Friday, July 23, 2021

Wolff Responds: Not Labor Shortage but CLASS Struggle


 What Wolff describes here is laying the foundation for huge class battles ahead. Biden's aggressive posturing with regard to ------Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and anywhere else where US imperialism finds unfavorable ground, losing ground with regard to its main competitor, China----is a product of the weakened influence of US imperialism on the world stage and the crisis of US capitalism at home.

The crisis is a crisis of global capitalism and the Chinese Stalinist regime will be facing huge battles ahead also. There are already hundreds of thousands of protests and confrontations between the state and the Chinese working class both urban and rural.  The Chinese working class is hundreds of millions strong. 

If ever the time was ripe for a global working class movement against capitalism it is now. We saw a small example of global solidarity among workers and the oppressed in relation to the security state violence that began with the opposition to the murder of black people in the US by the police.

There is, alongside this crisis of the economic system and its political superstructure, a crisis affecting the working classes of the world that delays the global fightback and prolongs suffering and that is the lack of a leadership globally. Yes, I believe leadership matters. RM
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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Afghanistan: bullied, bombed, betrayed

Facts For Working People share this article from the Freedom Socialist Party website

Afghan women wait for tokens needed to apply for Pakistani visas, after others were killed in a stampede in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2020. PHOTO: Parwiz / Reuters

August 2021

The corporate media was forced to admit the obvious by early July. Even before U.S. troops left Afghanistan, the reactionary Islamist Taliban that their invasion overthrew had retaken huge swaths of the country. After 20 years and over $2 trillion spent, Washington faced a massive failure with nothing to show for it but death and destruction.

What apologists for U.S. barbarism avoided at all costs was a tally of the devastation or the lies used to justify it. Corrupt collaboration government officials and their allies have looted the country. Not only the Taliban, but also al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh), are stronger than ever.

It will be up to the Left in Afghanistan, the U.S., and around the world to draw the lessons of this history and back the fight of the Afghan people for a better future.

Lies, corruption and imperial hubris. The invasion of Afghanistan after al-Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, was always built on fabrications. The “war on terror,” like the “war on communism” before it, was a handy excuse for attacks on whatever targets served U.S. geopolitical interests.

The invasion was not to free the women of Afghanistan or install democracy, as advertised. It was about political hegemony over this key country at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia — and about war profiteering. Now Washington’s relations with countries surrounding the “Graveyard of Empires” are worse than ever. The only success was enriching the enormous military industry.

In late 2019, the Washington Post printed the Afghanistan papers, some 600 interviews with insiders to the occupation. They revealed how Republican and Democratic administrations alike systematically lied about the huge sums wasted on corruption and empty “development” schemes. The total failure to bring peace or prosperity was well known but covered up.

Throughout, war crimes were committed with impunity by U.S. and NATO forces and their installed government (See “War crimes and civilian casualties in Afghanistan,” by Left Radical of Afghanistan, or LRA). Barack Obama explicitly declined to investigate George W. Bush’s policy of widespread prisoner torture. In November 2019, Donald Trump had the gall to pardon two soldiers for war crimes, one convicted in U.S. courts and another before even standing trial.

Devastation wrought. According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University, some 241,000 people have died in Afghanistan and Pakistan due directly to the violence of the war. Several times that number have died from lack of food and water or other indirect causes. Among the dead are more than 71,000 civilians, 78,000 Afghan soldiers, and 84,000 opposition fighters. The deaths of U.S. and NATO troops and military contractors number 7,522. Tens of thousands on all sides have been wounded.

There are 2.7 million UN-registered Afghan refugees. Most are stuck in camps with no hope of permanent settlement. Over 2 million people are internally displaced within the country.

Eteraz monthly is a collaboration by Afghan radicals, including LRA. Recent journal articles describe dire conditions for women and youth. Violence against women is at an all-time high, not only in rural areas dominated by Islamist forces, but also in large cities under government control.

Women and girls are not allowed to go to school in Taliban-controlled areas. Media reports say that three female journalists, a woman physician and two female judges have been assassinated since the beginning of 2021. In May, a school bombing in Kabul killed 85 girls, most of them Hazara Shiites, an ethnic and religious minority.

As for youth, Eteraz reports that about 70% of the population is under the age of 22, and schools have been closed throughout the country during the war. Many Afghans are illiterate, and the numbers are much higher for women and young people. All the factions in conflict, including the government, target unemployed and impoverished youth for recruitment. With an unemployment rate estimated at 72%, options are few beyond taking up arms, getting into the opium trade, or attempting to flee the country.

A Taliban takeover or civil war seems imminent. Either way, women and religious and ethnic minorities are in serious peril.

Looking forward. Even by the probably rosy estimates of the Pentagon, the Taliban took over a third of the country between the beginning of May and early July. The U.S. played a key role in creating the disaster it is backing away from. To engineer the overthrow of a Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Washington funded the mujahideen (precursors to the Taliban), spawning the spread of right-wing Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region. Now it and its NATO allies are cutting their losses and leaving Afghans to pick up the pieces.

In early July, defiant women took up that challenge. Demonstrations of hundreds of women armed with assault rifles broke out in the north and central areas where the Taliban have been conquering territory and reinstituting heavy misogynist restrictions. The Guardian quoted a marcher who is head of the women’s directorate of Ghor province saying that while some women’s protest may have been symbolic, others “were ready to go to the battlefields.”

Afghan women, youth and poor people, and the Left that defends them, urgently require international solidarity, especially from socialists in the imperialist heartland. People in the U.S. can begin by demanding that their government pay war reparations and provide real reconstruction aid, no strings attached, to Afghanistan!

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Union History: Don’t Give Away Your Sick Leave Benefits

Image source
Richard Mellor

Afscme Local 444, retired



Some labor history focusing on workplace struggles and contract battles. One of the major issues in dispute on the job as far as my activism was concerned was the issue of sick leave. At least we had it, a benefit of working in the public sector but one time when we filled out a sick leave slip at work, we had to say what we were sick with. Of course, “sick of being at work” is not a valid reason, so people would write headache, stomach upset or whatever. We fought that on the basis that we were not doctors and were not qualified to say what caused us to feel sick that day. There were all other issues around it including how long we had to be off before seeing a doctor. Also the employer dealt with what they call sick leave abuse in a very arbitrary fashion. We didn’t like them having an average use by which they determine abuse. It’s not rocket science to recognize that historically the boss wants you at work all the time and certainly doesn’t want to pay you when sick


The US has one of the worst sick leave (mostly no sick leave) programs in the advanced capitalist economies. We came out of our strike in 1985 with a Sick Leave Verification Program to deal with "abuse" that was adequate. But, contracts are very temporary things as the tendency of the boss is to violate it as soon as the ink is dry. The best defender of rights we have on the job is the worker ourselves. Don’t start work early, don’t violate rules that protect you and the union as a whole and so on. Years later my employer was undermining our negotiated sick leave verification program and  by that time we had a family sick leave provision the usage of which was not subject to verification of abuse. I was retired a year or so but wanted to make sure my co-workers understood what we had and that they should defend it which sometimes means a struggle against your own leadership on many occasions.


This is the history of my local’s sick leave struggles during my years active and I wrote it in order to help members in the defense of their sick leave rights. I am sure other rank and file activists like myself in other workplaces and industries have similar experiences as we did. Perhaps you will find this interesting reading as well.


Don’t Give Away Your Sick Leave Benefits


Some History on Sick leave Verification (SLVP)


Before I retired from the District in 2004 there was an ongoing attempt by the District to weaken Article 16 (sick leave) of Local 444’s contract.  The District’s main concern was sick leave verification.  The problem for the District was the clause in Local 444’s contract; in 2003 it was 16.1.6 and in various contracts has been titled, “Limitations”. It has consistently prevented the District from arbitrarily imposing discipline and restrictions on sick leave use, unless the Union agrees to it.


In the last contract that I have, 1997-2003, 16.1.6 states, “A doctor’s certificate indicating time under a doctor’s care, approval for return to work, and any work limitations is required if sick leave extends to ten (10) consecutive workdays or more.”


The only difference between the language here and the corresponding language in the 1974-76 Local 444 contract is that the number five changes to 10. (Article 16 section 1F, Limitations)


It can’t get any clearer than that.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO BRING A DOCTORS SLIP UNTIL YOU ARE SICK FOR THE TENTH DAY.  That has been the case from 1985 until fairly recently.  The exception to this was if the employee was on the District’s Sick leave verification program.  The problem, particularly in the past 10 years or so, is that the SLVP, introduced in its present form after negotiations in 1985, is too restrictive for the District, it doesn’t allow them a free enough hand.


History of the SLVP post 1985

Prior to 1985 there were numerous letters of discipline and warnings issued to Local 444 members that also informed them that their sick leave was excessive and that any further use of sick leave would have to be “verified”. Local 444 members were also told to bring in doctor’s slips despite being off sick less than five days.  Sick leave verification was also an issue with 2019 members in the Lab at SD1 and it is no coincidence that most ,or all, of this 2019 unit stayed out with Local 444.


At this point in time, the District’s definition of “abuse” was not clearly formulated as confirmed by Don Crum’s memo to Phil Utic and Pete Mitchell dated 10-26-84.  Crum advocated using the District’s annual sick leave average which at that time was seven days.  This issue was an ongoing one with the District at this time.


The Union, some folks like Richard Mellor, Kathy Cheetham, Wayne Tomasek and Joe Montoya among others, Filed grievances under article XV1-1F of the 1982-85 contract which stated (you guessed it) “A doctor’s certificate indicating time under a doctor’s care, approval for return to work, and any work limitations is required if sick leave extends to ten (5) consecutive workdays or more.”


District’s Defense

The District tried to dodge this powerful clause and claimed that it had the right to verify sick leave any time it wanted and cited another sentence in the famed sick leave clause that states, “All sick leave use is subject to review, verification, and approval by the District” This sentence was in the 1974-76 contract and all subsequent contracts to my knowledge. (I will return to this later) .  The Union struck by the strong language in the contract that protected our members and argued that the disciplinary letters were in violation of the five-day clause and attempts to verify even after five days were arbitrary and left the door open to favoritism and discrimination.               



How It All Changed

The issue was resolved in the 1985 negotiations while we were on strike.  The Union accepted the District had the right to deal with abuse but not to violate our contract by doing so.   The 1985 negotiations introduced the Sick Leave Verification Program that didn’t violate our contract (444 members did not have to bring a doctors slip before 5 days per the contract and the District would not demand verification prior to that unless an employee was put on the new program) The program satisfied the Union in that the District had to go through a procedure that would clearly show abuse and had a series of steps to it and wouldn’t be used in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner.


A supervisor would have to compare carefully the employee’s sick leave to the average employee but needed to look for patterns that signified abuse like Mondays and Fridays etc. If the supervisor determined the employee was using excessive sick leave or was an abuser then they counseled the employee and if it didn’t improve, the employee was to be told that they would be placed on the SLVP)  The SLVP, a product of union management discussions, was added to PPS&P #20. On May 10, 1985 Artis Dawson sent a memo to Audrey Daniels, then Local 444 President confirming that these discussions had taken place and that the District was modifying its SLVP accordingly. 


An important part of the SLVP and something that we will return to is actually the motivation for the District’s renewed offensive.  Local 444’s contract stated in Article XV1 1D (1985) that members could use two days sick leave a year for family medical emergencies and it defined family, mother father etc.  The Sick Leave Verification Program which the District and Union accepted states, “Sick leave  used for family medical emergency use should not be used in calculations for determining abuse or excessive use of sick leave.”  The Union wanted this in the SLVP and the District agreed to it. Artis Dawson’s 1985 memo to Audrey Daniels itself confirmed this, “The two days maximum medical emergency use existing in the Memorandum of Understanding will not be used in calculations for the Sick Leave Verification Program.” (Artis Dawson to Audrey Daniels may 10, 1985)


The Union was happy with this agreement and the District agreed to pull all the letters in people’s personnel files relating to this issue.  The Tentative Agreement dated 5-13-85 to which this writer was a participant states, “..the Union will agree to drop the arbitration and all grievances filed regarding employees sick leave verification and will not challenge the District’s right to verify sick leave in the future.”    The Union accepted the District’s right to verify sick leave under the sick leave verification program.  The Union never gave up its defense and rights under the five day clause (now 10) of article XV1.  Both parties agreed to drop all proposals regarding sick leave.  The District in 1985 had a proposal to “clarify” their right to demand verification using the sentence in the contract “All sick leave use is subject to review, verification, and approval by the District” The Union did not agree that this meant the District could demand a sick leave slip or discipline members prior to 5 days as stated in the contract.


The Sick Leave Verification Program clarified the issue somewhat and the matter was settled….for a while.


After 1985

Naturally, the minute the ink on a contract is dry, the employers try to violate it and take back what they were forced to concede through negotiations.  But after 1985 supervisors now had a clear process for dealing with sick leave abuse.  They probably didn’t like it because it made them work but it protected Local 444’s members and that was good for the Union.  But then things changed.  The Family Medical Leave clause was the problem. 



Look at these figures:


Number of sick leave days a year that can be used for family Medical Emergency by contract year:


1985-88: 2

1988-91: 3

1991-94: 6

1994-97: 13


Here’s a big problem for the District.  The Sick Leave Verification Program stated as clear as a bell that  “Sick leave used for family medical emergency use should not be used in calculations for determining abuse or excessive use of sick leave.”  But by 1997 this type of leave had amounted to 13 days. Local 444 got this after it was won by 2019.  The District was in a panic.  People are calling in family sick and we can’t nail them for it because we can’t use thirteen of these days as a calculation for abuse or excessive usage.  The District was in trouble. It wanted to eliminate this obstacle.


The 1990’s

All through the nineties whenever over-zealous District supervisors tried to discipline people or get them to bring in doctor’s slips prior to the ten days as stated in Local 444’s contract the Union stopped them. If the employee was sick for ten consecutive work days or more then the District could demand a slip and its other rights under this clause.  If an employee was considered an abuser or an excessive user then there was the SLVP and its guidelines. The procedures for the SLVP including sample letters for supervisors to use were outlined in the management manuals.  If this was violated it was due to either the lack of a Union presence or a weak Union presence but either case doesn’t deny the Union its rights. I know that myself Roger Martinez,, Cheryl Zuur and others fought the District aggressively during this period demanding they use the SLVP.


By 1994, seeing there were 6 days that could be used to determine abuse, the District had a proposal for a sick leave use standard.  To my knowledge they did not get one.  By 1997 when myself, Roger Martinez and Cheryl Zuur were in negotiators the District tried again to claim that, according to the contract,  it had the right to demand sick leave verification whenever it wanted to.  This is what they claimed in 1985 remember.  The lead negotiator for the District, a man named Fleming was told about the SLVP program and was told to visit 1985.  We had already won that battle over when the District can and cannot ask for a slip or verify.  In other words, the District was returning to the same, worn out defense that the contract said, “All sick leave use is subject to review, verification, and approval by the District”.  The Union demanded that they use their program but we were defending our contract which made it very clear that a doctor’s slip was not needed prior to the tenth day unless a person was on the SLVP.


Fleming agreed to check out the 1985 agreements and the District attacks on sick leave in 1997 were repelled.


The Present

Since I have retired and since the two people I worked with most closely on these issues, Roger Martinez and Cheryl Zuur, have not been active in the leadership of the Local, I am not sure what has occurred since 1997.  What I do know is that during the Presidencies of Robert Lopez and John Hayden, the District found two Union officials who supported their views and made their arguments for them.  On more than one occasion I had discussions with Both Hayden and Lopez where they both defended the District’s right to verify and ask for a doctor’s slip anytime.   They both refused to use their positions to defend the contract when the infraction involved a Local 444 member that they considered “weak on sick leave”.  I have no idea what, if any, agreements they might have made with the District since 1997.


These two presidents made the same arguments that the District made in 1985 only it was the late nineties, early 2000’s and we had the Sick leave Verification Program.  If the District didn’t want to use it that wasn’t the Union’s problem, it was based on an agreement with the Local.   Our contract was clear and it is what we must defend. Sure, on a first reading it might seem that the statement that the District uses from the sick leave clause gives them the right.  But there is history here.   The Union had been through that but there was no way Hayden and Lopez would abandon the District’s position.  Anyway, even in the worst case scenario, there are two sides in this world, if the language is somewhat vague in any instance, the Union should defend that which best protects its members, not take up the employers’ position.


During the last contract negotiations, despite strenuous objections by Roger Martinez, Cheryl Zuur and Richard Mellor, the leadership of 444 and 2019 made a mistake; they took the issue of negotiating changes in critical PPS and P's, such as this one, off the table. As a result they have now been in negotiations for TWO years. It has come down to the wire now on this issue of sick leave, which the District is determined to change. On Thursday Sept 29 there is a joint special meeting of the locals to discuss and determine what language will be accepted at the table.





Defend the contract.  It is clear: “A doctor’s certificate indicating time under a doctor’s care, approval for return to work, and any work limitations is required if sick leave extends to ten (10) consecutive workdays or more.”


The District has a Sick leave Verification Program, they should use it.


If the District doesn’t want to use the negotiated SLVP program it is secondary.  The contract still stands.  Don’t negotiate away the sick leave rights, don’t let them return to pre-85.


If the District wants to modify, introduce or negotiate another SLVP, the Union should tell them, in no uncertain terms that “we’ll see you at the negotiating table next contract time.” This is what they would tell the Union if the Union made an error that needed corrected.  


I hope that this helps clear up some of the misunderstanding about the SLVP.  Most importantly, remember, the District wants you at work all the time. To hell with your family, your friends, your leisure, your personal life.  And the supervisors get big bonuses if they do their best to make that happen.


In this case the contract is strong, but it is stronger when backed up with a united and conscious membership that is willing to take some sort of collective action to defend it.


Richard Mellor

AFSCME Local 444 retired

South and Central Yards


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Global warming: planning not pricing

by Michael Roberts

Carbon pricing and carbon taxes are now proposed by international institutions and mainstream economics as the main solutions to ending global warming and destructive climate change.  For some time, the IMF has been pushing for carbon pricing as ‘a necessary if not sufficient’ part of a climate policy package that also includes investment in ‘green technology’ and redistribution of income to help the worst-off cope with the financial burden.  The IMF is now proposing a global minimum carbon price — along the lines of the global minimum floor on corporate taxes which has recently secured agreement.

At the recent meeting of the G20 finance ministers, carbon pricing was endorsed as one of “a wide set of tools” to tackle climate change.  Speaking at the Venice International Conference on Climate, Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, also underscored the need for carbon pricing, emphasising the importance of an “effective carbon price that reflects the true cost of carbon”.  An agreed carbon price would then be a precursor to the establishment of a carbon border tax, which would serve as a tariff on imports from countries without carbon pricing.  This would be an incentive for others to join the ‘coalition of the willing’.

The EU Commission announced what it calls ‘Fit for 55’ plan to achieve a carbon-neutral EU by 2050 and reduce carbon emissions by 55% below 1990s levels before the decade is out.  Again, it looks to carbon pricing to achieve this, as well as carbon import taxes. The EU commission proposes gradually increasing minimum taxes on the most polluting fuels such as petrol, diesel and kerosene used as jet-fuel over a period of ten years. Zero-emissions fuels, green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels will face no levies for a decade under the proposed system. Paolo Gentiloni, Brussels economics commissioner, has called the reform a “now or never moment”.

It was no accident that the EU and G20 have turned to William Nordhaus, an American economist and Nobel laureate for economics advice on climate change.  Nordhaus gave the keynote address at the Venice conference.  He said that “It is a painful, painful realisation, but I think we need to face it: Our international climate policy, the approach we are taking, is at a dead end.”  But what was Nordhaus’ answer to this dismal conclusion?  He called for a “climate club” of countries willing to commit to a carbon price.  “A key ingredient in reducing emissions is high carbon prices,” he said, adding that a “climate club” would have to impose a penalty tariff on countries that did not have carbon pricing in place.  Nordhaus said such an approach would help solve the problem of ‘free riding’, which has plagued existing global climate agreements, all of which are voluntary.

Nordhaus has been a major advocate of a ‘market solution’ to climate change.  Nordhaus has constructed so-called integrated assessment models (IAMs) to estimate the social cost of carbon (SCC) and evaluate alternative abatement policies.  Nordhaus’ IAMs assume that the world economy will have a much larger GDP in 50 years so that even if carbon emissions rise as predicted, governments can defer the cost of mitigation to the future.  In contrast, if you apply stringent carbon abatement measures eg ending all coal production, you might lower growth rates and incomes and so make it more difficult to mitigate in the future. Instead, according to Nordhaus, with carbon pricing and taxes we can control and reduce emissions without reducing fossil fuel production and consumption at source. 

It is the tobacco/cigarette pricing and taxing solution.  The higher the tax or price, the lower the consumption, without touching the tobacco industry. Leaving aside the question of whether smoking has really been eradicated globally by pricing adjustments, can global warming really be solved by market pricing?  Market solutions to climate change are based on trying to correct “market failure” by incorporating the nefarious effects of carbon emissions via a tax or quota system.  The argument goes that, as mainstream economic theory does not incorporate the social costs of carbon into prices, the price mechanism must be “corrected” through a tax or a new market.  But as a recent essay pointed out, the problem is that climate change is not one market failure (like tobacco) but several: in capitalist transport, energy, technology, finance and employment.

Economists who have attempted to calculate what the ‘social price’ of carbon should be have found that there are so many factors involved and the pricing must be projected over a such a long time horizon that it is really impossible to place a monetary value on the ‘social damage’– estimates for the carbon price range from $14 per ton of CO2 to $386! “It is impossible to approximate the uncertainties in low-probability but high-damage, catastrophic or irreversible outcomes.” Indeed, where carbon pricing has been applied, it has been a miserable failure in reducing emissions, or in the case of Australia, dropped by the government under the pressure of energy and mining companies.

And while there is much talk about raising carbon emission prices, little or nothing is said about the huge subsidies that governments continue to make to fossil fuel industries.  EU Commissioner Gentiloni admitted as such: “Paradoxically, [the current energy taxation directive] is incentivising fossil fuels and not environmentally friendly fuels. We have to change this.”

The G20 countries have provided more than $3.3tn (£2.4tn) in subsidies for fossil fuels since the Paris climate agreement was sealed in 2015, a report shows, despite many committing to tackle the crisis.  The report says all 19 G20 member states continue to provide substantial financial support for fossil-fuel production and consumption – the EU bloc is the 20th member. Overall, subsidies fell by 2% a year from 2015 to reach $636bn in 2019, the latest data available.

But Australia increased its fossil fuel subsidies by 48% over the period, Canada’s support rose by 40% and that from the US by 37%. The UK’s subsidies fell by 18% over that time but still stood at $17bn in 2019, according to the report. The biggest subsidies came from China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India, which together accounted for about half of all the subsidies.

The report found that 60% of the fossil fuel subsidies went to the companies producing fossil fuels and 40% to cutting prices for energy consumers.  A recent report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development concluded that reforming fossil fuel subsidies aimed at consumers in 32 countries could reduce CO2 emissions by 5.5bn tonnes by 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 1,000 coal-fired power plants. It said these changes would also save governments nearly $3tn by 2030. The International Energy Agency’s road map for net-zero emissions by 2050 calls for a 6 per cent decline in coal-fired generation annually. Yet coal will grow by almost 5 per cent this year, and another 3 per cent in 2022, hitting a new peak.

Nordhaus is right.  Current climate change policies are at a dead end and the impact of climate change and environmental destruction is getting worse by the day.  Earthquakes, storms, floods and droughts — the number of recorded loss events resulting from natural disasters – has been increasing for some years now.

The report also examined how G20 countries were putting a price on carbon pollution. It found that more than 80% of emissions were covered by such prices in France, Germany and South Africa. In the UK, 31% of emissions are covered but the UK has one of highest carbon prices at $58 per tonne of CO2. Just 8% of US emissions are covered and at the low price of $6 per tonne. Russia, Brazil, and India do not have any carbon prices. In his address to the G20, Nordhaus showed that the current average global carbon price is under $2 and 80% of global emissions have no carbon emissions pricing market at all!

So the carbon pricing and taxation solution, even if it worked to lower emissions, is a pipedream as it can never be implemented globally before global warming reaches dangerous ‘tipping points’. All the latest climate science suggests that the tipping points are approaching fast and allowing fossil fuel production to continue while trying to reduce its use by ‘market’ solutions’ like carbon pricing and taxes will not be enough. Even the IMF has admitted that market solutions have not worked. 

Market solutions are not working because for capitalist companies it is just not profitable to invest in climate change mitigation: “Private investment in productive capital and infrastructure faces high upfront costs and significant uncertainties that cannot always be priced. Investments for the transition to a low-carbon economy are additionally exposed to important political risks, illiquidity and uncertain returns, depending on policy approaches to mitigation as well as unpredictable technological advances.” (IMF)

Indeed: “The large gap between the private and social returns on low-carbon investments is likely to persist into the future, as future paths for carbon taxation and carbon pricing are highly uncertain, not least for political economy reasons. This means that there is not only a missing market for current climate mitigation as carbon emissions are currently not priced, but also missing markets for future mitigation, which is relevant for the returns to private investment in future climate mitigation technology, infrastructure and capital.” In other words, it ain’t profitable to do anything significant.

What is the alternative? Mark Carney, former Bank of England governor and climate change envoy for the UN and many multi-nationals, reckons it is ‘regulation’.  “We need clear, credible and predictable regulation from government,” he said. “Air quality rules, building codes, that type of strong regulation is needed. You can have strong regulation for the future, then the financial market will start investing today, for that future. Because that’s what markets do, they always look forward.”

Carney’s answer is really an excuse for continuing to expand fossil fuel production.  Although the IEA recently said that the world was to stay within 1.5C Paris target increase in global heating, there could be no more exploration or development of fossil fuel resources, Carney argues that countries and companies could still carry on exploiting fossil fuels, if they use technology such as carbon capture and storage, or other ways of reducing emissions. “With the right regulation, with a rising carbon price, with a financial sector that is oriented this way, with public accountability of government, of financial institutions, of companies, yes, then we can, we certainly have the conditions in which to achieve [holding global heating to 1.5C“.

This is disingenous nonsense.  Carbon pricing schemes just hide the reality that, as long as the fossil fuel industry and the other big multinational emitters of greenhouse gases are untouched and not brought into a plan for phasing them out, the tipping point for irreversible global warming will be passed. Instead of waiting for the market to speak, and for ‘regulation’, we need a global plan where fossil fuel industries, financial institutions and major emitting sectors are brought under public ownership and control. 

Who are the biggest emitters or consumers of carbon apart from the fossil fuel industry?  It is the richest wealth and income earners in the Global North who have excessive consumption and fly everywhere. It is the military (the biggest sector of carbon consumption).  The waste of capitalist production and consumption in autos, aircraft and airlines, shipping, chemicals, bottled water, processed foods, unnecessary pharmaceuticals and so on is directly linked to carbon emissions.  Harmful industrial processes like industrial agriculture, industrial fishing, logging, mining and so on are also major global heaters, while the banking industry operates to underwrite and promote all this carbon emission. 

A global plan could steer investments into things society does need, like renewable energy, organic farming, public transportation, public water systems, ecological remediation, public health, quality schools and other currently unmet needs.  And it could equalize development the world over by shifting resources out of useless and harmful production in the North and into developing the South, building basic infrastructure, sanitation systems, public schools, health care.  At the same a global plan could aim to provide equivalent jobs for workers displaced by the retrenchment or closure of unnecessary or harmful industries.  Planning not pricing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

UAW Members Campaign For One Member One Vote of National Leadership

UAW members will be voting on a referendum in a few months that if passed will give one member one vote in electing the individual members of the UAW's Executive Board.  This would replace the present delegate system which has re-elected the same, concessionary and class collaborationist leadership time and time again. This article is reprinted from the Unite All Workers for Democracy Website. It comments on an interview with recent retired UAW President Rory Gamble where he shares his opposition to one member one vote.


Here are a few of my thoughts on the issue. The article is good piece. Bureaucrats like Gamble would oppose this change as they are afraid of the membership as the real issue is the membership of the UAW or any union, is generally far to the left of our own leaders. Any rank and file control or independent activity from below threatens the relationship the officialdom has built with the bosses based on labor peace and the worship of the market. I recall when the SEIU members here in San Francisco voted a concessionary contract down twice, officials claimed publicly that they were "confused". What arrogance and a complete disrespect they have for the folks who pay the dues. The IAM national leadership intervened in the dispute at Boeing some years ago in order to pass a management friendly contract that rank and file IAM members voted down.

The article makes the point also that one person one vote isn't a guarantee against sell outs or what are often misnamed corrupt activities (not that real corruption doesn't exist, we live in a corrupt society why would it not?) and gives many examples of legal activity that is harmful to workers and members' interests as well as outright pro-management deals.

I say misnamed with regard to the term corrupt because it is the bankruptcy or corrupt ideology that is the problem. The leadership worships the market, gives bosses certain rights like owning the factory, controlling production and that profits are sacrosanct. They have the same world view as the boss does. Any leadership that does not abandon this view and the Team Concept that is at the root of it will fall prey to the same trap. Richard Mellor



Brother Gamble’s Criticisms of One Member One Vote Ring Hollow

by Justin | Jul 18, 2021 |

Former UAW President Rory Gamble officially retired on June 30th, but not before giving an interview where he discussed the future of the union, and — perhaps, most importantly — the upcoming referendum where the rank-and-file will decide whether or not they should have the right to directly elect members of the International Executive Board (IEB).

During the interview, Gamble was asked whether or not he believed IEB positions should be directly voted on by the UAW membership. While it wasn’t surprising to learn that Gamble, a member of the Administration Caucus, is adamantly against each member of our union having a direct vote of IEB officers, some of his criticisms of direct elections (One Member One Vote) were odd to say the least. 

Gamble gave the following response when asked why he was opposed to direct elections of International Executive Board officers:

“A lot of them (UAW members) don’t understand all the ramifications. In contemporary times, our problem is anti-union-funded enterprises that spend a lot of money, put out a lot of disinformation to destroy unions. The delegate system allows us to make sure every local in our union has a voice. We have many sectors. One of our largest is auto, with active and retired members. Basically, that large majority vote could take up every spot. And smaller sectors like higher education, gaming, independent parts suppliers, health care — they could get swallowed up and not have representation on the board. It ensures we have women, we have minorities. You could see, probably, an all-male leadership team that doesn’t reflect the membership. One member, one vote has absolutely nothing to do with corruption and will not prevent corruption. Corruption begins in the heart. Strong financial controls and strong accurate oversight prevents corruption.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the claims made by Brother Gamble in the aforementioned interviews: 

1. “The delegate system allows us to make sure every local in our union has a voice.”

How can Brother Gamble make this claim when over 225 Locals were not at the last UAW Convention in 2018? The vast majority of those Locals did not attend because they lacked the funds to do so. These Locals had absolutely no voice in electing our current International Executive Board.

I addressed this commonly cited criticism of One Member One Vote in an article I wrote back in April. 

When I spoke with Ken Paff
, National Organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), back in June of 2020 about whether or not One Member One Vote would disenfranchise smaller Locals, he gave a specific example of how direct elections actually give smaller Locals more of a voice than under the delegate system.

“Direct elections do not disadvantage small locals in the Teamsters. In fact, there have been many cases where small locals have had a huge impact.

For example, during the 2016 Temster elections, Local 19 in Texas had 75 votes for James Hoffa Jr and 602 votes for Fred Zuckerman, so Zuckerman emerged from that local with a 527 vote lead over Hoffa. In Local 988 in Houston, Hoffa got 542 votes and Zuckerman got 302, so Zuckerman lost by 240 votes.

Local 988 is more than twice as big as Local 19, but Local 19 had more impact on the election due to the turnout and the margin of how many more votes one person got over another.

And who gets votes essentially comes down to who is the most organized in worksites and locals across the country.”

Compare that to our current system, where a Local, such as Local 600, had 34 times the voting power than the 166 Locals in attendance at the 2018 Constitutional Convention who were represented by a single delegate. 

2. “(Under direct elections) smaller sectors like higher education, gaming, independent parts suppliers, health care — they could get swallowed up and not have representation on the board.”

Let’s take a look at the sectors in which the officers of our current International Executive Board came from. 

Ray Curry — Freightliner Trucks
Frank Stuglin — Hydraulic Accessories Company
Terry Dittes — General Motors
Cindy Estrada — parts supplier organizer
Chuck Browning — Mazda
James Harris (Assistant Reg. Director) — Chrysler
Laura Dickerson (Assistant Reg. Director) — manufacturing / Local 600
Steve Dawes — General Motors
Wayne Blanchard — Chrysler
Ron McInroy — John Deere
Mitchell Smith — Ford
Jeff Binz — General Motors
Beverly Brakeman — Citizens for Economic Opportunity/ casino organizer

Only Beverly Brakeman came from another industry outside of manufacturing. So, there are a lot of sectors within our union that are not being represented on our current delegate elected International Executive Board. I would be interested to find out from academic workers in our union if they feel they are currently being represented fairly on the IEB, given that they make up around 20% of the current UAW membership.


3. “It (the delegate system) ensures we have women, we have minorities. You could see, probably, an all-male leadership team that doesn’t reflect the membership (under One Member One Vote).”

I am genuinely interested to know how Brother Gamble came to the conclusion that under One Member One Vote there would be a lack of women, or minorities, or that there would probably be an all-male leadership team. The membership of the union is much more diverse than the IEB leadership. 

Although the Administration Caucus has been in control of the UAW for decades — overwhelmingly elected time and time again under the delegate system — they chose not to nominate an African American to the highest office of the union until 2019 when they selected Brother Gamble. 

In addition, the current delegate-elected Executive Board recently passed over Cindy Estrada — a minority woman — to fill either the President or Secretary Treasurer positions when Gamble and Vice President Gerald Keriam retired. According to a report by the Detroit News from April, Estrada was vying for the Secretary Treasurer position. Yet, the delegate-elected E-Board chose to appoint Frank Stuglin — a white male — to the position instead. They also appointed Chuck Browning, another white male, to replace the outgoing Keriam. 

This is not to specifically disqualify either Stuglin or Browning and their qualifications for those positions, but rather, to point out that the Administration Caucus has been a largely male-dominated group throughout the course of its history, with recent appointments being not much different. 

4. “One member, one vote has absolutely nothing to do with corruption and will not prevent corruption. Corruption begins in the heart. Strong financial controls and strong accurate oversight prevents corruption.”

I think it’s very important to note that not all corruption is illegal. Bloated union officials’ salaries are not illegal. Favoritism is not illegal. Contracts that overwhelmingly favor the employer are not illegal. A slew of appointed officers beholden to the AC are not illegal. A one-party dominated union is not illegal. An ever-increasing number of joint programs that tie our leadership to the corporation’s agenda are not illegal. Isolating Locals during strikes and contract votes isn’t illegal. Competitive Operating Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding are not illegal. However, I would deem these practices ideologically corrupt. And no set of strong financial controls or accurate oversight is going to prevent this type of legal corruption. However, at the very least, 1M1V would greatly deter our union leaders from engaging in such practices because they would be directly accountable to the membership. Their ability to hold on to their positions would depend on the votes of the rank-and-file, not an unwavering loyalty to the AC.

But perhaps the most concerning aspect of Brother Gamble’s criticisms of One Member One Vote is that it appears from recent comments that he just doesn’t trust the membership of the UAW to have the knowledge and/or intelligence to make the best decisions for themselves moving forward. The idea that the membership doesn’t really understand the issues that affect them on a day to day basis is nonsense. Workers in the UAW live the conditions in the factories, universities, court rooms, etc, every day they go to their jobs. They understand the issues more than anyone at the Solidarity House ever could. Yet, it appears Brother Gamble does not agree.


After all, this is the main feature of our current delegate system — that we need delegates to make the right decisions for us. We need delegates to elect the right International Officers, and if the will of the membership is deemed to not be in the best interests of the Administration Caucus, delegates must intervene to keep the status quo intact.

Every member of our union deserves better and we have an historic opportunity to demand just that come November. 

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Union Battles: Lessons From Experience

Richard Mellor

Afscme Local 444, retired. 



I was at the negotiating table in 1997 and we stressed that negotiations are important as long as you negotiate from a position of strength, meaning you have to have amassed the troops and that they are informed, conscious and armed with a strategy and tactics that can win if we are forced on strike. To all those workers that were afraid of striking, and even opposed us laying the groundwork for one, we made it clear that the best way to avoid a strike is to be prepared to win one.


The present labor leadership takes workers out on strike knowing full well that they have no intention of winning one, of shutting down production or building union and working class power at all. In fact, they have even taken workers out on strike simply to force the employers to talk more nicely to them at the table; they have no problem with concessions. They have a considerable army of full-time staff that, at this stage, are expected to ensure these concessionary polices are adopted by the ranks by suppressing any opposition to them. Only an active rank and file can change this situation and force splits in this arrangement.

The huge protests in Wisconsin some years back were all about preserving the trade union officialdom’s role as negotiators, about maintaining a seat at the table, without which they would have no jobs. The demands affecting the immediate interests of the rank and file were conceded and the only two demands that were an issue were dues check off and collective bargaining rights, both central to the hierarchy.



The leadership that I was a part of made it very clear to our members that stopping concessions (that are continuing today) is not possible by one local or even one national union. We always argued that part of every labor/management dispute, every strike, must be a campaign to widen the struggle and in the process draw in the rank and file of the broader labor movement and working class communities. This is where our power lies and how we can win.


I worked in the maintenance department at a water utility. We were well paid and had great benefits by US standards. We worked in the streets in communities where 30 to 40 percent of youth were unemployed. It is in our interests to link with these communities and stress that their issues are our issues. The bosses would have no problem using the unemployed as strikebreakers if need be, and it was dangerous working in some areas. Crime and petty theft or robbery are a by-product of unemployment and denied opportunity, so it is important for all us as unionized workers to fight for social issues. We win allies that way.


The public sector unions are well represented here in the San Francisco Bay Area. SEIU represents workers in public transit. Other cities municipal workers are organized by Afscme, SEIU, the Teamsters and so on. The UFCW and other private sector workers including the building trades are big here. The Bay Area labor movement can bring the economy of the 6th largest economy in the world to a screeching halt or at worst, a slow crawl.


We were very fortunate that there were members who could at times take leaflets like the ones included which were from the local's solidarity committee to other workplaces and we had been told by friendly supervisors that supervisors in other agencies said they found our leaflets in their employee lunch areas. 


We handed them out at the DMV and welfare offices to customers and workers; workers in these facilities are demonized as lazy public sector employees and blamed for the orchestrated efforts by capital to destroy any public service through bureaucracy, bad management or lack of funding and resources as it undermines their propaganda that the private sector is the more efficient and that public sector workers are overpaid and have benefits that are destroying the economy.


This was the main purpose of the solidarity committee, to allow workers from other industries or the unorganized to join our dispute and to reach beyond the narrow confines of our immediate workplace.  We tried to educate our members that the bosses through both their political parties were out to privatize public services and crush public sector unions as they have done with our private sector sisters and brothers. We pointed out that without the public sector less than 7% of US workers were organized.


The solidarity committee never had more than a dozen or more members but this activity brought us a good contract. When we recognized that we could win no more at the table we had a joint meeting of the two Afscme locals, one representing the white collar and professional and the other the blue color. We organized a meeting of stewards and activists that brought together some 90 members from both locals from Janitors to engineers and so on and at one point the locals authorized a three day stoppage. This activity resulted in the company dropping its most damaging demands and suddenly a million dollars in concessions from them fell on the table. Read about that here.


As I think I pointed out in a previous piece on my activity in the local, three of us refused to support the contract and called for a no vote. We said we couldn’t win more at the table but if members were willing to get involved applying the strategy a minority of us had applied and  joining the solidarity committee then there was more to be had. It’s not possible to tell a dues paying member to vote no on a contract when you know there’s no more to be gained through back and forth chatter and not offer an alternative, so we offered one. Don’t vote no and go fishing we argued. They voted yes and they got a very good contract. From what I know now, they have already lost considerable ground.


This is important with regards to the situation today with the striking Volvo workers for example. They are fighting a global corporation that has the support of the state, the politicians (I don’t care what Biden, Pelosi or Bernie Sanders says) and their media as well as their police and their national guard if the situation demands it; we have to have a strategy for that possibility.  I believe the general strategy and tactics we applied was correct. One small local of 800 people with maybe 30 active members outside of the leadership but that leadership having a clear understanding that we cannot rely on so-called friendly politicians or any other force but the power of working people, produced a better contract than we could get at the negotiating table. We have the numbers and the social weight and it is this power we must build and the only one we can rely on.


Not far from where the strike of Volvo workers who are waging a heroic battle to defend their material conditions, is taking place, there has been a strike of some 500 miners. Then next door in West Virginia we had a huge upsurge of educators in 2018-19 that produced some major gains using methods that threatened the dismal pro-management, designed to fail approach of the present union hierarchy. There is not much sense in belonging to a national organization of 14 million workers if when one section of the organization is being brutalized, the rest sit idly by or limit solidarity to platitudes that we hear every time labor is being savaged by capital. Look at the media onslaught we are faced with as citizens if we oppose the wars they send our children to, wars that are against our interests as workers. We are called traitors, we don't support our troops and other such nonsense.


While our efforts did not accomplish much with regard to the rest of the labor movement or working class communities, this was not due to their being an incorrect approach but a lack of resources. The tremendous potential that the labor movement has and that if used would draw to it millions upon millions of workers outside of organized labor, is held back by the present pro-market pro-capitalist labor hierarchy.


What we did in 1997 is what will work today, even more so almost 25 years on. We are in a war on two front unfortunately; one against capital and indeed, global capital. And the other against the present leadership of organized labor and their concessionary policies.


It’s not going to get better.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Film Review: The Year Earth Changed

Richard Mellor

Afscme Local 444, retired


“An educator in a system of oppression is either a revolutionary or an oppressor.”, Lerone Bennett Jr.


The Year Earth Changed is a powerful documentary narrated by David Attenborough about the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown and the affect this has had on our planet’s wildlife. Its findings are proof positive that as things stand, human activity is destructive and harmful to wildlife and the natural world of which we are a part and on which we depend.


From the moment it begins, the viewer cannot help but marvel at some of the changes in the first few months of the global lockdown.  In the first three months global air travel was down 90% worldwide with 114 million fewer travelers than the same time a year earlier. “The moment we pause, earth can breathe again” we are told, and in a town in India, some 200 kilometers from the Himalayas, many residents head for the rooftops to see this massive mountain range for the first time as pollution declines.


Giant sea turtles return to the beeches they were born, emptied of the human hordes.  Hundreds of turtles lay more eggs that will also have a much greater chance of hatching and surviving, increasing the population of these creatures that have made this journey for thousands of years and whose numbers have been declining due to human activity.


The oceans are affected as well as the first three months of the lockdown saw a 17% drop in global shipping traffic. Humpback whales in Alaska that have to share their waters with cruise ships that bring 1 million visitors a year to the area have been recorded talking to each other more frequently and in “new ways”. Mothers have been seen leaving their calves in order to join other adults to hunt, something that has been rare. The reason is that the lockdown and absence of tourists has meant that it is “25 times quieter underwater”. Whales can communicate greater distances and can hear their calves better if danger lurks.


There are so many examples of the relief the natural world and other animals in it experience through the lockdown, the mighty Ganges for example has seen an 80% increase in oxygen levels. Surely fish like this new world.


The pandemic has, “…..allowed scientists to measure the scale of the impact of humans” on the natural world Attenborough says, and this is a good thing.  The results are frightening, and confirm in this writer’s mind anyway, that we cannot stop what is a looming catastrophe within the confines of the capitalist system.  Sooner than later we will reach a tipping point and be facing the end of life as we know it.


This is where documentaries like, The Year Earth Changed,  Artifishal and others fall to the ground. In a period where it is painfully clear that band aids, the usual solution, will not avert the danger we are left with little hope that we can change things.


A perfect example in the documentary is a village in India where elephants, whose habitat has been declining due to human populations, have been destroying crops. Under the guidance of a conservation trust, villagers, rather than staying up all night driving elephants away, have been planting a fast growing wild rice between the forest edge and their crops. The elephants eat the rice rather than the crops. Villagers returning home from work in the cities due to the lockdown increase the labor force. Though the documentary doesn’t say it, it is unlikely that these workers receive much of a stimulus check from the state.


But this example will be seen by any thinking worker as akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. An Indian elephant consumes upward of 300 pounds of plant material a day. This problem won’t be solved by a village in India and a conservation non-profit, well intentioned or not; the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is a crisis of global proportions and requires a global response.


All through the documentary we are reminded that humans are the problem. We are all responsible and all we have to do is “Think of how we can co-exist and share our spaces.”. We just have to choose the right thing to do whatever the right thing is. In the African game reserves the noises of tourists and their vehicles every day are harming the cheetah’s ability to hunt and protect its young. The answer; “promote good conduct among tourists and tour guides”.


This is not a serious answer.


I do not think the term capitalism or any mention that we live in a system of production is mentioned at all. Yes, it is human activity that is the problem, but it is human activity under certain social conditions. But all humans do not have the same social power and the same global footprint. Social organization in human history has taken different forms. We have traveled in time from our beginnings through tribal organization of varying types in which the social product is collective, through class societies, slavery, feudalism, and the social system that has achieved global dominance and that threatens our very existence, the capitalist mode of production.


What is it that causes David Attenborough and all the brilliant scientists involved in the making of this documentary to never allude in any way to the fact that we function within a system of production?  Are they not aware that this system of production that we call capitalism is a class system in which a small section of society own, control and manage the means of production and what we produce as a global society? We exist in a system of capitalist globalization and they know it.


This exclusion is not an accident. For to point to how society is organized, to the capitalist system, as the source of the problem, means seeking an alternative to it. Every ruling class teaches that the system it governs is the high point of human civilization, and all of them, the feudal ruling class and our own capitalist class and the slaveowners of antiquity and colonial America all use religion, the argument that the system they govern is ordained by a creator to justify their rule. Layers of functionaries, intellectuals, religious charlatans, administrators and educators exist to give this rule credibility.


The Year Earth Changed leaves us with only one conclusion, human character flaw is the root cause of environmental destruction. Wild life is better off if humans are not present but there is hope if we simply think good things and be good people. This is what we are left with. It internalizes the anger, we direct the blame at ourselves and “human nature” which is not a fixed concept but is determined by social conditions. For the capitalist class this is the safest bet. It demoralizes. It is no answer at all and things can continue on, profit still reigns and the abyss draws closer.


It would be arrogant to say the least for me to claim I have all the answers. But certainly removing the productive forces from a small private clique that sets production in motion on the basis of private gain and collectivizing production is a necessary step. How we produce food, build shelter, provide health care and social infrastructure, transport people and so forth has to be motivated and determined by social need and in particular, in harmony with the natural world as opposed to in conflict with it. I am confident, that those that produce the wealth in society through our collective labor power, can resolve the crisis capitalism has created for us and the planet. We know what we need and what is best for us.

Those closest to the land, that work the land and the indigenous communities that capitalism has not yet stripped from it, understand how better to live in harmony with it and the creatures that depend on it. The collective, conscious brain of the world’s workers can provide the solution to capitalism and the madness of the market. Capitalism cannot be made nice. Its progressive period is long gone.  


The Year Earth Changed is a clear confirmation of capitalism’s failure. The most important conclusion we must draw from this documentary is under different social conditions, how quickly the horrific damage inflicted on humanity and all life on this planet by capitalism and the so-called free market can be reversed. A new world is truly possible as the slogan goes.


A global federation of democratic socialist states not based on competition and the wars and conflict that flow from it, but cooperation and human solidarity is not utopia; it is a necessity if we are to survive.