by Bill Onasch
UE Knows It Matters
I didn’t gasp when I read this comment by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post,
“With some exceptions, progressive lawmakers and the liberal commentariat have been passive and acquiescent toward the secret spying programs, which would have infuriated the left had they been the work of a Republican administration.”
There has also been almost total silence in labor media about the documented exposure last week of top secret domestic intelligence gathering, with access to virtually all telecommunications in this country. Considering the long Cold War history of collaboration between many top union officials with the FBI and CIA, at home and abroad, I can’t say this lack of comment shocked me.
Nor was I surprised by an honorable exception from an exceptional union to which I once proudly belonged–the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE). The UE Political Action Director, aka Capitol Hill Shop Steward, my old friend Chris Townsend, posted an excellent article on the UE site, Why Government Spying and Surveillance Revelations Matter to Working People.
Townsend begins reviewing the latest revelations about PRISM as well as earlier exposures of the public/private partnership creating an Orwellian Big Brother on digital steroids. He clearly nails this as a bipartisan encroachment on basic democratic rights.
A handful of journalists are doing that much and that’s all well and good. But Townsend has absorbed the rich history of his union and also explains the class aspect to this stealth war on the Bill of Rights. He writes,
“UE has historically resisted and denounced the destructive role that unaccountable and secret government agencies and their conduct always have on the Constitutional and union rights of working people. During the repressive McCarthyite period UE stood strong against the political and security hysteria of the day. Countless UE leaders, members and their families were victimized in the ‘dirty decade’ of the 1950’s, and today all credible observers will confess that we were correct to resist even under the difficult conditions of that time. Sound union principles again led our union to confront runaway state power only one week after the horrific 9-11 attacks. In 2001, delegates to the 66th UE National Convention went on record to caution that, ‘…there is a heightened danger that politicians will cynically use the legitimate anger and anxiety of the American people to seek new curtailment of our civil liberties.’ At the time UE was virtually alone among unions in our criticism of what grew into the ‘Homeland Security’ frenzy, but looking back our caution was — if anything — reserved and understated. Our union has spoken out on this critical issue repeatedly since then, sounding the alarm bell for all of organized labor. The 72nd UE National Convention held in September 2011 likewise resolved that our civil liberties must not be lost in the security stampede drummed-up by politicians and corporations, and we warned that surveillance tools given to the government can, and will, be used against law abiding working people.”
Townsend promises this issue will again be a central topic of the upcoming UE convention in Chicago August 25 – August 29. He closes,
“Regaining our freedoms and liberties from the government agencies and corporations who have usurped them will take individual and collective action by all of us. Spending the time to investigate the extent of these crimes must be the order of the day for all working people, and a willingness to challenge the politicians and corporations who have allowed — or condoned — this assault on our democracy looms ahead as a necessary task.”
It’s worth reading all of Townsend’s article. And it’s worth spreading that message far and wide among working people.
No Country Left Behind
Commenting on an annual report of the International Energy Agency Steven Mufson opens a Washington Post article,
“Global emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use rose 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatons in 2012, setting a record and putting the planet on course for temperature increases well above international climate goals, the International Energy Agency said in a report scheduled to be issued Monday. The agency said continuing that pace could mean a temperature increase over pre-industrial times of as much as 5.3 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit), which IEA chief economist Fatih Birol warned ‘would be a disaster for all countries.’”
Considering this increase comes in the midst of widespread and still growing conversion of power plants from dirtiest coal to relatively cleaner natural gas it would seem to be time to issue a red threat level. The goal of the now expiring Kyoto Protocols was to limit global warming to a planetary average of two degrees C above pre-industrial. The volume of greenhouse gases already discharged makes that objective unobtainable.
Some boast that U.S. energy emissions have declined in four of the last five years. Europe’s discharges are down as well. They point the finger at China, whose carbon pollution from energy rose 3.8 percent last year and that economy is responsible for a quarter of all of the world’s greenhouse gases from all sources.
China is climate ground zero. But what is ignored is that a substantial part of their economy is contracting with U.S. firms for not only consumer items but more and more capital goods as well. Not only was work and jobs shifted from the USA but also pollution of all kinds, above all greenhouse gases. That’s why China is number one, with India and Brazil racing to climate doomsday as well, while American capital remains content to be per capita champ due to our prodigious and wasteful consumption.
A Saturday AP dispatch begins,
“Efforts to curb global warming have quietly shifted as greenhouse gases inexorably rise. The conversation is no longer solely about how to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions. It’s becoming more about how to save ourselves from the warming planet’s wild weather. It was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement last week of an ambitious plan to stave off New York City’s rising seas with flood gates, levees and more that brought this transition into full focus. After years of losing the fight against rising global emissions of heat-trapping gases, governments around the world are emphasizing what a U.N. Foundation scientific report calls ‘managing the unavoidable.’”
This approach is as cold as our planet is hot. It is an attempt to maintain the status quo for the present generation of wealthy while condemning today’s poor and future generations of all classes. There is no way to sustain human civilization as we know it on track to an average global temperature increase of nine degrees Fahrenheit.
Carbon emissions can be curbed while providing decent living standards for all. Powerful clean renewable energy is available virtually everywhere on our planet free of charge. We only have to utilize existing proven technology to tap and distribute solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal power. Doing so would also provide full employment for generations to come–and extend the sustainability of humanity on Earth far beyond our agonizing decline that either inaction and/or “adaptation” guarantee.
Climate disaster is not yet unavoidable but the window for halting global warming is closing faster than once thought. The obstacle to taking the needed available steps is global capital that is tenaciously vested in enormously profitable fossil and nuclear energy sources.
Pushing that roadblock aside is not a task for climate scientists. It’s the job of the working class–the only force with the muscle and material interest to successfully challenge a ruling class leading us to destruction. It’s high time we get moving.
* Dave Bernt, a younger generation activist in Chicago Teamsters Local 705 I’ve come to know and respect, has a very good piece on the Socialist Action site analyzing the tentative union agreement now being debated by UPS members.
* 1,200 St Louis Metro bus operators, MetroLink light rail drivers, mechanics and clerical workers, members of ATU Local 788, have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike after management walked away from mediation last week. Their current contract expired on June 30, 2009, and the workers had already agreed to two extensions – the last of which ended in January 2011. Over that same period the workers’ wages have stagnated while health care and pension costs have increased.
* From the New York Times, “Protests by an increasingly forceful movement coalescing against increases in bus fares shook Brazil’s two largest cities on Thursday night, the fourth time in a week that activists have taken to the streets in demonstrations that have been marked by clashes with security forces.”
* BLS reports confirm the success of job creators. In pre-recession 2007 only 1.7 million workers earned minimum wage or less. Today that number has swollen to 3.8 million with millions more earning only marginally better pay. Brief strikes and demonstrations by such workers at Walmart and fast food chains continue in many areas.
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That’s all for this week.