by Bill Onasch
At Least the Catering Should Be Good
Marlowe Hood opened a July 18 AFP story,
“Foreign and environment ministers and other high-level officials from 45 countries are set to gather in Paris Monday seeking to re-energize climate talks mired in technical details and political squabbling. Just four months ahead of a UN conference in the French capital tasked with producing a historic climate pact, US scientists this week said 2014 was a record year for sea level rise, land temperatures, and the greenhouse gases that drive dangerous global warming. But overwhelming consensus on the urgency of the problem has not translated into significant progress on united action to prevent the planet from overheating.”
The referenced American findings are based on contributions from 413 scientists in 58 countries and include detailed data updates on numerous global climate indicators—virtually all bad news.
Suzanne Goldenberg wrote in the Guardian,
“Global sea-level also reached a record high, with the expansion of those warming waters, keeping pace with the 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year trend in sea level growth over the past two decades, the report said. Scientists said the consequences of those warmer ocean temperatures would be felt for centuries to come – even if there were immediate efforts to cut the carbon emissions fuelling changes in the oceans. ‘I think of it more like a fly wheel or a freight train. It takes a big push to get it going but it is moving now and will continue to move long after we continue to pushing it,’ Greg Johnson, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, told a conference call with reporters. ‘Even if we were to freeze greenhouse gases at current levels, the sea would actually continue to warm for centuries and millennia, and as they continue to warm and expand the sea levels will continue to rise,’ Johnson said.”
Ongoing tracking of surface temperatures were released Monday showing 2015 to be hotter yet and June was the hottest month ever in recorded history.
Certainly some of the impacts of these trends—droughts, wildfires, flash floods—are headline news but the science explaining their cause contained in these reports not so much. The mainstream media in the USA was instead focused on hanging on every word of GOP presidential front runner Donald Trump; a video slandering Planned Parenthood made by “Right-to-Life” crooks fraudulently posing as representatives of a bio-science company; and promotion of Israeli condemnation of a deal with Iran. They reckon we won’t think about what we don’t know about. That’s why we have to rely on sources based elsewhere, such as AFP, Aljazeera, and the Guardian, even for details of a definitive report compiled by our own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While “technical details and political squabbling” are palpable obstacles to meaningful action they are symptoms–not the core malignancy posing a mortal threat to our biosphere. The bickering is inevitable as long as the futile goal is trying to contain the damage from Global Warming without harming Global Capitalism.
Assuring an ecologically sustainable future for human civilization will require changes in energy production, transportation, housing, and agriculture on a scale far beyond the capabilities of a market economy. Only governments engaged in international collaboration can effectively do the job. It means planning not for corporate profits but for the health of our planet and all creatures great and small upon it. It will be action united not by consensus of the climate wreckers but through the assertion of the worker and farmer majority of humanity.
Unions and working class parties throughout Europe will play a major role in mass demonstrations in Paris before, during, and after the COP21 climate summit November 30-December 11. There is some union participation in preliminary discussions about national and regional mass actions in North America as well.
A friend in the Bay Area has been sending me information about the progress of the Northern California Climate Mobilization. In an e-mail blast they say,
“Please join us for this third planning meeting aimed to coordinate a mass march and rally in the East Bay on November 21st as a lead up to and the Paris UN COP21 climate meeting (Nov 30 – Dec 11). We are activists from various groups who organized the Northern California People’s Climate Rally in Oakland on September 21, 2014, in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in New York on the same date. Based on discussions at our first two meetings we have drafted points of unity for our coalition…”
Among their unifying demands are Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground and 100 Percent Clean, Safe, Renewable Energy. The venue for their planning meeting is the SEIU Local 1021 Hall in Oakland. This 54,000 member public sector Local has a Climate Justice page on their website.
SEIU is among the few unions, along with AFSCME, ATU, and National Nurses United, who have mobilized for past climate actions. They could do more and it’s high time the rest of the labor movement heeds the warnings from science. We will not win the battle for climate justice without the heavy battalions of organized labor. Preach!
A Victory Substantial, Incomplete, Tentative
Last Thursday, demonstrators on the steps of City Hall greeted Kansas City MO’s City Council members as they arrived for a Noon session to finally take a vote on a municipal minimum wage. A victory rally was scheduled for 3PM. But waiting advocates for the working poor were kept baking in a 100+ heat index until after 5 before the vote was taken. After more than two months of palaver the city’s first local minimum was approved 12-1.
What makes this breakthrough tentative is certain court challenges by the other NRA—the National Restaurant Association—and other supersized exploiters. Such suits have been rejected in other cities—but you never know.
The new law—if it survives employer litigation—will mean significant raises for tens of thousands of low wage workers in Kansas City. Credit for this victory belongs solely to the mobilization of those workers themselves who, with impressive solidarity from unions, civil rights groups, churches, and Jobs with Justice, won the battle for public opinion.
But they deserved more. They had submitted a petition signed by thousands of registered voters calling for a 15 dollar minimum wage such as has been won in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, among other cities. The Council rejected the petition and instead, under the guidance of Mayor Sly James, whittled down its demands. The new ordinance falls short of the 15 dollar minimum.
According to the the City’s official website, the new progression will start this August 24 at 8.50. That will be followed by annual January 1 raises in 2017 to 9.82; 2018 10.96; 2019 11.98; 2020 13.00. After 2020 there will be annual cost-of-living adjustments based on the CPI-W. Workers under age 18 will not be covered.
While understandably disappointed with the stinginess of the Council most Fight for 15 activists correctly see their achievement as a victory. The local NPR station KCUR noted this view by a leader of an SEIU-backed Fast Food worker organization,
“….low-wage workers and advocates at the vote were thrilled. Dana Whitman of Stand Up KC said that the advocate group will continue to protest in favor of workers. ‘$13 an hour is a decent start, but we’re fighting for $15,’ Whitman said. ‘We’re also fighting for the right to form a union. We’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep organizing, [and] we’re going to keep striking until we get that.’”
In the vernacular of my youth—right on, Brother! In my opinion, treating the partial victory as a down payment while pursuing collection in full is spot on. So is the two front approach of union organizing while advancing a livable minimum wage. The win in Kansas City will undoubtedly inspire those in a similar fight on the other side of the state in St Louis.
In fact such actions are underway across the country. My friend Ann Montague, an SEIU retiree activist in Oregon, has posted a useful update on the Socialist Action site. Since she wrote her article hundreds marched on City Hall in Minneapolis demanding a 15 minimum for that city.
The low wage workers continue to be the most combative sector of the American working class—and they are winning some real gains. They deserve our solidarity—and merit emulation.
That’s all for this week.
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