What's Left 2015-06-14 Volume 16

by Editors (What's Left) last modified 2015-06-15T11:42:47-04:00
This past week, the G7 reached an agreement to eliminate their collective dependence on carbon-intensive fuel sources by 2100. Originally set for 2050, this new deadline was agreed to at the insistence of Canada and Japan, both countries that have become infamous for refusing to face up to the realities of climate change. Obviously, this deadline is ridiculous public relations pablum and ignores all scientific evidence. As CBC details, countries like Canada have accomplished some pretty amazing things in short amounts of time when prioritized.

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FEATURE

G7 decarbonization process just more hot air

This past week, the G7 reached an agreement to eliminate their collective dependence on carbon-intensive fuel sources by 2100. Originally set for 2050, this new deadline was agreed to at the insistence of Canada and Japan, both countries that have become infamous for refusing to face up to the realities of climate change. Obviously, this deadline is ridiculous public relations pablum and ignores all scientific evidence. As CBC details, countries like Canada have accomplished some pretty amazing things in short amounts of time when prioritized.

Substantial state-level action is needed now to address carbon emissions and climate change. Without immediate and firm commitments to action, Canada will continue to pass the buck to future generations where necessary action will be even more difficult and expensive to enact.

This can be a tricky issue for some unions, but it should be viewed as an opportunity for labour to take the lead towards a healthier and greener country. The focus of the labour movement needs to be on how to address the democratic deficit in the management of energy markets. If public, democratically driven, subsidized and regulated energy markets can be established, then differences in corporate structures between renewable energy cooperatives, national, municipal or individual owned companies become easier to deal with.

We know that private energy markets will not drive this transition fast enough, nor will the transition provide universal benefits. And, given the current liberalized market, cooperatives and public companies will remain at a significant disadvantage as private corporations continue to out-earn and out-grow more ethical structures of ownership.

Unions need to be clear that "enery democracy" refers to democratic control over markets and opposition to financialization and corporatization within these markets.

The next opportunity for labour unions to help lead this agenda is through the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy who will be hosting an international trade union climate summit in New York on June 29.

More: G7's promised 'decarbonization' is a long way off

More: The G7 and its 85-year carbon pledge

More: How G7's long-term decarbonization plan compares to other major goals

More: Trade Union Climate Summit: A Discussion on Global and National Actions

CANADA

Toronto next stop for massive climate march

After New York and Québec City, a large-scale march for jobs, justice and climate is coming to Toronto. On July 5, workers, climate justice activists, community groups and many others will converge in the streets of Toronto to make a united call for urgent action to address climate change. As Naomi Klein has argued, there is a pressing need for labour and environmental movements to put differences aside and work together. This march should represent the next step in that direction.

More: Jobs, justice, climate: A new climate movement is rising from below

Need a union? Apparently there's an app for that too

Statistics Canada has released new numbers showing that union density has started to decline, once again. With a number of state-supported consultations on how precarious workers can get union coverage, it is clear that labour needs to start pushing their organizing in this direction.

Liberal think tanks like The Century Foundation in the United States are funding and promoting new technologies to help union organizing in workplaces. The new applications range from social networking platforms to apps that demonstrate the improved pay and benefits workers would realize in a unionized environment.

While new technology is certainly not a silver bullet (or even a necessity) in organizing drives, new ways of reaching people are always welcome and should be incorporated in current strategies. In the end, it seems there is a pressing need for labour leadership that takes organizing seriously and backs it up with the appropriate resources to roll-out hefty organizing programs. The most straightforward way to reverse trends in union density decline and high jobless rates is for unions to hire more workplace organizers.

More: Unionization rates start falling (again)

More: Labr? An App For Organizing Workers Is Coming

More: How Much More Money Would You Make If You Were Unionized?

Federal and Quebec governments try to limit access to public services

After both the Harper and Quebec governments have tried to put arbitrary barriers on access to health and other public services, there is a growing call within the left to revisit universalism of public services. On June 15, there will be a Canada-wide Day of Action to protest refugee health cuts organized by doctors and unions.

There is also growing outrage over the announcement that the Quebec Liberals will demand that people show their faces to access public services. Using racist, religious and ethnic divisions to chip away at concepts of universal public service access must be opposed. The goal of expanding public services to all those on Canadian soil (regardless of country of origin, status or background) represents the implementation of social solidarity that is at the foundation of socialism.

More: Quebec Introduces Bill To Ban Face Coverings For Public Services

More: Organizers call on Conservative government to drop costly court appeal and rescind the cuts

Municipalities hold key to expanding public ownership and services

Last week, the yearly meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) took place in Edmonton. While the conference was host to the regular display of bad liberal analysis and short-sighted plans for privatization, there were some signs of hope. Labour-endorsed candidates are starting to see ways to support public services, and networking to build on this agenda.

In a panel organized by CUPE, a packed room of progressive councillors heard about the massive public support for increased municipal taxes to fund better public services, the failure of private investment for rural community communications infrastructure, innovative ways to make municipal taxation less of a burden on the poor, and a presentation from the Ontario Auditor General on the outlandish costs of public-private partnerships.

More: Ontario auditor shares P3 findings with municipal leaders

Restaurants Canada tries to make low wages and no benefits cool ... and fails

Restaurants Canada did a spectacular belly flop this week when they launched a social media campaign geared towards young workers. The association that is largley composed of Canadian fast-food employers claimed, in a press release, that they were campaigning to save young people "jobs and money" by calling for 18 to 24 year-olds to be excluded from the Ontario Registered Pension Plan (ORPP). Their campaign hashtag, #FixTheORPP, was quickly taken over by those who saw right through Restaurant Canada's attempt to protect their bottom-line at the expense of workers.

Excluding youth from attempts to properly save for retirement is a call to increase inequality over generations, and certainly not one that is done in the interest of young workers. The response was quite clear: if Restaurants Canada wants to be altruistic and get in the good books of youth, perhaps they should call to increase minimum wage and make the ORPP accessible to everyone.

Follow: #FixtheORPP

New campaign: Journalism matters

Journalism is more important than ever, particularly in these times of information overload. A coalition of media unions, educational institutions, newspaper publishers and many others have joined forces to launch a campaign, #JournalismIs, to draw attention to the importance and value of professional journalism.

The campaign was launched last Friday in front of an audience of more than 100 journalists. Presenters included journalist and Unifor Atlantic Director Lana Payne, Federal politics columnist Chantal Hébert, and Winnipeg Free Press journalist Mary Agnes Welch.

With more and more newsrooms cutting full-time staff journalist positions, the campaign highlights the need for quality reporting to act as an independent voice – a watchdog over the powerful and a commitment to the public interest.

More: Journalism Is

Follow: #JournalismIs

ELSEWHERE

Women scientists fight back

There's no excuse for the sexist comments uttered by Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt with regards to his women lab-mates. Luckily for us, and perhaps unluckily for him, there are other things that female scientists are very able to do in a lab: think, research, as well as engage in high-level debates based on facts and evidence. Their response will hopefully remind him, and other like-minded scientists, that sexism has no place in the discussion (or society) and that they should treat their female counter-parts with the same respect they would expect.

More: #Distractinglysexy Twitter campaign mocks sexist scientist

Follow: #Distractinglysexy

More: Five times Cosmos’ Neil deGrasse Tyson stole my feminist heart

In surprise move, Democrats vote against Obama on trade

This week saw liberal free trade proponents suffer a rare loss (though this is likely only a minor setback). The week culminated in free trade apologist and US President Obama losing a vote and being denied his administration's desire for "Fast Track" authority to approve trade deals without Congress's approval. Surprisingly, it was the result of democrats voting against their president following a series of revelations about the broken trade process with Wikileaks exposing TiSA, access to information documents showing corporate corruption of the TPP process, and a massive grass-roots union-organized campaign.

More: Corporate lobbyist thanks US Trade Rep for pasting his wish list right into TPP

European Commission: EU copyright law "pushing people to steal"

In an interview, the European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip admitted that when legal copies of works are not available or are difficult to access, people are far more likely to seek out "illegal" services.

Currently, the media industry in Europe makes widespread use of a practice called geo-blocking, where digital movies, television, and music can be accessed in some countries but is blocked in others. This issue will be familiar to Canadian Netflix users, who are not able to access a large portion of the US Netflix library.

The analysis out of the EU is welcome, as it identifies a major issue. With digital media, corporations have attempted to exercise complete control over how, when, and where people access media (regardless of whether they own the content or not). This obsession with control actually pushes people away from spending money and towards other legally questionable services. Making sure that people are able to access (and pay for) digital content easily, and then use it when, where, and on whatever devices they want, should be a major priority for the industry and its regulators.

More: EU vice-president: Copyright legislation is "pushing people to steal"

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