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.


  • Understandingthe Conflict betweenJobs and the Envionment

    S. Vaneco.l~ Visuals

    Oil spillclean up,


    A PRELIMINARY DISCUSSION OF THESUPERFUND FOR WORKERS CONCEPTAn Economic Agenda for Workers"Our first concern is to protect the jobs, income and working conditions of ourmeber.""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 evethingwe 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 tomake provision for the workers who lose their jobs in the wake ofthe country's drastically needed environmental clean-up, or whoare displaced or otheriise injured by economic restructuring, ormilitary cutbacks and shifts of manufacturing fadlities overseas.What it will take is an ambitious, imaginative program ofsupport and reeucation - going far beyond theinadequate and deptive "job retraining" programs thatreally mean a downward spiral to low-paying servi jobsor subsisten-level unemployment .income.

    The G.I. Bil after World War II (se page 8), aninnovative and sucssful program, is the preent uponwhich the Superfd for Workers is base. The G.I. Bilhelped more than 13 milion ex-servicemen and womenbetween 1945 and 1972 make the trnsition from miltaryserv to skiled employment in the private sector. Thisprogram had a formidable pri tag, but the countroverwhelmingly approved it as an investment in the future.Education became the key to national economic recovery.Education remains just as powerful a for today and is thebasis of a conpt supported by OCW called "TheSuperfud for Workers."





    2 Understanding the Superfund for Workers

  • OCW members are conrned with the environment - our record overthe years demonstrates this very fundamental fact. And, naturally, OCWmembers are conceed about their jobs. It is small comfort to know that theenvironment is improving, but our jobs no longer exist.

    There is, obviously, a major contrdicton to be overcome. We want jobsand a clean environment. Environmental organizations representing manymillons of Americans demand a clean-up of toxics and a halt to thecontinuing toxification of the environment. However, they lack a clear ideaof how to accmplish that desirable goal without a loss in jobs or a massmovement into jobs that pay only theminimum wage.

    Asbestos removal worker fitshis respirator during jobsafety training.

    Understanding the Superfund for Workers 3


    How should we as workers react to the threat that jobs willbe lost if steps are taken to stop environmental degradation?One option is to oppose any andall regulatory measures affecngour industres that couldpotentially cost jobs.Unfortunately, such a defensiveposition does not come with jobguarantes. Aii the environmentalregulations now on the bookscould be repealed, and milions ofworking people-including manyof our members-would still wakeup one day to find themselveswithout a job. According to theU.S. Department of Labor,approximately 1 milion workerswith three or more years senioritylost their jobs every year duringthe 1980s, 1 in 10 of which were

    employed by petrochemicalcompanies. Very few of these jobs(less than.2,OOO overall were lostbecause of environmentalregulations-t least according to

    the statistics compiled by theEnvironmental Protection Agency.

    Does this mean that weshould not worry about job lossfrom environmental regulation?Not at all. Corprations can closedown their facilities whenever andwherever they want to. They cando so for good reasons, badreasons, and no reasons at all.When they threaten to take ourjobs away if the government

    Dirt is Treated Better Than WorkersIn 1987 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) .

    forced Velsicol to suspend domestic sales of two very toxicpesticides, chlordane and heptachlor. Shortly thereafter,Velsicol closed its Marshall, Ilinois manufacturing plant andlaid off all of the hourly workers. The OCAW local wasdisbanded. Some workers were given early retirement. Butmany were too young to qualify for retirement and wereunable to find comparable employment, if any job at alL.

    The EPA listed the Marshall facilty as a Superfund siteafter it close, and ordered more than $10 miIion to be spentcleaning up the piles of contaminated dirt. But the workerswere tosse onto the economic scrap heap, blacklisted beauseof their toxic exposures on the job, and impoverished by thelack of comparable employment opportunities.

    Why do we treat dirt better than we treat workers? Wehave a federal Superfund for restoring abandoned piles of toxicdirt, but no Superfund for abandoned workers left behind onthe economic scrap heap.


    4 Understanding the Superfund for Workers

    ~ imposes additional relations on

    ~ them, we have to tae that thret


    We nee to provide workers~ with real options in suchj circumstans. 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 rently 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 fa 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 on, 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 againstj companies dumping workers - a

    I Superfund for Workers.

  • What has happened?The end of the post-war ecnomicboom in 1973 resulte in a radicalrestrcturing of the U.S. economyand the loss of hundres ofthousands of unionizemanufactring jobs. Workersbecame incrsingly reluctt tocomplain about health and safetyproblems. At the same time, thegrassroots environmentalmovement-spurred on byagrowing number of tragicincidents and catastrphicaccidents - became ever morevocal in deman~ing an end tounchecked, heeless growth of thehazardous waste stream and, asmuch as possible, the completeelimination of toxic materials fromthe producton cycle. This puttrade unions and theenvironmental movement on acollsion course.

    The 1980s saw an incredibleeconomic restructuring. Industresthat we considere a bedrock inour economy were greatly reducedor, in some instans, completelydisappeare. Leveraged buyoutswreaked havoc in manycommunities throughout ourcountr and average wages,adjuste for inflation, fell to thelevel they were in the early 1970s.

    The 1990s se us confrontingincrease layoffs andplant closures alongwith an extremelydepressed economy.

    Foundry workers producing pistonrings for u.s. auto market.

    Clearly, in this

    economic climate,workers feel threatened byany expressions that areperived to be a peril to their jobs.How should working pepleconfront the 1990s, given the newenvironmenta perptions thatexist in our soety? The answer isnot simple. We nee to thinkabout this questionin new ways andrework a lot ofold definitions.







    Understanding the Superfund for Workers 5


    Corpo.rations are in a different position than theaverage working person. The companies, especially thetransnational ones, don't suffer from a shutdown. Theiroperations just continue somewhere else.Workers do not have suchflexibilty, so it is essential that theenvironmental community reflecton this fact. We are not asking thatenvironmentalists change theiragenda. We are realistic enough to

    know that milions of Americans considers the economic impactare 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..'11I" ,

    In the national forests in. the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, and the East, timber stands have low valueand are costly to bring to market for a number of resons. The pricing formula use for saes fromthe national forests (owned by us, the taxpayers), however, involves calcuation of a minimum bidthat guarantees profit to timber buyers but ignores the governments cost of growing and sellngtrees.

    Moreover, the Forest Servce is allowed to use its timber sale contracts to finan purchaser-builtroads and acquire land management services that often are uneconomic and environmentallydestrctive. As a result, below-cost timber sales - where the U.S. Forest Serv does not reover thecost 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 reipts. The agency spent about $1.2 bilion each year onroad constrcton, sales administration, reforestation, and other timber programs.Ths resulted in a cost to the U.S. Governent of $4 milion anually. The Forest Servi nowplans 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 notcutting the timber with its resulting environmental destrcton and instead paying the workers fulwages for not cuttng timber and building roads.


    6 Understanding the Superfund for Workers

  • ..--, ,

    " .L,.~

    Guaranteeing Corporate Economic SecutyMost large corporations carry what is known as "business interrptioninsurance." An example of how well this works for corporationsoccrr shortly after the Philips Chemical Plant blew up in Pasadena,Texas, in October of 1989. The blast, which leveled the entirepolyethylene complex, killed 23 and injure 290. The physical damageto the plant, estimated at up to $700 milion, was compensated byinsuran.However, a little-understood feature called business interruptioninsurance allowed Philips to collect an estimated $750 milion forincome lost durng the 32-month rebuilding period. It is nothing shortof a lavish "unemployment insuran 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 onlyfive percet of the entire loss. Imgine being out of work and reiving95 percent of your wages.

    Why should we not consider the concept of worker job loss insuranthat pays 95 pernt of your wages?

    Governent Subsidies for CorporationsFI stands for Federal Insectcide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The law in its originalform provided for compensation to a company whose product was found to be a hazd topublic 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 theirjobs because of the ban got nothing. In the case of one banned product, it cost Uncle Sam $45milion 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 havehardly felt the impact, the subsidies were paid in full. Of course, all these reimbursementmeasures never considere the worker whose entire livelihood hinged on the existen of asingle plant or product.

    In addition to these examples, remember that Congress has been wiling to pay farmersbilions of dollars not to grow food; it has ben willng to set aside large sums of money toclean up hazardous waste dump sites and to relieve polluters of the financial burden ofrestoring a spoiled landscape to alternative use by themselves. These ilustrations ofcompensation schemes provide us with a framework for new thinking about approaches thatwe nee to develop to resolve emerging conflcts around environmental questions.


    Understanding the Superfund for Workers 7


    Americans seem to have forgotten the most successful transitionaccomplished by us as a nation during most difficult times. We need torevisit this period - post World War II - because it is most instructive.

    During World War II, mostAmencans felt that on the warwas over, there would be a rern to

    the desperate depression conditionsof the '30s. A Gallup poll takendunng the war found that 24pernt of those polled thoughtpost-war unemployment would bea devastating 7 to 10 milion; 11

    pernt thought it would be 11 to 19millon, and 8 pernt thought itwould be 20 milion.

    Remember, the population ofthe U.S. at this time was around135 milion people. Towards theend of the war, 56 percent of theG.I.s thought there would not bejobs at the end of the war and wewould have a depression. Ofcourse 17 milion men and womenin the servis would not sit stilland acpt their return home tomassive unemployment.

    This reality was the reason formore conntrated actvity on

    post-war planning, even thoughwe were in the midst of tota war.President Franklin Roosevelt andsome of his advisors began to thinkand talk about post-war planningfor the returning men and women.In fact, in one of his fireside chatsto the nation Roosevelt said,refernng to the troops, "They mustnot be demobilzed into anenvironment of inflation andunemployment."

    In October 1943 the

    administration presnted toCongress a modest proposal aboutallowing a small number ofreturning G.I.s to attend collegeand be paid while attending. Therewas a great deal of Congressionalresistance and also, surprisingly,from the education community.Robert M. Hutchins, the presidentof the University of Chicago, saidhe was afraid that "Colleges anduniversities will find themselvesconverted into hobo jungles...and

    JTPA - Not the AnswerBecause JfPA (the Job Training and Partnership Act - the governmentsretraining program) is a failure, workers face poverty when they losetheir jobs. JTPA Title IIA, which serves economically disadvantagedworkers, provides training for new jobs. Workers who receive thistrining earn an average wage of $5.69 per hour (1990) upon graduation- slightly below the poverty level for a family. And displace workerswho use JfPA TItle II training to upgrade their skils found work payingan average of $7.73 per hour (1990) - slightly above the poverty level fora family. And only 9% of those displace workers eligible for JfPA evenreived benefits under this program.

    veteranswould becomeeducational hoboes."

    Support for Rooseveltsmeasure came from an unusualsour - the Amencan Legion -which at that time was anti-laborand very conservative. Harry W.Colmery, a former commander ofthe Leion and past RepublicanNational Commander, supportedthe notion of a G.I. Bil of Rightsand provided key support.

    In 1944 the Servman'sReadjustment Act was passe; itbecame known as the G.I. Bil ofRights.

    What is interesting to noteabout the politics surrounding theG.I. bil is how forfully theeducational section was conteste.Many efforts were made to weakenthis 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 52-20club). You could take the whole 52weeks stright or work for a while,then go back in the club. Twentydollars a week in 1946 could kepyou going, because the average

    , wage wasn't much higher. Singleveterans got $50 a month to go toschool; marred vets reived $75.

    Thes allowans were sonraise. Tuition was paid bythe governent andalthough peple like thepresident of the

    University of Chicago waed thatveterans would beme educationahobos, the colleges anunversities thved on theattndan of thes veters.Between 1945 and 194, college

    enrollment in the U.s. involved40,0 veterans. A yea later thecampuse held 1.5 milion vets.

    While the G.I. bil had many

    Understanding the Superfund for Workers

    shortcomings, it is still considereone of the most advance pies ofsoal legislation ever enact bythe Congr. It was a majorcatalyst for the ecnomic leapforward of the post-war U.S.

    Millons of veterans use theG.I. bil. The move from a societygeare for war to a peatimeeconomy reuire the peod oftransition tht this incrible pieof soal legslation provided. Weare now in a similar situation oftransition. What is lackng is the

    soal vision that allowed forthe sucssful post-World

    War IItrnsformtion.

    World War II labor rally.

    Americ Labr Phoo



    The anticipated automatic responseto a Superfnd for Workers is "we can't afford it."But it is importt to realize thatthis is a political- not economic- question. Can we afford the $2.3trllon Pentagon budget and the

    $500 bilion savings and loanbailout? The estimated cost of$4,00 per year per person forincome, tuition, and health beneftsto a millon workers would beoffset by: (1 thes workers wouldcontinue to pay taxes andcontrbute to the economy byspending; (2) the government willrealize saved costs in soalservis such as food stamps andunemployment benefits; (3) wewill avoid preictble incrases intreatment costs for alcohol anddrug abuse, family violen, andother effec common to suddenunemployment; (4) new jobs willbe created in teaching and studentservis, new buildings andupgraded facilities; and (5) localeconomies that have been affectedby plant closings will receive amuch-neeed bost.

    Allocating the money issimply a matter of will. Thesavings and loan crisis has shownus all that hundreds ofbilions of dollars

    can becommitted withhardly a



    thought to payoff the gree,larny and corrption of the "bigguys." Why ca't a much smallersum be found to provide 'environmentaly-displaceworkers with a guarantee incomeand the chance to start life over?

    And what about the nationaldebt? How can we afford aSuperfud for Workers when wear already in hoc up to oureyeballs? The exprien of the GI.Bil of Rights at the end of WorldWar 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 nationalproduct (GNP). Today the nationaldebt totals only about one-uarterof the GNP.

    In 1945, the annual deficit was22.3 percent of all the goods andservis produce in the country.Today, it is 2.3 pernt of totalproduction. If we could afford aGI. Bil of Rights in 1945, wertainly can afford a Superfundfor Workers in the 1990s.





    This massive restructuring of the world of workmust be borne out of a national movement.This redefinition of the relationshipbetween work and income requiresa new movement dedicated toresolving the conflct between jobsand the environment.

    Paying peple to make thetrnsition from one kind of

    economy-from one kind ofjob-to another economy, anotherjob, is not welfare. It is not a hand-out. Was the G.I. Bil of Rightschanty? No. The members of ourarmed forces had earned the rightto a little consideration. Theydeserved a helping hand to make anew start in life. And so do thoseof us who work with toxicmatenals on a daily basis, who fathe ever present threat of deathfrom explosions and fires, in orderto provide the world with theenergy and the materials it nees.

    We must think along similarlines to frame the debate aroundjobs and environment. ASupenund for Workers wouldguarantee workers who lose theirjobs due to any environmentalregulation or incident their fullwages and benefits until acomparable job can be found. Inother words, as with anyunjustified finng, workers wouldbe made whole in terms of wagesand benefits.

    The Supenund for Workersshould also provide full tuitionand fees-in addition to wagesand benefits-to every

    Cutting old growth redwood.Evan Johnson, I~ Visuals

    environmentaly-displace workerwho wants to further his or hereducation. As a mattr of public

    policy, displace workers shouldbe encouraged to start their livesall over again if they wish, to goback to school and ear advancedegre that will help them find ajob in the expanding, knowledge-intensive sectors of our economy.

    As an extension of the basicSuperfund conpt, we support apublic policy whereby all workerswould be encouraged to go to 'scool off and on throughout theirworking lives. We believe theSuperfund for Workers shouldprovide even employed workerswith an opportnity to tae asabbatical from their job and to bepaid full wages and beefits (aslong as they make satisfactoryprogress toward a degree) whilethey go to school in the programand at the institution of their

    choice. All working peple,whether or not they are facing theprospect of losing their job, neethe chan a sabbatical programprovides to re-stablish our family

    ties, to reinvigorate ourselvesintellecally, to catch up with

    technological change, and toimprove our skills.

    This debate over jobs and theenvironment should be framed bythose of us who are mostvictmized by current policy. Theproposa for a Supenund forWorkers enables us to join thisdebate on our terms.

    SourcesWorke Empuwt in a ChngingEconom; Jobs, Military Production, andthe E1Wironmet, by Lucinda Wykle,Waid Morehouse and David Dembo.

    Jobs and the Environment - Are ThereChois? Parts 1 through 4 by AnthonyMazzocchi (OCAW Rete, 199)

    Understanding the Superfund for Workers 11

  • OCAW RESOLUTION ONSUPERFUND 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 heighteningeach day beause our prosperity is base on toxic substaces and byprouct that cause signficantharm 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 bypressuring corprate America to incras drastically its full-time maintennce staff and stop relyingon unsfe outside contractors, deputizing workers to conduct day-to-ay inspetions in each facilityunder protection of the law and by searching for safer substitutes for harmful chemicals andprocesses; and

    WHEREAS, we should also recognize that all of our best efforts may be insuffcient to save ourfacilities and our jobs from destruction; and

    WHEREAS, we should also recognize that as a result, the battle lines are being drawn between jobsand the environment, and that the conflct between environmentalists and workers is growing uglybeause over the last decade milions of better paying jobs have disappeared and the forecast is formore to follow; and

    WHEREAS, many workers see the growing environmental clashes and feel angry and frustratedbecause although they may hold deep pro-environmentalist convictions, they are also not inclined tocommit economic suicide; and

    WHEREAS, many workers also feel frustrated at well-intentioned retraining programs which fallshort because they know that the only decent paying jobs in the new economy require advanceddegrees, 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 amongour members for a new vision of work and income-a vision of a way to escape from the toxic-filledworld of traditional work and enter colleges to gain access to a new kind of work providing goopay and benefits; and

    WHERAS, such a vision called a Superfund for Workers must be borne out of a nationa movementbeaus 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, Chemicaland Atomic Workers Interntional Union affrm its support for this concept of paying workers to goto college called the Superfund for Workers; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOtVED, that this Convention diret the administration and Exective Bord ofOil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union to devote the necessa resources to initiatea nationwide program of grassroots support for Congresional acton on this program.

    12 Understanding the Superfund for Workers


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