The Trump administration wasted no time before launching a veritable blitzkrieg on all fronts in pursuit of an “alt-right” America First agenda. But resistance has been swift and massive.
addition to various movements mobilizing we also heard from
scientists. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported: “Comments
by U.S. President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons and climate change
have helped make the world less safe, the Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists warned … moving its symbolic ‘Doomsday Clock’ 30
seconds closer to midnight.”
heightened warning by atomic scientists about two overarching crises
closely followed an announcement by climate scientists at the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that, for the third
consecutive year, 2016 had been the hottest since record keeping
began in 1880.
replaces an Obama administration that offered token gestures to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are the prime culprit in
heating our planet, while at the same time also promoting fossil-fuel
expansion through destructive fracking of gas and oil.
the 45th president has dismissed global warming as a job-killing hoax
perpetrated by China to sabotage the American economy. Rather than
presenting any of his signature “alternative facts” to bolster
this fantastic conspiracy theory, he has focused on the job-killing
argument. Jobs are a big and legitimate concern of the working-class
nice to some unions
overlooked in all the turmoil was Trump’s duplicitous reach-out to
sectors of trade-union leadership, promising to save and create
middle-class jobs. He invited AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and
Teamsters president James P. Hoffa to the White House to celebrate
his canceling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal negotiated by
unions and environmental groups had strongly opposed TPP for good
reasons. Like NAFTA and other such regional agreements, TPP is more
about the unrestricted movement of capital across borders than trade.
Trumka and Hoffa endorsed Trump’s action.
also summoned leaders of several construction-based unions to unveil
his plans to create jobs by rebuilding infrastructure and reviving
the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects.
course, there’s plenty that needs to be done to repair or replace
dangerous bridges and tunnels, deteriorating water and sewer lines,
aging rail and urban mass-transit systems, and many more projects
that have been long neglected through “deferred maintenance”
imposed by austerity budgets.
head of the Ironworkers union was cautiously enthusiastic: “The
Ironworkers union applauds Donald Trump’s infrastructure program.
We have to have a sustainable maintenance program that recognizes
that the existing bridges need to have ongoing maintenance, and quite
frankly politicians in both parties have done us a disservice.”
brother will likely see more disservice. Trump’s scheme, still
being fleshed out, is no grand plan for useful public works—as is
sorely needed. Ronald A Klain, who headed Obama’s “shovel ready”
project to stimulate jobs during the height of the Great Recession,
wrote in a Washington
piece, “Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s
a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector
investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan.”
initial list of Trump’s proposed projects supports Klain’s
assertion. As in many cities, the Water Services Department in my
hometown of Kansas City cannot keep up with even major leaks in water
and sewer lines, some dating back to the 19th century. But the sole
KC project on the preliminary list is a refurbishing of passenger
terminals at Kansas City International airport to facilitate more
unions expecting to get such work should keep in mind that the
Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage law—enacted during the Hoover
administration—which has long guaranteed union jurisdiction on
public projects, is targeted for repeal by Congress.
expansion of the 200,000-mile network of pipelines will exacerbate
climate change and inflict major environmental damage. Leaks are
inevitable. Over the past decade, 38 million gallons have polluted
land and water.
proposed Keystone Pipeline (KXL) would move not oil but bitumen—a
hydrocarbon often used as an ingredient in asphalt. It is mined in
the Tar Sands of Alberta and injected with chemicals to create a
sludge suitable for flowing through the pipeline to special
refineries that convert it into a synthetic oil. Unlike oil, bitumen
is heavier than water and when it leaks into rivers and streams it
does more damage by sinking to the bottom. It
is the dirtiest fuel on the planet.
Mass protests by climate activists pressured Obama to consign the
project to purgatory.
Dakota Access Pipeline would transfer shale oil extracted through
hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from the Bakken in North Dakota to
also special refineries in Illinois. Bakken oil has a very high
methane content. Methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon
dioxide. It also makes the oil much more volatile. Currently Bakken
oil is shipped by rail and there have been numerous fiery, sometimes
deadly transport accidents.
KXL is completed, the owners expect to operate it 24/7 with only
about 35 regular employees. If DAPL is ultimately completed one way
or another, it too will provide only a few dozen long term
maintenance and inspection jobs. But a substantial number of rail
jobs will be lost once the pipeline is flowing—creating
an overall net loss of middle class union jobs.
unions not welcomed
pointedly not invited
for a White House chat with the Denier-in-Chief include such major
unions as the Service Employees International Union, Amalgamated
Transit Union, and National Nurses United. Those unions have made a
good start in educating and mobilizing their members around climate
issues. They built mass actions around KXL and DAPL with member
participation and material contributions. NNU nurses cared for those
peaceful protesters at Standing Rock injured by police pepper gas and
unions are affiliated to coalitions like the Labor Network for
Sustainability (www.labor4sustainability.org) in North America, and
the global Trade Unions for Energy Democracy
(unionsforenergydemocracy.org). This labor wing of the climate
justice movement understands the working-class majority is the only
force with both the material interest and potential power to defeat
capitalist climate wrecking and replace it with a sustainable
climate-conscious unionists realize that overcoming the threat of job
loss is task #1 in winning over workers. They have revived and
adapted the long promoted principle of Just Transition. In a
nutshell, this means when workers lose their livelihood for the good
of society, society must guarantee their living standards and, if
necessary, provide retraining and relocation expenses until they find
suitable new work.
principle can apply to many areas, such as the armaments industries
and workers in the billing and advertising branches of health
insurance companies. The required restructuring of the American and
world economy to stop global warming short of global disaster will
mean eliminating and replacing tens of millions of jobs.
Transition is a necessary first step in unifying the struggles for
class and climate justice that can secure a peaceful, democratic,
sustainable future. The working class needs to lead the discussion
and the planned implementation of this goal that is indispensable to
the survival of human civilization. Socialists such as Socialist
Action and our sister parties of the Fourth International have much
to contribute to this fight that we cannot afford to lose.
>> The article above was written by Bill Onasch, and is reprinted from Socialist Action.