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January 2013, Week 3

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Canadian Energy Workers to Oppose Keystone XL at
Labor and the Environment Meet Tomorrow

January 17 - New York

* Confronting the Climate Crisis: Can Labor Help
Shape an Effective Strategy? 

The Joseph S. Murphy Institute at CUNY and the
Worker Institute at Cornell invite you to a forum

Thursday, January 17 -- 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. . Media
briefing with David Coles begins at 10:30 a.m.

Speaking:

David Coles, president, Communications, Energy
and Paperworkers Union, Canada

Bhairavi Desai, executive director, New York Taxi
Workers Alliance

Hector Figueroa, president, Local 32BJ, Service
Employees International Union

Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard
Institute for Space Studies

Where: Murphy Institute, 25 West 43rd Street,
(between 5th and 6th Aves). 18th Floor City
University of New York (CUNY), New York

More information:

http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/workerinstitute/news/Climate-Crisis.html

RSVP to Eloiza Morales at 212-642-2029 or
[log in to unmask] .

The Murphy Institute is part of the School of
Professional Studies and The Graduate School,
CUNY

==========

* CEP President to Oppose Keystone XL in New York
City

January 16, 2013

OTTAWA - The National President of the
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union
of Canada (CEP) Dave Coles will be in New York City
to oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and
call on US President Barack Obama to reject the
project. President Coles will be part of a panel
discussion on the role of trade unions in
confronting the climate crisis organized by the
Worker Institute at Cornell and the Joseph S.
Murphy Institute at CUNY.

"As Canada's largest energy union, CEP has always
believed strongly that the climate crisis must be
addressed in the most pressing terms," said Coles.
"It is why we oppose export pipelines such as
Keystone XL that sell off our oil resources and kill
jobs in the process."

CEP believes that it is necessary to transition away
from fossil energies by reducing emissions and
investing in green energies while ensuring a just
transition for energy workers and their
communities. President Dave Coles will represent
Canada's energy workers and share this vision
during the event in New York.

Dave Coles will be available for comment before or
after the speaking event. Full event details available
here.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers
Union of Canada is the largest union in several key
sectors of Canada's economy, including forestry,
energy, telecommunications and media. CEP
represents some 35,000 members employed in oil
and gas extraction, transportation, refining, and
conversion in the petrochemical and plastics
sectors, and 120,000 members in total.

==========

* Labor and the Environment

by Roger Toussaint, President of Transport Workers
Union, Local 100 NY (2001-2009)

January 14, 2013

Published by Portside

[Submitted to Portside as part of the discussion in
the labor movement around issues of global
warming and climate change. Confronting the
Climate Crisis: Can Labor Help Shape an Effective
Strategy? Forum - Jan. 17 - New York - more details
below.]

The question of labor's role on matters of the
environment, which is the focus of this week's
forum in New York, is beyond timely. So much so
that there is a question of whether there is still time
for labor to play a leading role on this front, or
whether its opportunity has passed.   One could
argue that while organized labor can help with a
path forward, it has missed too many opportunities,
resulting in diminished capacity, if not inability, to
play a leading role.  We can all, of course, play
pretend. But any proper evaluation needs to include
demystifying labor's current predicament; not just
for its historical lessons, but also and especially in
order to understand the depth of labor's crisis and
the challenge ahead, lest we give the underlying
problems a new lease on life.

In the last several years, with few exceptions, we
have seen a studied refusal and failure by most of
organized labor to really lead on issues of the
environment.  So much so that organized labor has
tolerated open alliances between unions and coal,
big oil and energy, often financed by industry, along
with direct threats, intimidation and blacklisting
against critics and detractors.  The bullying and
attacks by the top leadership of Laborers
International against union and community critics
of the Keystone XL project being just one of the
more outrageous examples. Opportunities for growth
in a new economy went largely ignored even as
complaints about the shrinking size of unionized
labor grew.

When one considers the failures that have been the
hallmark of the decline of the influence, power and
density of organized labor, the failure to act boldly
on the climate crisis and environmental justice
should be counted among its gravest determining
overall failures, along with immigration (despite
some effort ) and income inequality (unemployment
and underemployment). Because these crises have
been such a force in shaping present day American
political reality, and because labor's failures on
these fronts have been repeated and sustained for
such a long duration (at least the past three
decades), organized labor's capacity to play a leading
role in addressing them is at least questionable.

The bleak future confronted by organized labor was
shaped through decades of trials and challenges
thrown up since at least the 1970s, if not before,
especially as Reaganism, Thatcherism and the
disasters of neo-liberalism all came center stage.  As
for progressives, too many of us spent decades doing
hard work that in the end only gave license to and
propped up politically backward and even
reactionary leadership rather than securing their
political defeat.

Coming out of the 1960s and into the 1970s, labor
was confronted with the challenge, opportunity and
necessity to reinvent itself by catching up with the
changing realities and placing itself at the helm of
emerging forces of, and for, change.  Instead we saw
years of avoidance, neglect and outright complicity
as labor went into radio silence, looked the other
way or took the wrong side as a culture of ridiculing
the unemployed, the poor and less fortunate
penetrated deep into the workforce and shop floor;
as blaming and targeting immigrants also became
standard even in America's urban centers; and as
the environmental crisis was increasingly
abandoned to "tree huggers" and "whale savers".
There were enormous historic opportunities missed,
with accompanying long term consequences. It is
hardly fortuitous that organized labor was among
the last to recognize the ascendancy of the Obama
presidency.  And while labor putted on what to do in
the summer/fall of 2011, directing  its affiliates to
conduct "Accountability summers" (!?!), America's
youth Occupied Wall Street  throwing laser focus on
the inequality of a society run for the benefit of the
1% to the neglect of the 99%.  In both instances the
teenagers of our own households were way ahead of
us, demonstrating that their fingers were on the
pulse of the population and displaying a capacity for
vision.

But, over decades, each of the above three fronts
presented openings for labor to anchor itself as the
conscience and champion of the interests of the
broadest segment of the population and for labor to
grow, build capacity and insulate itself for the
future.  But absent ideological commitment, vision
and will fell short.  An honest look at last few
decades leads to a tough question:  Does organized
labor today possess the capacity to provide vision
and real leadership for the future or will that
capacity have to come from elsewhere, with labor
playing, at best, an ancillary role.

If the latter turns out to more accurately capture the
present state of affairs, its important that we not be
caught looking in the wrong direction and get run
over, while wasting precious energy and resources.

There are a few basics. One of the first conditions
needs to be a straightforward and dispassionate
reckoning with the failures of organized labor,
including those of our predecessors.  One of the
common threads to the challenges we have failed is
in the treatment of our obligations to the poor, even
the working poor, in our communities and beyond.
This failure in particular threatens the survival of
organized labor itself. It has contributed to
organized labor's weak cohesion, relative isolation
and lack of awareness or concern about the longer
term impact of its policies, actions and inaction. In
short, we failed to appreciate the importance of
basic solidarity.

This ingredient made the changing world of work
invisible or irrelevant to us and our efforts
unresponsive to it.   The forces and leadership of the
future will have to treat standing up for the common
good of the majority as bedrock. And by that we do
not mean the unsustainable, wishy-washy,
condescending, liberal version of the safety net and
of caring for the underprivileged, devoid of
empowerment as well as of accountability and
responsibility.  Instead, we mean dynamic and
sustainable solidarity.

This building block persists, even despite our
failures, in pockets, and even as we  search for next
steps forward.  It is reflected in the myriad of non-
traditional sector organizing efforts of recent years;
in the waves of immigrant protests; then from
Wisconsin to OWS, and in the against-the odds
organizing successes against Walmart, McDonald's
and other retailers employing immigrant and poor
workers. The disproportionate impact of and
responses to Hurricane Sandy based on community
and income level are reminders of battles,
challenges and opportunities which the climate and
environmental justice movements present for
progressives.

As the two are closely linked, the battle over the
environment requires an open, unapologetic fight
not only against the direct allies of big oil and
energy within, but also against the trade union
status quo.

[Roger Toussaint led Local 100 in NY, the countries
largest transit local union, for nine years between
2001 and 2009 and was the leader of the Dec 2005
Transit strike which shut down the City of New
York.]

___________________________________________

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