Week In Review
A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
July 29, 2008
This is a late, if not late breaking, brief review as I return to my office after four days on the road. We resumed updating of the Daily Labor News Digest this morning.
A Green Surprise
Teamsters president Jim Hoffa had long been a strong advocate for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Teamsters in the past have lobbied hard in congress, and paid for newspaper ads, favoring intruding in this pristine area. They, and their now wholly owned subsidiary Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, have been part of a coalition with bosses pushing drilling.
So many were shocked when Hoffa, speaking at an Oakland “summit” on good jobs and clean air said,
“We are not going to drill our way out of the energy problems we are facing—not here and not in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge....We must find a long-term approach that breaks our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the development of alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.
“If we are to prosper as a nation, our future lies in a green economy,” he said. “But it’s up to us to help define the rules of that new green economy. A green economy means we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it means creating good union jobs in America’s growing industries.”
Hoffa also announced the IBT was leaving the ANWR drilling coalition.
I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of brother Hoffa. But, whatever his motives, this sharp reversal in Teamster policy is welcome and he deserves recognition for the move. He got that from the Sierra Club,
“The Sierra Club and the environmental movement applaud your announcement and look forward to building a powerful movement together—a movement that helps workers, protects the environment, prevents global warming and rebuilds our economy with good, green jobs,” said Greg Haegele, the Sierra Club’s Director of Conservation. “We are proud to stand here today, as allies and friends of the Teamsters.”
Last Sunday there was a Rally for Green Jobs in St Paul, sponsored by the Steelworkers and Sierra Club. USW vice-president Fred Redmond said,
“Today we recognize that global warming has emerged as a significant threat to the stability of union jobs in the coming years. We have concluded that the environment is an essential union issue. In the same way that globalization and trade are essential union issues, so is the environment.
“If we are to be successful in pursuing a world that is more economically just and sustainable in the long term, then environmental work must be part of the mission of our work in the union, every day and at every level of the union.”
You said a mouthful there, brother. Now it’s time to start building on this growing sentiment in the labor movement to hammer out a working class program of policy and action.
More Food for Thought
UE president John Hovis, and my old friend Chris Townsend, UE political action director, have submitted a thoughtful contribution to the discussion of labor’s future, Rank and File Activism: A Viable Alternative.
I will comment on their views, and a number of others, in a special article that will appear on the Labor Day weekend.
No Human Being Is Illegal
That slogan is also the title of an excellent article by another old friend, Peter Rachleff. It’s a concise summary of both the history and current status of the immigration issue for the working class in this country.
We’ll get back to regular schedule–and length–Sunday.
That’s all for this week.
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