Understanding the conflict between Jobs and the Environment (OCAW Just Transition)

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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.


  • Understanding the Conflict between Jobs and the Envionment S. Vaneco.l~ Visuals Oil spill clean up, Huntington Beach California 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 meber." "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 · P.O. Box 2812 · 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 deæptive "job retraining" programs that really mean a downward spiral to low-paying serviæ jobs or subsistenæ-level unemployment .income. The G.I. Bil after World War II (se page 8), an innovative and sucæssful program, is the preæent 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 servæ to skiled employment in the private sector. This program had a formidable priæ 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 foræ today and is the basis of a conæpt supported by OCW called "The Superfud for Workers." .. ~ 5 l l u.j .r 'i '" 2 Understanding the Superfund for Workers
  • OCW members are conærned 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 minimum wage. Asbestos removal worker fits his respirator during job safety training. Understanding the Superfund for Workers 3
  • WORKERS' OPTIONS 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. i 4 Understanding the Superfund for Workers ~ imposes additional relations on ~ them, we have to tae that thret ¡ seriously. ¡ We nee to provide workers ~ with real options in such j circumstanæs. We nee to provide ¡ them with a gurantee that they ¡ and their familes will not have to ¡ pay for clean air and clean water ¡ with their jobs, their living ¡ standards, their future. ¡ Until reæntly the ¡ environmenta movement has ~ failed to take such issues seriously. ~ They bruhed aside the question of ¡ job fear with studies to prove that ~ protectng the environment would ¡ create more jobs than it destroyed. ¡ This position is just not ~ adequate. As workers we must be ¡ concerned with our livelihood. The ¡ reality is that if we lose our jobs, ¡ we will faæ extreme economic ¡ hardship. ¡ We nee to hear a more ¡ realistic program from those who ~ care about the environment - a ¡ program that provides working ¡ peple with job and income ¡ guarantes. As one of our ¡ members put it onæ, working ¡ peple should be treated at least as ¡ good as the dirt the EPA and other ¡ 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 grassroots environmental 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 collsion course. The 1980s saw an incredible economic restructuring. Industres that we considere a bedrock in our economy were greatly reduced or, in some instanæs, 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 depressed economy. Foundry workers producing piston rings for u.s. auto market. Clearly, in this economic climate, workers feel threatened by any expressions that are peræived to be a peril to their jobs. How should working peple confront the 1990s, given the new environmenta peræptions 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 old definitions. i ~ l ~ ~ ~ .. !l a: Understanding the Superfund for Workers 5
  • THE DIFFERENCES 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 ¡ considers the economic impact are demanding a halt to ¡ upon workers. environmenta degrdation. j Th' ti' f . d . . f ¡ is no on 0 an economic agen aHowever, we ure consideration 0 : f k h . bs be . . ¡ 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 ¡ t . 'ty¡ governmen pnon . The Government, Corporations, and Profits , " 1..'11 I" , 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 trees. Moreover, the Forest Servce is allowed to use its timber sale contracts to finanæ 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 Servæ 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 reæipts. 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 Serviæ 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
  • ..--, , " .L ,.~ 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 insuranæ. 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 insuranæ 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 reæiving 95 percent of your wages. Why should we not consider the concept of worker job loss insuranæ that pays 95 perænt 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 public health. 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 existenæ 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. a.. 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 onæ 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 perænt of those polled thought post-war unemployment would be a devastating 7 to 10 milion; 11 perænt thought it would be 11 to 19 millon, and 8 perænt 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 serviæs would not sit still and acæpt their return home to massive unemployment. This reality was the reason for more conæntrated 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 unemployment." 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 reæived benefits under this program. veterans would become educational hoboes." Support for Roosevelts measure came from an unusual souræ - 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 Servæman's Readjustment Act was passe; it became known as the G.I. Bil of Rights. What is interesting to note about the politics surrounding the G.I. bil is how foræfully 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 reæived $75. Thes allowanæs 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 attndanæ 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 pieæs 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 peaætime economy reuire the peod of transition tht this incrible pieæ of soal legslation provided. We are now in a similar situation of transition. What is lackng is the soal vision that allowed for the sucæssful post-World War II trnsformtion. World War II labor rally. Americ Labr Phoo 9
  • 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 serviæs such as food stamps and unemployment benefits; (3) we will avoid preictble incrases in treatment costs for alcohol and drug abuse, family violenæ, and other effec common to sudden unemployment; (4) new jobs will be created in teaching and student serviæs, new buildings and upgraded facilities; and (5) local economies that have been affected by plant closings will receive a much-neeed bost. Allocating the money is simply a matter of will. The savings and loan crisis has shown us all that hundreds of bilions of dollars can be committed with hardly a second 10 thought to payoff the gree, laræny and corrption of the "big guys." Why ca't a much smaller sum be found to provide ' environmentaly-displace 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 exprienæ of the GI. Bil of Rights at the end of World War II is again instrctve. In 1945, the ).. Oil ~''? spll ~ clean ~ up, 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 serviæs produce in the country. Today, it is 2.3 perænt of total production. If we could afford a GI. Bil of Rights in 1945, we ærtainly can afford a Superfund for Workers in the 1990s. ~ .!;; l l ;Â¥
  • 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 faæ 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 and benefits. 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 environmentaly-displace worker 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 conæpt, 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 chanæ 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. Sources 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 Choiæs? 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 processes; 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 degrees, and 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


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