- Understanding the conflict between Jobs and the Environment (OCAW Just Transition)
Understanding the conflict between Jobs and the Environment (OCAW Just Transition)
The Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers union set the standard for "blue-greeen" coalition, where union workers led the fight for cleaner jobs and a "just transition" through a job "superfund", for workers displaced as a result of moving toward a green economy. These were people who actually worked in these industries taking the initiative. Environmental organizations followed their lead with great success. OCAW originally coined the term "Shell No!" during a strike and boycott of Shell in 1973.
the Conflict between
Jobs and the Envionment
S. Vaneco.l~ Visuals
A PRELIMINARY DISCUSSION OF THE
SUPERFUND FOR WORKERS CONCEPT
An Economic Agenda for Workers
"Our first concern is to protect the jobs, income and working conditions of our
"On the other hand, people who work in hardous industr, as many union.
members do, want safe jobs and a helthy environment. We must do evething
we can to provide a workplace and environmet free from recognized hards."
How can we accommodate both these goals?
Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers IntI. Union Â· P.O. Box 2812 Â· Denver, CO 80201
The only way out of the jobs versus environment dilemma is to
make provision for the workers who lose their jobs in the wake of
the country's drastically needed environmental clean-up, or who
are displaced or otheriise injured by economic restructuring, or
military cutbacks and shifts of manufacturing fadlities overseas.
What it will take is an ambitious, imaginative program of
support and reeucation - going far beyond the
inadequate and deÃ¦ptive "job retraining" programs that
really mean a downward spiral to low-paying serviÃ¦ jobs
or subsistenÃ¦-level unemployment .income.
The G.I. Bil after World War II (se page 8), an
innovative and sucÃ¦ssful program, is the preÃ¦ent upon
which the Superfd for Workers is base. The G.I. Bil
helped more than 13 milion ex-servicemen and women
between 1945 and 1972 make the trnsition from miltary
servÃ¦ to skiled employment in the private sector. This
program had a formidable priÃ¦ tag, but the countr
overwhelmingly approved it as an investment in the future.
Education became the key to national economic recovery.
Education remains just as powerful a forÃ¦ today and is the
basis of a conÃ¦pt supported by OCW called "The
Superfud for Workers."
2 Understanding the Superfund for Workers
OCW members are conÃ¦rned with the environment - our record over
the years demonstrates this very fundamental fact. And, naturally, OCW
members are conceed about their jobs. It is small comfort to know that the
environment is improving, but our jobs no longer exist.
There is, obviously, a major contrdicton to be overcome. We want jobs
and a clean environment. Environmental organizations representing many
millons of Americans demand a clean-up of toxics and a halt to the
continuing toxification of the environment. However, they lack a clear idea
of how to accmplish that desirable goal without a loss in jobs or a mass
movement into jobs that pay only the
Asbestos removal worker fits
his respirator during job
Understanding the Superfund for Workers 3
How should we as workers react to the threat that jobs will
be lost if steps are taken to stop environmental degradation?
One option is to oppose any and
all regulatory measures affecng
our industres that could
potentially cost jobs.
Unfortunately, such a defensive
position does not come with job
guarantes. Aii the environmental
regulations now on the books
could be repealed, and milions of
working people-including many
of our members-would still wake
up one day to find themselves
without a job. According to the
U.S. Department of Labor,
approximately 1 milion workers
with three or more years seniority
lost their jobs every year during
the 1980s, 1 in 10 of which were
employed by petrochemical
companies. Very few of these jobs
(less than.2,OOO overall were lost
because of environmental
regulations-t least according to
the statistics compiled by the
Environmental Protection Agency.
Does this mean that we
should not worry about job loss
from environmental regulation?
Not at all. Corprations can close
down their facilities whenever and
wherever they want to. They can
do so for good reasons, bad
reasons, and no reasons at all.
When they threaten to take our
jobs away if the government
Dirt is Treated Better Than Workers
In 1987 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) .
forced Velsicol to suspend domestic sales of two very toxic
pesticides, chlordane and heptachlor. Shortly thereafter,
Velsicol closed its Marshall, Ilinois manufacturing plant and
laid off all of the hourly workers. The OCAW local was
disbanded. Some workers were given early retirement. But
many were too young to qualify for retirement and were
unable to find comparable employment, if any job at alL.
The EPA listed the Marshall facilty as a Superfund site
after it close, and ordered more than $10 miIion to be spent
cleaning up the piles of contaminated dirt. But the workers
were tosse onto the economic scrap heap, blacklisted beause
of their toxic exposures on the job, and impoverished by the
lack of comparable employment opportunities.
Why do we treat dirt better than we treat workers? We
have a federal Superfund for restoring abandoned piles of toxic
dirt, but no Superfund for abandoned workers left behind on
the economic scrap heap.
4 Understanding the Superfund for Workers
~ imposes additional relations on
~ them, we have to tae that thret
Â¡ We nee to provide workers
~ with real options in such
j circumstanÃ¦s. We nee to provide
Â¡ them with a gurantee that they
Â¡ and their familes will not have to
Â¡ pay for clean air and clean water
Â¡ with their jobs, their living
Â¡ standards, their future.
Â¡ Until reÃ¦ntly the
Â¡ environmenta movement has
~ failed to take such issues seriously.
~ They bruhed aside the question of
Â¡ job fear with studies to prove that
~ protectng the environment would
Â¡ create more jobs than it destroyed.
Â¡ This position is just not
~ adequate. As workers we must be
Â¡ concerned with our livelihood. The
Â¡ reality is that if we lose our jobs,
Â¡ we will faÃ¦ extreme economic
Â¡ We nee to hear a more
Â¡ realistic program from those who
~ care about the environment - a
Â¡ program that provides working
Â¡ peple with job and income
Â¡ guarantes. As one of our
Â¡ members put it onÃ¦, working
Â¡ peple should be treated at least as
Â¡ good as the dirt the EPA and other
Â¡ agencies have earmarked for clean-
~ up and restoration. We have a
~ program to protect ourselves
~ against companies dumping
~ hazardous waste. We nee one to
~ protect ourslves against
j companies dumping workers - a
I Superfund for Workers.
What has happened?
The end of the post-war ecnomic
boom in 1973 resulte in a radical
restrcturing of the U.S. economy
and the loss of hundres of
thousands of unionize
manufactring jobs. Workers
became incrsingly reluctt to
complain about health and safety
problems. At the same time, the
movement-spurred on bya
growing number of tragic
incidents and catastrphic
accidents - became ever more
vocal in deman~ing an end to
unchecked, heeless growth of the
hazardous waste stream and, as
much as possible, the complete
elimination of toxic materials from
the producton cycle. This put
trade unions and the
environmental movement on a
The 1980s saw an incredible
economic restructuring. Industres
that we considere a bedrock in
our economy were greatly reduced
or, in some instanÃ¦s, completely
disappeare. Leveraged buyouts
wreaked havoc in many
communities throughout our
countr and average wages,
adjuste for inflation, fell to the
level they were in the early 1970s.
The 1990s se us confronting
increase layoffs and
plant closures along
with an extremely
Foundry workers producing piston
rings for u.s. auto market.
Clearly, in this
workers feel threatened by
any expressions that are
perÃ¦ived to be a peril to their jobs.
How should working peple
confront the 1990s, given the new
environmenta perÃ¦ptions that
exist in our soety? The answer is
not simple. We nee to think
about this question
in new ways and
rework a lot of
Understanding the Superfund for Workers 5
Corpo.rations are in a different position than the
average working person. The companies, especially the
transnational ones, don't suffer from a shutdown. Their
operations just continue somewhere else.
Workers do not have such
flexibilty, so it is essential that the
environmental community reflect
on this fact. We are not asking that
environmentalists change their
agenda. We are realistic enough to
know that milions of Americans Â¡ considers the economic impact
are demanding a halt to Â¡ upon workers.
environmenta degrdation. j Th' ti' f . d
. . f Â¡ is no on 0 an economic agen aHowever, we ure consideration 0 : f k h . bs be
. . Â¡ or wor ers w ose JO may
our econonuc dilemma and the : thr te ed t al be
. : ea n mus so a
creation of an agenda that Â¡ t . 'tyÂ¡ governmen pnon .
The Government, Corporations, and Profits
In the national forests in. the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, and the East, timber stands have low value
and are costly to bring to market for a number of resons. The pricing formula use for saes from
the national forests (owned by us, the taxpayers), however, involves calcuation of a minimum bid
that guarantees profit to timber buyers but ignores the governments cost of growing and sellng
Moreover, the Forest Servce is allowed to use its timber sale contracts to finanÃ¦ purchaser-built
roads and acquire land management services that often are uneconomic and environmentally
destrctive. As a result, below-cost timber sales - where the U.S. Forest ServÃ¦ does not reover the
cost of making timber ready for sale - dominate in 76 of the agencys 120 administrtive units.
From 1982 through 1987, the Forest Service national timber program generated, on average,
approximately $0.8 bilion in annual gross reÃ¦ipts. The agency spent about $1.2 bilion each year on
road constrcton, sales administration, reforestation, and other timber programs.
Ths resulted in a cost to the U.S. Governent of $4 milion anually. The Forest ServiÃ¦ now
plans to extend this program, which will result in far greater losse to the government.
The government would serve the interests of the environment and the workers involved by not
cutting the timber with its resulting environmental destrcton and instead paying the workers ful
wages for not cuttng timber and building roads.
6 Understanding the Superfund for Workers
Guaranteeing Corporate Economic Secuty
Most large corporations carry what is known as "business interrption
insurance." An example of how well this works for corporations
occrr shortly after the Philips Chemical Plant blew up in Pasadena,
Texas, in October of 1989. The blast, which leveled the entire
polyethylene complex, killed 23 and injure 290. The physical damage
to the plant, estimated at up to $700 milion, was compensated by
However, a little-understood feature called business interruption
insurance allowed Philips to collect an estimated $750 milion for
income lost durng the 32-month rebuilding period. It is nothing short
of a lavish "unemployment insuranÃ¦ program" for corprations.
Out-of-pocket costs to Phillps in this $1.5 bilion explosion were but
$70 millon. In other words, the total cost to Philips amounted to only
five percet of the entire loss. Imgine being out of work and reÃ¦iving
95 percent of your wages.
Why should we not consider the concept of worker job loss insuranÃ¦
that pays 95 perÃ¦nt of your wages?
Governent Subsidies for Corporations
FI stands for Federal Insectcide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The law in its original
form provided for compensation to a company whose product was found to be a hazd to
Any company whose pesticide products were banned received compensation for lost sales,
and the government paid for storing the banned product. Of course, workers who lost their
jobs because of the ban got nothing. In the case of one banned product, it cost Uncle Sam $45
milion for lost sales and $145 milion to store the product.
In spite of the fact that most of these corporations had broad product lines and would have
hardly felt the impact, the subsidies were paid in full. Of course, all these reimbursement
measures never considere the worker whose entire livelihood hinged on the existenÃ¦ of a
single plant or product.
In addition to these examples, remember that Congress has been wiling to pay farmers
bilions of dollars not to grow food; it has ben willng to set aside large sums of money to
clean up hazardous waste dump sites and to relieve polluters of the financial burden of
restoring a spoiled landscape to alternative use by themselves. These ilustrations of
compensation schemes provide us with a framework for new thinking about approaches that
we nee to develop to resolve emerging conflcts around environmental questions.
Understanding the Superfund for Workers 7
THE PRECEDENT FOR THE
SUPERFUND FOR WORKERS
Americans seem to have forgotten the most successful transition
accomplished by us as a nation during most difficult times. We need to
revisit this period - post World War II - because it is most instructive.
During World War II, most
Amencans felt that onÃ¦ the war
was over, there would be a rern to
the desperate depression conditions
of the '30s. A Gallup poll taken
dunng the war found that 24
perÃ¦nt of those polled thought
post-war unemployment would be
a devastating 7 to 10 milion; 11
perÃ¦nt thought it would be 11 to 19
millon, and 8 perÃ¦nt thought it
would be 20 milion.
Remember, the population of
the U.S. at this time was around
135 milion people. Towards the
end of the war, 56 percent of the
G.I.s thought there would not be
jobs at the end of the war and we
would have a depression. Of
course 17 milion men and women
in the serviÃ¦s would not sit still
and acÃ¦pt their return home to
This reality was the reason for
more conÃ¦ntrated actvity on
post-war planning, even though
we were in the midst of tota war.
President Franklin Roosevelt and
some of his advisors began to think
and talk about post-war planning
for the returning men and women.
In fact, in one of his fireside chats
to the nation Roosevelt said,
refernng to the troops, "They must
not be demobilzed into an
environment of inflation and
In October 1943 the
administration presnted to
Congress a modest proposal about
allowing a small number of
returning G.I.s to attend college
and be paid while attending. There
was a great deal of Congressional
resistance and also, surprisingly,
from the education community.
Robert M. Hutchins, the president
of the University of Chicago, said
he was afraid that "Colleges and
universities will find themselves
converted into hobo jungles...and
JTPA - Not the Answer
Because JfPA (the Job Training and Partnership Act - the governments
retraining program) is a failure, workers face poverty when they lose
their jobs. JTPA Title IIA, which serves economically disadvantaged
workers, provides training for new jobs. Workers who receive this
trining earn an average wage of $5.69 per hour (1990) upon graduation
- slightly below the poverty level for a family. And displace workers
who use JfPA TItle II training to upgrade their skils found work paying
an average of $7.73 per hour (1990) - slightly above the poverty level for
a family. And only 9% of those displace workers eligible for JfPA even
reÃ¦ived benefits under this program.
Support for Roosevelts
measure came from an unusual
sourÃ¦ - the Amencan Legion -
which at that time was anti-labor
and very conservative. Harry W.
Colmery, a former commander of
the Leion and past Republican
National Commander, supported
the notion of a G.I. Bil of Rights
and provided key support.
In 1944 the ServÃ¦man's
Readjustment Act was passe; it
became known as the G.I. Bil of
What is interesting to note
about the politics surrounding the
G.I. bil is how forÃ¦fully the
educational section was conteste.
Many efforts were made to weaken
this secton of the bil.
The G.I. bil provided for 52
weeks of pay at $20 a week
8 Understanding the Superfund for Workers
(commonly known as the 52-20
club). You could take the whole 52
weeks stright or work for a while,
then go back in the club. Twenty
dollars a week in 1946 could kep
you going, because the average
, wage wasn't much higher. Single
veterans got $50 a month to go to
school; marred vets reÃ¦ived $75.
Thes allowanÃ¦s were son
raise. Tuition was paid by
the governent and
although peple like the
president of the
University of Chicago waed that
veterans would beme educationa
hobos, the colleges an
unversities thved on the
attndanÃ¦ of thes veters.
Between 1945 and 194, college
enrollment in the U.s. involved
40,0 veterans. A yea later the
campuse held 1.5 milion vets.
While the G.I. bil had many
Understanding the Superfund for Workers
shortcomings, it is still considere
one of the most advance pieÃ¦s of
soal legislation ever enact by
the Congr. It was a major
catalyst for the ecnomic leap
forward of the post-war U.S.
Millons of veterans use the
G.I. bil. The move from a society
geare for war to a peaÃ¦time
economy reuire the peod of
transition tht this incrible pieÃ¦
of soal legslation provided. We
are now in a similar situation of
transition. What is lackng is the
soal vision that allowed for
the sucÃ¦ssful post-World
World War II labor rally.
Americ Labr Phoo
WHAT ABOUT THE PRICE TAG?
The anticipated automatic response
to a Superfnd for Workers is "we can't afford it."
But it is importt to realize that
this is a political- not economic
- question. Can we afford the $2.3
trllon Pentagon budget and the
$500 bilion savings and loan
bailout? The estimated cost of
$4,00 per year per person for
income, tuition, and health benefts
to a millon workers would be
offset by: (1 thes workers would
continue to pay taxes and
contrbute to the economy by
spending; (2) the government will
realize saved costs in soal
serviÃ¦s such as food stamps and
unemployment benefits; (3) we
will avoid preictble incrases in
treatment costs for alcohol and
drug abuse, family violenÃ¦, and
other effec common to sudden
unemployment; (4) new jobs will
be created in teaching and student
serviÃ¦s, new buildings and
upgraded facilities; and (5) local
economies that have been affected
by plant closings will receive a
Allocating the money is
simply a matter of will. The
savings and loan crisis has shown
us all that hundreds of
bilions of dollars
thought to payoff the gree,
larÃ¦ny and corrption of the "big
guys." Why ca't a much smaller
sum be found to provide '
workers with a guarantee income
and the chance to start life over?
And what about the national
debt? How can we afford a
Superfud for Workers when we
ar already in hoc up to our
eyeballs? The exprienÃ¦ of the GI.
Bil of Rights at the end of World
War II is again instrctve. In 1945,
the ).. Oil
Understanding the Superfund for Workers
national debt was actally larger
than the entire gross national
product (GNP). Today the national
debt totals only about one-uarter
of the GNP.
In 1945, the annual deficit was
22.3 percent of all the goods and
serviÃ¦s produce in the country.
Today, it is 2.3 perÃ¦nt of total
production. If we could afford a
GI. Bil of Rights in 1945, we
Ã¦rtainly can afford a Superfund
for Workers in the 1990s.
IN CONCLUSION . . .
This massive restructuring of the world of work
must be borne out of a national movement.
This redefinition of the relationship
between work and income requires
a new movement dedicated to
resolving the conflct between jobs
and the environment.
Paying peple to make the
trnsition from one kind of
economy-from one kind of
job-to another economy, another
job, is not welfare. It is not a hand-
out. Was the G.I. Bil of Rights
chanty? No. The members of our
armed forces had earned the right
to a little consideration. They
deserved a helping hand to make a
new start in life. And so do those
of us who work with toxic
matenals on a daily basis, who faÃ¦
the ever present threat of death
from explosions and fires, in order
to provide the world with the
energy and the materials it nees.
We must think along similar
lines to frame the debate around
jobs and environment. A
Supenund for Workers would
guarantee workers who lose their
jobs due to any environmental
regulation or incident their full
wages and benefits until a
comparable job can be found. In
other words, as with any
unjustified finng, workers would
be made whole in terms of wages
The Supenund for Workers
should also provide full tuition
and fees-in addition to wages
and benefits-to every
Cutting old growth redwood.
Evan Johnson, I~ Visuals
who wants to further his or her
education. As a mattr of public
policy, displace workers should
be encouraged to start their lives
all over again if they wish, to go
back to school and ear advance
degre that will help them find a
job in the expanding, knowledge-
intensive sectors of our economy.
As an extension of the basic
Superfund conÃ¦pt, we support a
public policy whereby all workers
would be encouraged to go to '
scool off and on throughout their
working lives. We believe the
Superfund for Workers should
provide even employed workers
with an opportnity to tae a
sabbatical from their job and to be
paid full wages and beefits (as
long as they make satisfactory
progress toward a degree) while
they go to school in the program
and at the institution of their
choice. All working peple,
whether or not they are facing the
prospect of losing their job, nee
the chanÃ¦ a sabbatical program
provides to re-stablish our family
ties, to reinvigorate ourselves
intellecally, to catch up with
technological change, and to
improve our skills.
This debate over jobs and the
environment should be framed by
those of us who are most
victmized by current policy. The
proposa for a Supenund for
Workers enables us to join this
debate on our terms.
Worke Empuwt in a Chnging
Econom; Jobs, Military Production, and
the E1Wironmet, by Lucinda Wykle,
Waid Morehouse and David Dembo.
Jobs and the Environment - Are There
ChoiÃ¦s? Parts 1 through 4 by Anthony
Mazzocchi (OCAW Rete, 199)
Understanding the Superfund for Workers 11
OCAW RESOLUTION ON
SUPERFUND FOR WORKERS (Adpted as R-29 Augut 16, 1991)(20th Cotituti Covetion)
WHEREAS, the clash between our prouctve capacities and the tolerance of nature is heightening
each day beause our prosperity is base on toxic substaces and byprouct that cause signficant
harm to working peple, their communities and the environment as a whole; and
WHEREAS, our first and foremost tak is to make workplaces that deal with toxic substaces safe by
pressuring corprate America to incras drastically its full-time maintennce staff and stop relying
on unsfe outside contractors, deputizing workers to conduct day-to-ay inspetions in each facility
under protection of the law and by searching for safer substitutes for harmful chemicals and
WHEREAS, we should also recognize that all of our best efforts may be insuffcient to save our
facilities and our jobs from destruction; and
WHEREAS, we should also recognize that as a result, the battle lines are being drawn between jobs
and the environment, and that the conflct between environmentalists and workers is growing ugly
beause over the last decade milions of better paying jobs have disappeared and the forecast is for
more to follow; and
WHEREAS, many workers see the growing environmental clashes and feel angry and frustrated
because although they may hold deep pro-environmentalist convictions, they are also not inclined to
commit economic suicide; and
WHEREAS, many workers also feel frustrated at well-intentioned retraining programs which fall
short because they know that the only decent paying jobs in the new economy require advanced
WHEREAS, the G.I. Bil of Rights, which was provided to veterans of World War II and Korea,
demonstrates that our soiety is capable of reconvertng itself when a real tranition is recogiuzed; and
WHEREAS, that real historical example provides the basis for a deep well of hope and wil among
our members for a new vision of work and income-a vision of a way to escape from the toxic-filled
world of traditional work and enter colleges to gain access to a new kind of work providing goo
pay and benefits; and
WHERAS, such a vision called a Superfund for Workers must be borne out of a nationa movement
beaus this kind of massive restrctring of our world of work cannot be won on a local or state bais;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that this Twentieth Constitutional Convention of the Oil, Chemical
and Atomic Workers Interntional Union affrm its support for this concept of paying workers to go
to college called the Superfund for Workers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOtVED, that this Convention diret the administration and Exective Bord of
Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union to devote the necessa resources to initiate
a nationwide program of grassroots support for Congresional acton on this program.
12 Understanding the Superfund for Workers