisle.”

I recommend you read the whole story here.

In Brief…
* Most readers will recall a few weeks ago a strike by University of Missouri football players—honored by their coaching staff—secured a stunning victory for protests in support of Black students facing discrimination and bullying. The University System president, and the Chancellor of the main campus in Columbia were forced to resign. The ALEC-dominated Missouri legislature hopes to make this a teachable moment. Under new legislation to be introduced in the next session, student athletes refusing to play or practice would be kicked off the team–and lose their scholarships. Coaches showing solidarity would get the boot as well.
* 2000 UAW Kohler workers in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin are back to work after a 32-day strike. The union failed to eliminate the two-tier wage structure though the gap between the tiers was lessened considerably with Tier B getting 4.70 an hour in raises over four years. Most Tier A workers will get 2.00 raises. Most of the company’s take-back demands in their final pre-strike offer were dropped. Though Wisconsin is an open-shop state only 22 scabs crossed the line.
* In a breakthrough for “gig workers” the Seattle City Council adopted an ordinance providing a path to collective bargaining for Uber and Lyft drivers–generally falsely categorized as “independent contractors.” Big battles by traditional taxi drivers against Uber are also raging in Toronto.

Year-End Fiscal Report
As regular readers know, KC Labor never charges for content, and doesn’t accept grants or paid advertising. That assures our independence.

But it doesn’t pay our bills—server and domain fees; high speed Internet service from unionized AT&T; our fifth desktop computer since going online in 2000; security software with file backup; pricey subscriptions to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and hardly worth the price, the Kansas City Star; and recently resuming use of iContact e-mail service.

Our sole source of income is voluntary support from readers. 2015 has been the best year in a long time. Thanks to a generous monthly pledge from a California reader, and a number of smaller one time contributions, donations have been more than enough to pay regular expenses without excessive digging in to my far from deep personal pockets.

But as you have probably guessed by now, I’m not about to tell you I don’t need more money. Some worthwhile expenses are irregular. On April 1, a couple of thousand or so labor activists from across the country—and world—will attend the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago. The plenaries and workshops will warrant reporting. I attend the transit worker caucus. For the last few of these biennial events KC Labor has had a visible presence with a literature and button table. A lot of names are collected for our e-mail list. Always I get to meet both new folks and regular readers. It’s well worth doing.

But this too takes money—above and beyond our normal expenses. There’s a fee for the table as well as a registration charge. Union printers have to be paid for literature and buttons. The hotel isn’t cheap. And, of course, train fare. It adds up to more than I can comfortably personally handle.

So I’m rattling the can and if you have anything to spare after seasonal gifts and other worthy causes your help would be greatly appreciated.

Just About a Wrap
Unless there is some unforeseen historic event, this will be the last WIR for 2015. As is my custom, I’m taking a couple of weeks off during the year-end holiday season. There will also be no new updates on our companion Labor Advocate news blog until January 4. However you mark the holidays–best to you and yours.

That’s all for this year.
————————————————-
The WIR is available by RSS
If you want to be on our new e-mail list send your name and e-mail address to:
billonasch@kclabor.org

You can follow Bill Onasch on Google+

Check out our digest of news stories about working class and climate issues, posted Monday-Friday by 9AM Central. on our companion Labor Advocate blog.

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Week In Review December 13

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review December 13
Dec 132015
 

by Bill Onasch

We’ll Always Have Paris
George Monbiot aptly summed up the agreement adopted by the COP21 climate summit in Paris–“By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

It will take a while to sort through all the implications in the 31-page deal adopted without dissent in an overtime session. Nearly all the delegates were like Minnie Pearl at the Grand Ole Opry—mighty proud to be here. Their self-congratulation at the end was prolonged.

Their enthusiasm was not shared by thousands of protesters in the streets of Paris. The French government that hosted COP had previously banned street demonstrations and violently dispersed one on the eve of the climate conclave. Last Monday, at a big Paris indoor event featuring a panel of trade unionists, Naomi Klein, and British Labor Party Shadow Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn, called for a mass march on Saturday with or without government blessing. The Hollande government avoided gassing a fellow socialist who might govern Britain some day by relaxing the ban just that once.

The Guardian reported another naysayer,

“Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former NASA scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanor changes. ‘It’s a fraud really, a fake,’ he says, rubbing his head….’It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.’”

The New York Times reported on other scientists who, perhaps less grumpy than Hansen were just as harsh critics,

“Scientists who are closely monitoring the climate negotiations said on Friday that the emerging agreement, and the national pledges incorporated into it, are still far too weak to ensure that humanity will avoid dangerous levels of climate change. The pledges, even if put in place in full, would result in emissions reductions perhaps half as large as those needed to meet a global goal of limiting planetary warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).”

2C is missed by more than a bit—estimates range from between 2.7-3C.

The fact that the 2C benchmark adopted at the Copenhagen summit six years ago is beyond reach did not stop the delegates from adopting a new goal of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This was solely a political gesture to demands from low-lying nations literally sinking below rising sea levels. It assured consensus—but no additional dry land.

There were undoubtedly more lawyers than scientists involved in the backroom negotiations. The overall text has been declared legally binding—but not the individual country emission goals. One claim that remains to be tested is text language that makes President Obama’s pledges bullet-proof against attack by the global warming deniers controlling Congress.

There were some retreats in commitments left over from the 2009 Copenhagen summit. For example, air travel and maritime shipping—two huge greenhouse emitters that have been expanding–are exempt from goals in the Paris deal. And, of course, no restrictions were imposed on the military as nearly constant bombing of Syria, for example, was conducted all through the conference by the U.S., Russian, British, and host France’s air forces.

Progress made on commitments by rich countries to assist poor ones with money and technology was nil. They pledge to raise 100 billion dollars a year for the next four years. That may sound like a lot but it’s the same figure promised in 2009 and less than the annual profits of the rich world’s energy companies. There was a report earlier in the week that government subsidies of fossil fuels are forty times greater than climate aid to poor countries. Reversing those numbers would be an easy way to make a bigger impact.

Al Gore, who to his credit did much to popularize climate change in the USA, was in attendance and reportedly visibly moved when the agreement was declared ratified. Now associated with green investments he had this to say,

“This universal and ambitious agreement sends a clear signal to governments, businesses, and investors everywhere: the transformation of our global economy from one fuelled by dirty energy to one fuelled by sustainable economic growth is now firmly and inevitably underway.”

Unlike most politicians, Gore understands climate science. But like virtually all the politicians of boss parties who ran the show in Paris, he remains convinced that the crisis can only be resolved by market incentives. Only if capitalists can make acceptable profits from sustainability will they do the right thing in their view.

While there are goals—not quotas—for reducing greenhouse emissions there is nothing in the agreement about a target for leaving fossil fuels in the ground. That is the central, nonnegotiable demand of the climate action movement for good reason.

I could find no mention of impact on workers jobs. As I argued in a recent article in Socialist Action, the demands for Just Transition, and Just Conversion, need to come to center stage. That was the main topic of the Paris public labor panel referred to earlier. Representatives from Britain, Colombia, Philippines, and USA talked about Just Transition movements developing in their countries.

Most climate activists didn’t expect adequate measures to come out of COP21. They projected a Road Through Paris. The WIR will be on that Road with them.

Still Not Ready For Prime Time?
If my high school Latin teacher was still among us he might well describe Donald J Trump as sui generis—strictly one of a kind. He is a brand—which he sells to anyone with big bucks no matter how shoddy or shady the scam. The real estate and entertainment deals that made him a billionaire sometimes went sideways—but it was always others who got stuck on the thorns while The Donald came out smelling like the proverbial rose. He appears born for television—as long as he controls the script, whether it be firing wannabe apprentices, hosting Saturday Night Live, or being interviewed by uppity women. Journalists of both genders and all media have found him to be a treasure trove of falsehoods in nearly every public statement. A majority of the public consider him a bigot. Some call him a fascist. His followers are convinced he will Make America Great Again as the next President of the United States.

Trump has openly appealed to racism, xenophobia, and bellicose pseudo-patriotism on a level not seen since the “segregation forever,” pro-war George Wallace Independent presidential run in 1968. While winning 13.5 percent of the vote, Wallace sounded very much like a fascist demagogue—I heard his venomous spiel at a crowd of thousands of disaffected whites at Kiel Auditorium in St Louis. But he was a one-hit wonder.

I’m judicious in applying the fascist label. Using the term as an epithet denouncing more conventional reactionaries is not helpful in defeating either. Trump blurts out open bigotry other politicians attempt to convey subliminally. Trump savages all Mexicans; but President Obama deported more of them than any other president. Even the cracked teapots are beginning to say Trump is not an acceptable nominee and have plans for a brokered convention, if necessary, to stop him.

The ruling class prefers a facade of democracy where the 99.9 percent voluntarily accept domination by the rest. Capital also needs a peaceful way to resolve their internal disputes. The boss class are mostly content to stay out of the limelight as they try to recruit the best and brightest to develop policies and select and retain politicians to run their two-party monopoly that ensures government works for them.

Fascism is a fall-back last resort when they feel imminently threatened by the working class taking political power. The German example of victorious fascism has been well described not only by scholars but also in popular language by such writers as William L Shirer, Len Deighton–and especially the commentary on Hitler’s rise as it happened by Leon Trotsky.

The bosses and bankers saw no need for fascism in 1968—and they don’t now. While promoting austerity for workers, they don’t want to weaken government—they want to use it to advance their agenda and they are fed up with mindless Republican obstructionism. In the last two presidential contests most of them backed the first African-American President. Next year they may ultimately line up to put the first woman in the White House.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the billionaire buffoon as a joke—like many Germans at first did with Hitler. Fascism remains a contingency plan for the American ruling class. Trump has shown skill in exploiting victims of a very sick society who find comfort in a brash promise of return to a mythical greatness. Trump has threatened to run as an independent if his party treats him “unfairly.”

But neither should we succumb to frantic “lesser evil” appeals to defeat Trumpism at all costs by uniting behind his Democrat adversaries. A majority of German voters thought they could stop Hitler by electing a nonpartisan venerable war hero, Field Marshal Hindenburg, president. But it was Hindenburg who not only appointed Hitler Chancellor but paved the way for the new super-position of Führer—a post that soon became synonymous with dictator.

The most effective way to nip incipient home grown fascism in the sprout is mobilizing working class solidarity. That means more than signing online petitions. It means putting boots and sandals on the street in defense of people of color, Muslims of all colors, immigrants from every land, women targeted by theocratic terrorists, LGBTs, who are our class sisters and brothers often literally under the gun today. We noted some promising examples in Minneapolis and Chicago in the last WIR—but much more needs to be done everywhere.

The ills of our society will not be cured by either charlatans like Donald J Trump or Wall Street’s friends such as Hillary Clinton. Both are culpable in their own style for palpable decline in our living standards and sense of security. We likely won’t be ready in time for next year’s election–but we can not afford to continue to accept the uncontested rule of our class enemy through their political monopoly. We urgently need a party of our own.

In Brief…
* Maybe the Godfather’s Heirs Next? Back in the day, Meyer Lansky was the head of the Jewish Mob and a childhood pal of Lucky Luciano. This dynamic duo not only retained a lot of American politicians but Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista as well. They ran some lucrative casinos, brothels, hotels and clubs in Cuba—until the revolution. The revolutionary government nationalized Lansky’s properties and cleaned them up a bit. Now Lansky’s heir wants the U.S. government to get him compensation from Havana for more than a a half-century of loss.
* The UE now has a national contract covering Renzenberger drivers in 14 rail yards in six states.

That’s all for this week.
————————————————-
The WIR is available by RSS

If you want to be on our new e-mail list send your name and e-mail address to:
billonasch@kclabor.org

You can follow Bill Onasch on Google+

Check out our digest of news stories about working class and climate issues, posted Monday-Friday by 9AM Central. on our companion Labor Advocate blog.

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member