jump to navigation

Are Utility Companies Out to Destroy Solar’s ‘Rooftop Revolution’? October 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Energy, Environment.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

 

In California, customers who install solar systems and battery arrays are finding themselves cut off from grid

 

- Jon Queally, staff writer

In California and elsewhere, utilities see a rooftop solar revolution as fundemental threat. (Photo: shutterstock)

In the nation’s largest state, California, the major utility companies are trying to limit growth.

Of rooftop solar panels, that is.

According to reporting by Bloomberg, the state’s three largest utilities—Edison International, PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy—are “putting up hurdles” to homeowners who have installed sun-powered energy systems, especially those with “battery backups wired to solar panels,” in order to slow the spread of what has become a threat to their dominant business model.

“The utilities clearly see rooftop solar as the next threat,” Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at solar company Mainstream Energy Corp., told Bloomberg. “They’re trying to limit the growth.”

According to Peters, as the business news outlet reports, the dispute between those with solar arrays and the utility giants “threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power.  People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all.”

Citing but one example, Bloomberg reports:

Matthew Sperling, a Santa Barbara, California, resident, installed eight panels and eight batteries at his home in April.

“We wanted to have an alternative in case of a blackout to keep the refrigerator running,” he said in an interview. Southern California Edison rejected his application to link the system to the grid even though city inspectors said “it was one of the nicest they’d ever seen,” he said.

“We’ve installed a $30,000 system and we can’t use it,” Sperling said.

The utilities argue that customers with solar energy-storing batteries might be rigging the system by fraudulently storing conventional energy sent in from the utility grid, storing it in the batteries, and then sending it back to the grid for credit. The solar companies say there is no proof that this is happening.

What environmentalists and solar energy advocates see is the utility companies putting barriers up to a decentralized system they will not no longer be able to control or profit from.

As Danny Kennedy, author of the book “Rooftop Revolution” and co-founder of solar company Sungevity in California, said in an interview with Alternet earlier this year:

Solar power represents a change in electricity that has a potentially disruptive impact on power in both the literal sense (meaning how we get electricity) and in the figurative sense of how we distribute wealth and power in our society. Fossil fuels have led to the concentration of power whereas solar’s potential is really to give power over to the hands of people. This shift has huge community benefits while releasing our dependency on the centralized, monopolized capital of the fossil fuel industry. So it’s revolutionary in the technological and political sense.

The tensions between decentralized forms of energy like rootop solar or small-scale wind and traditional large-scale utilities is nothing new, but as the crisis of climate change has spurred a global grassroots movement push for a complete withdrawal from the fossil fuel and nuclear paradigm that forms the basis of the current electricity grid, these tensions are growing.

But the resistance to these changes is coming strongest from those with a vested interest in the status quo. With most focus on the behavior of the fossil fuel companies themselves, the idea that utility companies will be deeply impacted by this green energy revolution is often overlooked.

Earlier this summer, David Roberts, an energy and environmental blogger at Grist.org, wrote an extensive, multi-part series on the role of utilities in the renewable energy transition, explaining why understanding the politics and economics of the utility industry (despite the grand “tedium” of the task) will be essential for the remainder of the 21st century. Roberts wrote:

There’s very little public discussion of utilities or utility regulations, especially relative to sexier topics like fracking or electric cars. That’s mainly because the subject is excruciatingly boring, a thicket of obscure institutions and processes, opaque jargon, and acronyms out the wazoo. Whether PURPA allows IOUs to customize RFPs for low-carbon QFs is actually quite important, but you, dear reader, don’t know it, because you fell asleep halfway through this sentence. Utilities are shielded by a force field of tedium.

It’s is an unfortunate state of affairs, because this is going to be the century of electricity. Everything that can be electrified will be. (This point calls for its own post, but mark my words: transportation, heat, even lots of industrial work is going to shift to electricity.) So the question of how best to manage electricity is key to both economic competitiveness and ecological sustainability.

___________________________________________

Education, Not Deportation!”: Undocumented Students Protest Napolitano as UC President July 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Education, Immigration, Race.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Undocumented UC students say they are concerned about what her appointment could mean for students like them.

Photo Credit: AP Photo

July 19, 2013  |
New America Media             /               By Asha DuMonthier           
<!–

MailChimp RSS-Email Widget

–>     

Janet Napolitano became the new president of the University of California Thursday over objections of student protesters. Six students were removed by campus police from the Board of Regents meeting where Napolitano’s appointment was confirmed.

The former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security will be the first woman president of the 10-campus UC system and will earn $570,000 per year in her new position. Shortly after Napolitano’s compensation was read at the public meeting, a UC student stepped forward from the audience and started the chant, “Education, not deportation!” Campus police escorted four other students out shortly after when they refused to leave the room.

About 60 students, parents, faculty and staff representing UC Merced, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and other campuses protested outside the meeting to show their disappointment with Napolitano’s nomination.

As Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano oversaw a record number of deportations under the Obama administration, about 400,000 undocumented immigrants per year.

Undocumented student protesters said they were concerned about what her appointment could mean for students like them.

“She’s separated a lot of families,” said Wei Lee, an undocumented graduate of UC Santa Cruz, who noted that the UC system is home to many undocumented students. “We cannot allow someone like Janet Napolitano with her background and her experience to run this fine education system.”

Lee, who is ethnically Chinese and was born and raised in Brazil, fell out of immigration status after being denied political asylum. He said that without the advocacy of his friends and community, he and his family would have been deported. Today, he is a part of the student group ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education) and says that the current immigration system “does not reflect American values.”

San Francisco State University student Akiko Aspillaga held a pink sign that read, “This feminist opposes Napolitano’s appointment.”

“For somebody who justifies the war, who militarizes not just our borders but our communities and separates our families… if those are her values, we don’t want her to be the lead of our education system,” said Aspillaga.

Lotus Yee Fong, whose son has two UC degrees, expressed concern over Napolitano’s credentials: “She is not an educator.”

Protesters also criticized the timing of the appointment. Napolitano was nominated only a week before the public meeting, which they said left them little time to organize.

“It’s more or less a political coup,” said UC Santa Cruz student Daniel Shubat, shaking his head. “They did it during the summer. It’s underhanded and we don’t have a say.”

Supporters are quick to point out that Napolitano has also been criticized by Republicans who accuse her of being too soft on immigration enforcement.

Gov. Brown denies farm workers the tools to protect themselves from heat-related death October 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, California, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown rejected The Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act – authored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) – that would make it a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and fines, to not provide appropriate water or shade to workers laboring under high heat conditions. The governor also vetoed AB 2346 – The Farm Worker Safety Act – by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles). It would have allowed workers to enforce the state’s heat regulations by suing employers who repeatedly violate the law. The United Farm Workers strongly supported both bills. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez issued the following statement:
“The UFW is appalled at the governor’s decision to deny farm workers the basic legal tools to protect themselves from employers who intentionally put their lives at risk by refusing to provide them with adequate water and shade despite the dangerously high temperatures. By vetoing AB 2676, the governor continues the policy of giving animals more protections than those currently offered to farm workers.
Since California issued regulations in 2005 to keep farm workers from dying of extreme heat, preventable farm worker deaths have continued. State regulators are investigating two possible heat-related farm worker deaths that occurred this summer. There are over 81,500 farms and more than 450,000 farm workers working under a corrupt farm labor contractor system. It’s time the government admits that without adequate enforcement, regulations are ineffective. We are weighing our legal and other options to determine how we better provide the protections farm workers deserve as human beings.”

Outcry as Walmart OK’s Monsanto GM Corn August 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, California, Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Published on Saturday, August 4, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

- Common Dreams staff

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, has confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that despite protests from environment and food-safety advocates, it will not restrict sales of genetically modified corn in its stores.

The corn will not be labelled and consumers will not be notified that the sweet corn they are buying are engineered by agro-giant Monsanto and genetically-altered (GMO stands for genetically modified organism) to resist the toxic impact of being sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides.

“A lot of people who were their customers explicitly said we don’t want you to carry this product, and I think it’s unfortunate that they chose not listen to that feedback,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch. The consumer group had submitted a petition to Wal-Mart with 463,000 signatures, she said.

Consumer advocates argue that too little research has been done on to be certain of the effects such products can have on those who eat or them, but say certain troubling health trends correspond to the rise of GMO foods in the marketplace. At the least, they argue, such products should be labeled so consumers are aware of what they’re purchasing.

“How would you ever know if there are adverse health effects?” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports. “There has been a doubling of food allergies in this country since 1996. Is it connected to genetically engineered foods? Who knows, when you have no labeling? That is a problem.”

Earlier this year, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and General Mills said they would not carry or use the genetically modified sweet corn.

In California this year, a state referendum is up for a vote that would require all GMO products to be labelled so that consumers are aware if modified ingredients are contained in the products they buy. The chemical pesticide companies and companies like Monsanto are fighting hard against the measure, fearing that if California, the country’s most populous state, passes such a sweeping consumer protection laws other states will likely follow.

The initiative, Proposition 37, will be voted on in November.

Sleazy California Democratd on Health Reform February 6, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Democracy, Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: this is an excerpt from an email I received from activist.thepen@gmail.com.  It describes the machinations of the California Democratic Party in appearing to support a single payer health insurance plan while at the same time behind the scenes doing everything it can to ensure that it DOESN’T come to pass.  In the seven years I spend on the Toronto municipal council, I saw this kind of hypocrisy in action time and time again.  What they did in California is a classical example of this tactic, and the pen activists captured it perfectly and are to be congratulated for the exposé.  And one more example of why electoral politics (as opposed to taking to the streets) is for the most part futile.

As you know, if you have been a participant of this distribution list for a while, we have been valiantly advocating for a single payer health care system for many years. Such a bill (SB 840) was passed by both chambers of the CA state legislature in 2006, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Maid Molester (Schwarzenegger).
At the time we TRIED to get the Democratic nominee Phil Angelides (who had previously claimed to support single payer) to do an action to demand that Arnold sign the bill. It would have been a great campaign issue for him, but he was too chicken hearted or corrupt himself (your choice) to do it, and he lost by 30 points or something like that.

The same bill passed in 2008 and was vetoed again.

Now fast forward the clock to last week, when single payer
(renumbered SB 810) was again in front of the CA Senate, but now with a Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, who would be expected to sign the bill. All of a sudden four Democratic senators refused to even vote at all. That’s right, folks, they ABSTAINED, which is being in the room for the vote and refusing to cast a vote one way or another. At least three of these abstainers had voted “Yes” for single payer the last time.
So we cranked out a targeted action aimed only at these turncoat abstainers and have good information they got LOTS of phone calls for them to reconsider. But reconsideration never happened. So what’s really going on here? Here’s what the sponsor of the bill, Mark Leno, said on the Thom Hartmann show when gently challenged on why previous supporters were now abstaining.
“Arnold Schwartzeneggar was always going to veto the bill, so if one
had an interest in not ruffling the feathers of the insurance industry, the possibility is to vote for it with the wink of the eye that it’s not going anywhere anyway.”
In Greek mythology, Tantalus as his eternal punishment was cursed to stand in a pool of water underneath a fruit tree with low hanging branches always just out of reach, with the water always receding before he could take a drink. THAT is the very image of what the
Democratic party has become for the interests of the people who consider themselves constituents. It’s all a scam, folks, just one great, big, giant, honking scam.
This is essentially the same thing that happened in 2010 with that phony baloney health care bill, with a bottom line of nothing but pig grease for the medical insurance corporations. After lulling people
along for almost a year with the promise of a “public option”, itself a feeble impersonation of single payer, they refused to even allow a vote on it. In the end, having been forced to pass the bill using a reconciliation gimmick requiring only 51 votes, and 51 Democratic senators on record as supporting the so-called public option, they simply REFUSED to bring it up for a vote, even though they had the votes to do.
And the worst thing about it is that even the so-called good guys are in on it. Mark Leno, the sponsor of SB 810, KNOWS it will never pass, that the vote will always be manipulated so it falls just short in some way. The only reason for him to bring the bill up at all is to CON his own constituents into thinking he’s on their side, otherwise he would be vociferously calling out these abstainer traitors, not accidentally spilling the beans as he did. It’s nothing but a cynical PR stunt, and they are ALL in on it. No matter how many Democrats we vote for, till the end of all eternity, they will always find some way to fail to pass single payer health care.

California Prisoners Join Hunger Strike To Protest Solitary Conditions July 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Criminal Justice, Human Rights.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Published on Saturday, July 9, 2011 by the Huffington Post

 

  by John Rudolf

 

Nearly 1,500 inmates at six California prisons have joined a hunger strike by prisoners confined in one of the state’s harshest isolation units, prison officials said Friday.

Demonstrators hold up a sign during a rally in front of the State Building in San Francisco, Friday  to support prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison. Inmates in an isolation unit at Pelican Bay State Prison are on a hunger strike to protest conditions that they describe as inhumane. Advocates say several dozen inmates in the Security Housing Unit declined to eat their morning meal on Friday. The unit holds about a third of the 3,100 inmates at the Northern California prison. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) The hunger strike began a week ago and was organized by prisoners confined in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, a maximum security facility located near the Oregon border. Inmates there are held in windowless isolation cells for more than 22 hours a day and can have little or no contact with other prisoners for years and even decades at a time.

A core group of prisoners at Pelican Bay said they were willing to starve to death rather than continue to submit to prison conditions that they call a violation of basic civil and human rights.

“No one wants to die,” James Crawford, a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder and robbery, said in a statement provided by a coalition of prisoners’ rights groups. “Yet under this current system of what amounts to intense torture, what choice do we have?”

The hunger strike comes only weeks after the Supreme Court ordered California to dramatically lower its prisons population, because severe overcrowding was exposing inmates to high levels of violence and disease.

California prison conditions were so poor as to be “intolerable with the concept of human dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion.

The hunger strike is not a protest against overcrowding, however, but against the treatment of offenders who are segregated from the general population due to gang affiliations or crimes committed in prison.

In June, the Pelican Bay inmates provided prison officials advance warning of their intent to begin a hunger strike and made six key demands, including that the prison reform its policies on long-term solitary confinement.

The prisoners cited a 2006 report by a group of attorneys and law enforcement professionals that determined long-term solitary confinement practiced in U.S. prisons can create “torturous conditions that are proven to cause mental deterioration.”

State and federal courts have rejected prisoner lawsuits seeking to alter such policies, however. Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said that prisoners in the Pelican Bay isolation unit were held there due to their known affiliation with prison gangs or for violent acts committed in prison.

“The purpose of the Security Housing Unit is to remove gang members’ influence over other inmates and to keep our prisons safe,” she said.

The prisoners also called for an end to a policy allowing indefinite detention in the isolation unit for inmates suspected of continued involvement in gang activity. Gang-affiliated prisoners can be released from the unit if they “debrief,” or provide information on other gang members.

Those who choose not to “debrief” must serve a minimum of six years in the solitary unit and can be held there indefinitely if they engage in any activity that prison officials deem gang-related.

© 2011 Huffington Post

California Strike Highlights Hospitals’ Skewed Priorities June 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Health, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Saturday 25 June 2011
by: Mark Brenner, Labor Notes                 | News Analysis

Hundreds of workers at a central California hospital return to work today, after a two-day lockout that provoked a complaint from the state labor board.

Workers at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, two hours south of San Francisco, were locked out after taking to picket lines on Tuesday.

The daylong strike—the first ever in the hospital’s 58-year history—was called by members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) after stalled negotiations with hospital management.

The union, which represents techs, professionals, and service workers in the hospital, is fighting plans to cut more than 100 direct-care positions and trim pension and health care benefits for new hires.

The labor board’s complaint says the Salinas lockout was illegal retaliation for striking. A decision is expected within a month—and could net workers back pay for the days they were locked out.

It’s the third short strike this year by NUHW, which was founded in 2009 after SEIU placed its third-largest local, the dissident United Healthcare Workers-West, into trusteeship, prompting members and leaders to establish the breakaway union.

The struggles are a critical part of the union’s development, as NUHW members work against intense opposition from employers and their former union to secure first contracts for its 10,000 members statewide.

TOP HEAVY

“We’ve never operated in the red,” said Ester Fierros-Nuñez, the Salinas union chairperson. “But now top administrators are treating this hospital, and the community, like their personal ATM.”

Hospital executives have been under close scrutiny after the union uncovered a deal which provided the recently departed CEO more than $5 million in pension and severance on top of the $150,000 a year he collects from the state pension plan.

Outrage over this taxpayer-funded golden parachute has spurred a state audit of the hospital’s finances. According to Fierros-Nuñez, six additional executives have the same kind of deal, which allows recipients to bypass IRS tax shelter rules by funneling money through multiple pensions.

“It’s like Enron,” she said. “They want to cut folks at the bottom so they can pay more to people at the top.”

NUHW has also criticized the hospital’s decision to spend $12 million on outside consultants, most notably Wellspring Partners, a Chicago-based firm. The consulting company, under prior ownership, was involved in the takeover and closure of St. Vincent’s hospital in New York City.

In St. Vincent’s bankruptcy proceedings, it emerged that the consultants had billed the hospital for everything from groceries and dry cleaning to opera tickets and club memberships. Union activists worry that Wellspring is milking their hospital as well.

LEAN AND MEAN

The biggest concern voiced on Tuesday’s picket line was for the hospital’s patients.

According to Debbie Prader, a 38-year licensed vocational nurse at the hospital, staff cuts that started a year and a half ago have sent workloads skyrocketing.

Previously, Prader typically worked her entire shift on a single floor, with an average of 10 patients. Now she’s covering two or three floors, and caring for up to 19 patients.

“They’re dismantling the whole hospital,” Prader said. “There’s no way to give good care in these conditions.”

Lily Garner, a 30-year medical transcriptionist at the hospital whose sister is currently a patient, said she’s seen the impact first hand. Basic help, like bathroom assistance, is lacking, she said.

“The people making all the decisions aren’t in contact with patients,” said Linda Vallez, a certified nursing assistant for 31 years at the hospital. “All they see is numbers on a spreadsheet.”

Salinas Valley Memorial is just the latest example of a profitable hospital looking to take advantage of the recession and lower staffing standards.

The same drive for concessions led 2,500 NUHW members in Southern California to launch their second one-day strike at Kaiser Permanente facilities on May 18. The health care giant made more than $1 billion in profits last year but is pushing for layoffs and major pension and health benefit takeaways.

“Kaiser executives are making more money than ever and are giving themselves huge raises, but they refuse to provide nurses with the staff we need to take care of our patients properly,” said Roxana Valadez, a pediatric nurse in Los Angeles. “And now, they’re not just keeping us understaffed, they also want to cut our benefits. Kaiser is becoming a worse and worse place to provide patient care.”

NUHW’S NEXT STEPS

The fights at Kaiser and Salinas hold the promise of stabilizing NUHW’s financial future, if they can win the union a first contract—and dues checkoff. (The union is hand-collecting dues in the meantime). Tight resources have hampered the union’s expansion, leading it to withdraw from numerous elections in recent months.

But even more important, the struggles are defining NUHW’s identity independent of SEIU.

There is no question the union will continue to run and win elections in SEIU bargaining units across the state, and extend their reach into non-union hospitals and nursing homes. NUHW’s recent victory in three of the four California Pacific Medical Center facilities in San Francisco is the latest example of its enduring appeal.

But the union’s most important challenge right now is to make good on its founding promise—that workers can build a democratic union willing to stand up and fight.

This task is doubly difficult when unions everywhere are ducking for cover, and when taking concessions is the norm. SEIU’s California leaders have agreed to health care cost-shifting and pension takeaways at health care facilities, giving management yet more reason to take a hard line against NUHW.

For NUHW’s members, there is no going back to the union they once had. And workers from Santa Rosa to San Diego have demonstrated they’re ready to build something new, and hopefully better, in its place.

Today’s Supreme Court Ruling on Prison Overcrowding Explained; Prison Photos From Decision May 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

<!– –>May 23, 2011, 11:17 am<!– –> • Posted by Jon Brooks
http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2011/05/23/scott-shafer-explains-todays-major-supreme-court-ruling-on-california-prison-overcrowding/

California Institution for Men Aug. 7, 2006. Photo was part of SCOTUS decision ordering California to reduce its prison population.

Update 3:16 p.m. From California Watch, a look at how the state might meet the order to drastically decrease its prison population.

Original post
KQED’s Joshua Johnson sat down with Scott Shafer, who covers criminal justice issues for us, to discuss today’s major SCOTUS ruling upholding a lower court’s order that California must reduce its prison population. (Listen to the interview here.)The Supreme Court declared the state must shed its prison system of some 46,000 inmates within two years. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority.

Shafer explains that state prisons are at 200% capacity, with twice as many inmates incarcerated as the system was built to hold. The ruling did not dictate how California should comply with the order — whether it should release inmates, transfer them out of state to for-profit prisons, change its parole rules, or take other actions. Cash-strapped California will not be able to simply throw money at the problem, Shafer says, and will probably have to decide on a combination of policy shifts that can meet the required reduction.

One thing that might help expedite changes: The ruling probably didn’t come as a surprise, Shafer says, as it was clear during oral arguments that a majority of justices had run out of patience with the state, giving policymakers a clear signal to start preparing for compliance.

Also of note: The majority took the extraordinary action of including three photos in the official opinion:

California Institution for Men Aug. 7, 2006.

Mule Creek State Prison Aug. 1, 2008

Salinas Valley State Prison July 29, 2008 Correctional Treatment Center (dry cages/holding cells for people waiting for mental health crisis bed)

As for the dissenting opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, Shafer called it “bombastic and scathing.” Scalia characterized the 2009 order to reduce the number of inmates as  “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history,” and contended that its affirmation would put public safety at risk.

KQED’s Joshua Johnson and Scott Shafer discuss today’s SCOTUS ruling

Farm Workers Witness Historic Vote on Fair Treatment of Farm Workers Act May 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, California, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

By Edgar Sanchez
Special to the UFW

SACRAMENTO – California’s farm workers would be able to vote without fear for union representation under a historic bill approved Monday by the State Assembly after lengthy debate.

SB 104 – the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act – passed by a 51-to-25 party-line vote, prompting applause from 160 farm laborers packing the Assembly Gallery. Another 100-plus farm workers and their supporters watched the debate on television, in a legislative hearing room.

The bill, previously passed by the Senate, now awaits the signature of Governor Jerry Brown to become law.

The measure, granting farm workers the same organizing rights enjoyed by all state employees, is strongly opposed by the state’s $36 billion agricultural industry.

Introduced by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 104 would give the state’s more than 400,000 farm workers an alternative to on-the-job polling place elections to decide whether to join a union. The new option would allow them to fill out state-issued representation ballots in their homes, away from bosses’ threats and other interference.  If a simple majority – more than 50 percent — of workers sign the ballots, their jobs would be unionized.

All elections would be supervised by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, with the workers choosing the process.

In a bid to derail SB 104, opponents in the Assembly described it as a job killer, “an anti-democracy bill” and a tool to “blatantly stack the deck against employers.”

Supporters called it a long-overdue proposal to end years of abuse by some unscrupulous labor contractors and growers fighting the United Farm Workers Union.

 “This is a great victory for us,” Felipe, a 30-year-old farm worker from Kern County, said after the vote.  “There won’t be any more intimidation on the part of contractors or farm bosses when union elections take place.

“There won’t be because if 104 becomes law, the vote could be in your house, without anybody pressuring you,” he said.

 Felipe – not his real name — requested anonymity because he fears reprisals from his employer, who he said intimidated workers into voting against unionization in 2006.

“Before the election, we were told we would lose our jobs if we voted for the union,” the $8-an-hour laborer  said. “I came to Sacramento today without my bosses’ knowledge. They don’t know that I came here.”

The Assembly passed SB 104 on the third anniversary of the heat-related death of Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, 17, who had collapsed on a vineyard east of Stockton.  The pregnant laborer fainted after being denied proper access to water and shade in nearly 100-degree heat.

In all, 16 farm workers have died in the California heat since 2005, Luis A. Alejo (D-Watsonville), SB 104’s principal co-author, stated on the Assembly floor.

He cited two main reasons for the ongoing deaths:  Employers, including Maria Isavel’s, intentionally disregard heat regulations and the state seldom enforces the laws.

Even the justice system failed Maria Isavel, Alejo said, expressing disbelief that no one went to prison after she was “killed.”

“Those responsible for her death were ‘sentenced’ to community service,” despite prior worker-safety law violations, he said.  “Community service? For manslaughter?  I don’t need to be an attorney to know that that is a disservice to our justice system.”

Noting that Maria Isavel’s uncle, Doroteo Jimenez, was in the Assembly Gallery, Alejo urged colleagues to “consider telling him that we will not let Maria Isavel’s death be for nothing … but, not with our words.  But, with our actions today.”

Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), said that when Maria Isavel died, “her body temperature was over 108 degrees.”

“Members, can you believe that only six years ago there were no standards for working in the heat in California?” she said.  “…Today, we have an opportunity to take another step on the long, tortuous path for civil rights in the farm worker community.

“I ask for your ‘Aye’ vote” on SB 104, she said.

Asking for a “No” vote was Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

“I rise in opposition to this bill, even though I support the cause of protecting the farm workers in the field,” he said. “Right now, we tolerate a system where (they) are systematically abused.  They are exploited …

“SB 104 does nothing to protect farm workers,” he said.

Also blasting SB 104 was Bill Berryhill (R-Ceres), a longtime farmer who said that, if enacted, 104 would “get rid” of secret-ballot elections on ranches.

The bill runs counter to what Cesar Chavez fought for, Berryhill said, reminding that the UFW’s co-founder campaigned for farm workers’ right to choose a union through secret ballots.

William W. Monning (D-Carmel),  responded to Donnelly’s and Berryhill’s remarks.

“Mr. Berryhill is right,” Monning said.  “The philosophy of Cesar Chavez, (fellow UFW co-founder) Dolores Huerta and the union was to achieve secret-ballot protection for farm workers.”

That milestone came in 1975 when then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act into law, he said.

Monning, a distinguished lawyer and former law professor, told colleagues he knows how the Act evolved.  In the mid-1970s, he worked in the UFW’s Legal Department as it lobbied legislators for the Act’s passage.

But, Monning said, “under the current rules … once a petition for election is filed it sets in motion a wave of disparate power – the power of the labor contractor, the power of growers to maximize threats, intimidation, closed company meetings (to) dissuade workers” from voting for union representation, “even in the privacy of that secret ballot.”

“So now, by the time we get to election day, the election’s already been determined,” he said.  “So we need to amend this law to level the playing field, to allow workers in the privacy of their homes, labor camps, to sign a card authorizing union representation” for themselves.

Then, in what appeared to be a direct rebuke to Donnelly, Monning denounced “those colleagues who say they oppose this bill because they care about farm worker rights.”

He continued:  “When I look to an authority on farm worker rights, I look to farm workers.  And farm workers are here today, here at their own expense, many missing a day of work asking us to give them the tools to end the exploitation of unscrupulous labor contractors who intimidate, bend the rules and violate the rights.

“Members, the legacy of Cesar Chavez is embedded in this legislation.  I ask for your ‘Aye’ vote.”

The farm workers applauded enthusiastically.

Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, accused opponents of distorting the facts.

SB 104, he said, “does not eliminate the secret ballot.  It simply adds card check … as another option for farm workers to choose collective bargaining.”

Sandré  R. Swanson, D-Oakland, said SB 104 would make it easier for farm workers to organize and demand basic rights that other workers in California already have.

“We’re talking about the right for farm workers not to have to die of heat stroke, to have adequate water, available restrooms and decent pay,” he said.  “That is fundamental to the opportunity to work in this state.”

After arriving in California’s capital from across the state, the farm workers had assembled at mid-morning in the basement of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, where they were welcomed by, among others, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, several assembly members and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento.

“You are pilgrims seeking a better way of life,” Soto told the gathering.  “You deserve human benefits.  And you are not alone in your struggle.  Many people support you.”

Rodriguez said simply:  “Today, we’ll be witnesses to history.”

With that, the farm laborers began a silent pilgrimage to the Capitol, a couple of blocks away.

After the vote, Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles), Assemblymember Alejo and other members of the Legislature addressed a cheering UFW crowd in the Capitol basement.  The speakers vowed to do what needs to be done to ensure that Governor Brown signs SB 104.

Edgar Sanchez is a former writer for The Sacramento Bee and The Palm Beach Post

 

Is Climate Science Disinformation a Crime Against Humanity? November 3, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Deeply irresponsible corporate-sponsored programmes of disinformation have potentially harsh effects upon tens of millions of people

by Donald Brown

Although there is an important role for scepticism in science, for almost 30 years some corporations have supported a disinformation campaign about climate change science.

While it may be reasonable to be somewhat sceptical about climate change models, these untruths are not based upon reasonable scepticism but outright falsification and distortions of climate change science.

These claims have included assertions that the science of climate change has been completely “debunked” and that there is no evidence of human causation of recent observed warming. There are numerous lines of evidence that point to human causation even if it is not a completely settled matter. Reasonable scepticism cannot claim that there is no evidence of causation and some other claims frequently being made by the well-financed climate change disinformation campaign, and they amount to an utter distortion of a body of evidence that the world needs to understand to protect itself from huge potential harms.

On 21 October, 2010, John Broder of the New York Times, reported that “the fossil fuel industries have for decades waged a concerted campaign to raise doubts about the science of global warming and to undermine policies devised to address it”.

According the New York Times article, the fossil fuel industry has “created and lavishly financed institutes to produce anti-global warming studies, paid for rallies and websites to question the science, and generated scores of economic analyses that purport to show that policies to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases will have a devastating effect on jobs and the overall economy.”

Disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily – if not criminally – irresponsible, because the consensus scientific view is based upon strong evidence that climate change:

• Is already being experienced by tens of thousands in the world;

• Will be experienced in the future by millions of people from greenhouse gas emissions that have already been emitted but not yet felt due to lags in the climate system; and,

• Will increase dramatically in the future unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced from existing global emissions levels.

Threats from climate change include deaths and danger from droughts, floods, heat, storm-related damages, rising oceans, heat impacts on agriculture, loss of animals that are dependent upon for substance purposes, social disputes caused by diminishing resources, sickness from a variety of diseases, the inability to rely upon traditional sources of food, the inability to use property that people depend upon to conduct their life including houses or sleds in cold places, the destruction of water supplies, and the inability to live where has lived to sustain life. The very existence of some small island nations is threatened by climate change.

As long as there is any chance that climate change could create this type of destruction, even assuming, for the sake of argument, that these dangers are not yet fully proven, disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily morally reprehensible if it leads to non-action in reducing climate change’s threat. In fact, how to deal with uncertainty in climate change science is an ethical issue, not only a scientific matter, because the consequences of delay could be so severe and the poorest people in the world as some of the most vulnerable.

The corporations that have funded the sowing of doubt on this issue are clearly doing this because they see greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies as adversely affecting their financial interests.

This might be understood as a new type of crime against humanity. Scepticism in science is not bad, but sceptics must play by the rules of science including publishing their conclusions in peer-reviewed scientific journals and not make claims that are not substantiated by the peer-reviewed literature. The need for responsible scepticism is particularly urgent if misinformation from sceptics could lead to great harm.

We may not have a word for this type of crime yet, but the international community should find a way of classifying extraordinarily irresponsible scientific claims that could lead to mass suffering as some type of crime against humanity.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

Donald Brown is associate professor in environmental ethics, science and law at Penn State University. The full version of this article was first published on the Penn State website.
Published on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Barack Obama’s Green Agenda Crushed at the Ballot Box

With a slew of new climate change deniers entering Congress, Barack Obama’s environmental ambitions are now dead

by Suzanne Goldenberg

Californians decisively rejected a measure to roll back the state’s landmark climate change law yesterday, the sole win for environmentalists on a night that crushed Barack Obama‘s green agenda.With that lone victory in California, environmentalists managed to keep alive a model for action on climate change, preserving a 2006 law that had set ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reductions and had attracted tens of millions in clean-tech investment.

[Many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation. (AFP/Steen Ulrik Johannessen) ]Many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation. (AFP/Steen Ulrik Johannessen)

But many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation. 

In California though, there was celebration at the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 23 by a broad climate change coalition that ranged from the outgoing Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists to environmental groups.

With 95% of precincts reporting, some 61% of Californians voted against a measure brought by Texas oil refiners, Tesoro and Valero, and the oil billionaire Koch brothers that would indefinitely halt a 2006 law mandating ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are beating Texas again,” Schwarzenegger told supporters at an election night party.

“Even though they spent millions and millions of dollars, today the people will make up their mind and speak loud and clear that California’s environment is not for sale.”

It was the first time voters had been asked directly for a verdict on a climate and energy plan.

Had the ballot measure passed, it would have scuppered the chances of other states following California’s lead.

But it was an expensive win, with opponents of Proposition 23 spending $31m to assure its defeat. The oil companies put up more than $10.

And the coalition, with their intense focus on Proposition 23, failed to anticipate its evil twin: Proposition 26, which will also hinder action on climate change. The measure, backed by Chevron, requires a two-thirds majority before imposing new taxes or fees. It gathered 54% support, blocking government efforts to get industry to pay for pollution.

In Washington, there was only devastation. 2010 is shaping up to be one of the warmest years on record, but that is unlikely to weigh heavily on the minds of many of the Republican newcomers to Congress.

Obama in interviews on the evening of the elections, admitted there was no change of sweeping climate and energy legislation in the remaining two years of his term. He said he hoped to find compromise on “bite-sized” measures, such as encouraging energy efficiency or the use of wind and solar power.

A cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions was the sleeper issue in the mid-term elections, a galvanising force for Tea Party activists. It saw the defeat of a handful of Democrats from conservative states who voted for last year’s climate change bill – such as Tom Perriello and Richard Boucher, in Virginia.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it, cap-and-trade was the issue in the campaign,” Boucher’s former chief of staff, Andy Wright, told Politico. “If Rick had voted no, he wouldn’t have had a serious contest.”

It also installed a heavy contingent of conservatives hostile to the very notion of global warming in Congress – and solidified the opposition of establishment figures to co-operation with Democrats on energy legislation.

The new speaker of the House, John Boehner, once said: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical.” Vicky Hartzler, who took out the 34-year veteran Ike Skelton in Missouri, has called global warming a hoax.

A number of the victorious Tea Party candidates in the Senate, including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have said they do not believe in man-made climate change.

Some of the surviving Democrats are just as opposed. Joe Manchin won his Senate seat in West Virginia by, literally, shooting his rifle at Obama’s climate agenda.

In her election night stint as a Fox news commentator, Sarah Palin singled out the Environmental Protection Agency as an example of big and wasteful government. The Republican leadership has signalled they it is opposed to a whole array of EPA regulations, including those on ozone and mercury. The EPA is seen as a fallback route for the Obama administration to deal with the regulation of greenhouse gases after the US senate dropped its climate bill in the summer.

The new crop of Republican leaders in the house are way ahead of Palin, with plans for sweeping investigations of climate science and of Obama administration officials such as Lisa Jackson, who heads the EPA.

As far as the leaders are concerned, the science of climate change is far from settled. “We’re going to want to have a do-over,” Darrell Issa, a favourite to head the house oversight and investigations committee, told a recent interviewer.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers