Week In Review
A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
January 23, 2012
I had been running late, fine-tuning my take on the coming showdown in Port Longview, Washington between the ILWU and the EGT grain terminal/NLRB/Federal Courts/Coast Guard. Then I got word that the Governor of Washington has brokered a tentative, still incomplete settlement between EGT and the union. As I write, no details are available. So, I’m going to scrub the better part of a day’s work and defer comments until next time.
Corporate Bully Dozers
That’s what one sign read at a Saturday rally in London, Ontario described by the CBC,
“Thousands of union workers from across Ontario rallied in London on Saturday as they called for an end to the three-week-old lockout at the Electro-Motive plant — a contract dispute that could have major ramifications for trade unions across Canada.
“Waving placards and chanting slogans condemning corporate greed, the protesters in Victoria Park demanded an end to the lockout of nearly 500 workers at the plant, which is owned by American heavy-equipment giant Caterpillar”
In addition to a number of prominent Canadian union leaders, and feisty remarks by the Mayor of London, the rally heard greetings from UE Local 506 President Roger Zaczyk, representing the General Electric (GE) locomotive plant in Erie, Pennsylvania.
I only met Rick Peduzzi once in person but I have been an admirer of the work that he did for the UE over the last 25 years. His title when he died from a stroke last week at the age of 56 was director of special projects. During his time with the union he also pulled together impressive educational materials for UE officers, stewards and members and launched and maintained the best national union website in the USA. You can read more about his accomplishments on the UE site by clicking here.
And Purple Prose
I wasn’t surprised at the response of the Sierra Club to President Obama’s sequestering of the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. CEO Michael Brune told Business Week that the President’s stand was a “huge victory” and “We’re confident that the Sierra Club volunteers who were working and volunteering countless hours in 2008 will feel the same way.”
Wendy Abrams, a member of several environmental group boards who raised big bucks for the Obama campaign in 2008, told BW that “rallying her friends around the president would have been hard if he had approved the pipeline. She said Obama’s decision shows that he’s not ‘in the pocket of big oil’.”
The majority of the Blue Green Alliance unions declared, “President Obama has acted wisely. Addressing global climate change, establishing sustainable and secure energy sources and creating and retaining safe and family-supportive jobs are keys to a positive future.”
They did have their dissenter, however. As a parting shot while leaving the Alliance, Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers Union International, said Obama should hug a jobless construction worker instead of hugging a tree and vowed “Blue collar construction workers across the U.S. will not forget this.”
These reactions from those who have long subordinated the interests of the labor and environmental movements to the electoral needs of the Democrats were expected. My outrage has been numbed over the years. But I have to admit disappointment with the reaction of Bill McKibben, an effective popularizer of climate change issues and the principal initiator and organizer of the impressive mass actions against XL. He wrote on the 350.org website shortly after the President’s announcement,
“Assuming that what we're hearing is true, this isn't just the right call, it's the brave call. The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he's too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact 'huge political consequences,' he's stood up strong.”
McKibben does acknowledge the XL fight is not over. He correctly identifies Big Oil as the driving force and calls for keeping the pressure on. But he does a disservice to these efforts he has done so much to promote by telling us Obama is really on our side and we need to thank him and watch his back.
Climate & Capitalism posted a Press Action story this morning headlined Why Do Pale Green NGOs Support Obama? Commenting on Obama’s “brave” XL stand they say,
“This is the same president who in his rejection of the presidential permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL crude oil pipeline on January 18 emphasized that the rejection was not based on the merits of the project, but the ‘arbitrary nature’ of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information ‘necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.’”
Despite the fact that little has changed to improve stricter regulation since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, this President “not in the pocket of Big Oil” has approved most requests for new oil drilling offshore and in Alaska.
The President’s envoy stonewalled any international agreement on climate change at COP 17 in Durban.
The West Wing smiled approvingly on a Federal judge ruling that the state of Vermont lacked authority to shut down the accident prone Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
Fracking has thrived during this administration.
Other backward environmental steps by the White House include:
* The September 2011 withdrawal
of tougher new ground-level ozone standards drafted by the EPA
* Last May decided to delay a rule that would cut emissions from power plants at major industrial facilities.
* In March 2011 opened a large part of Wyoming to coal mining.
The Pale Greens, like their union leader cousins, will soon be absorbed in reelecting their “friend.” Add four more years of a lame duck Obama and there won’t be much left to defend of either our biosphere or economy. Certainly the Republicans are not the answer either. It’s time to rally our forces around class & climate justice and I’d suggest a different color.
That’s all for this week.
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