Workers Online
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Workers Online
  Issue No 42 Official Organ of LaborNet 17 December 1999  

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Environment

Seattle Kills Greens V Jobs Bogey

By Lee Rhiannon - NSW Greens MLC

The sight of US unionists, environmentalists and human rights activists being attacked by police in Seattle shows how far the progressive movement has come.

Building alliances between groups is now a primary tactic of those working to make the world a more equitable, safer and healthier place. For too many years the cry of environment versus jobs has kept natural allies apart. In Australia this has been seen most sharply in the forest dispute with many people blaming "selfish greenies" for the loss of their jobs.

The demand of jobs AND environment is now being played out with environmentalists and unionists not just supporting each others campaigns but integrating their work for job security and environmental justice.

In Australia this is well illustrated by the style of work adopted by the Earthworker organisation formed a few years ago in Melbourne. This group brings together a number of unions, environment groups and student bodies to work on specific projects.

Earthworker has launched an industry plan From Fossil Fuels to Renewables, in response to the fact that Australia emits more greenhouse gases per capita than and other country.

With renewable energy second only to the information technology industry in terms of worldwide growth the potential to create more jobs and clean up the environment is huge. In Victoria this project has been undertaken by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union and is supported by a number o other unions, local councils, and manufacturing and energy companies.

Alliance building has also been a key to the strength of the campaign opposing Rio Tinto's aggressive actions to maximise profits by de-unionising its workforce, disregarding environmental safeguards, and ignoring the rights of indigenous peoples.

In Australia this has seen the CFMEU working closely with a range of groups and assisting communities overseas whose lives are shattered when the Rio Tinto bosses take over their land for another mine.

Cooperation between progressive groups is now commonplace in north America and across Europe. In the US environment and labour organisations have joined forces to launch the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (SJE), which brings together blue and white colour unions together with a number of radical green groups. This body was the force behind the Seattle anti-globalisation protests.

Director of the United Steelworkers of America and SJE Alliance co chair noted that "According to the WTO, our democratically elected officials no longer have the right to protect the environment, worker safety and jobs."

The SJE Alliance is also targeting specific companies. Steel workers and forest activists have combined forces to take on the forestry company Maxxam's Pacific Lumber and its subsidiary, Kaiser Aluminium, with protestors filing lawsuits, organising rallies and even running for Maxxam's Board of directors.

Comments of Don Kegley, a locked out steelworker, reflect how alliance building is not just an agreement between the upper echelons of the organisations involved, but has been taken up by rank and filers.

"Steelworkers were always told that tree huggers were out to get our jobs. This year has taught me it's the greed of corporations that's the real danger. I never thought I'd be working side by side with environmentalists to get my job back," stated Don Kegley.

As developing alliances has become more crucial to running successful campaigns, the need to carefully identify allies is essential. In Australia unionists and environmentalists recognise that the Democrats have moved over to the conservative side of politics and are rarely part of a progressive alliance these days.

When the Democrats swung in behind the GST and the Coalition outrage was palpable. Having sacrificed working people and the union movement when former leader Cheryl Kernot agreed to Reith's first wave of IR legislation, the Democrats this year agreed to a tax that would put the greatest burden on those with the least ability to pay.

The GST will also prove a disaster for the environment. Democrats' leader, Meg Lees, in negotiations over this regressive tax conceded a massive subsidy for diesel users which will benefit mining, transport and logging corporations. This in turn will penalise all Australians as these practices will lead to huge health and environmental costs.

On top of this the Democrats alliance with the Coalition has further undermined environmental protection with the passing of federal legislation that hands powers on environment matters back to the states.

Despite these set backs the Australian progressive movement remains committed to working together when there is common purpose.

The power of united struggle has reverberated through the C20th century right down to the anti-WTO protests a few weeks ago. Seattle is now synonymous with one of the sea changes of this century - overnight so many people came to know what WTO stands for. This engine room of globalisation is now exposed, thanks to those protests. And those protests were so strong because of the alliances that made them a reality.


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*   Issue 42 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Costa Bravo
Labor Councilís chief trouble maker chronicles the battles of the past year and ponders those still to come.
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*  Unions: More Wins Than Losses
Workers Online ranks the Top Ten industrial relations stories from a year of frenetic activity.
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*  International: Eric Lee's Year in Review
The editor of Labourstart looks back over his favourite stories of 1999.
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*  Politics: So Many Questions
It was a year in politics that threw up more questions than answers. We look at some of the sticky ones.
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*  Republic: Referendum With Class
Labor heretic Michael Thomspson analyses the failure of the Republican proposition.
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*  Environment: Seattle Kills Greens V Jobs Bogey
The sight of US unionists, environmentalists and human rights activists being attacked by police in Seattle shows how far the progressive movement has come.
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*  Deface a Face: Give Him a Hairdo
What better present could Michael Costa offer Workers Online readers than the chance to give him a Deface a Face style make over?
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*  Labour Review: What's New at the Information Centre
See the latest issue of Labour Review, our resource for officials, activists and students.
*
*  Review: Cultural Wasteland
Workers Online resident door-bitches Zanga and Paul pass judgement on the year that finished the millennium.
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News
»  What Price Aussie Jobs as Olympics Loom
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»  TWU Activist Named Organiser of the Year
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»  Unions Lock in New Years Eve Deals
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»  'Scrooge' Destroys Staff Christmas
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»  Rule Changes to Restructure Council
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»  The Great Salary Rip-Off
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»  George to Kick Start NSW IR Reforms?
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»  Shaw Loses Key Advisers
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»  More New Faces at the New ACTU
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»  Reith Second Wave Not Beached Yet
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»  Peace in the Gong
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»  Workers Support Register Gathers Steam
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»  Pay Equity Enters Campaign Mode
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»  Union Aid Agency to Establish Dili Office
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»  Job Vacancies at the LHMU
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Columns
»  Guest Report
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»  Sport
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Piers Watch
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Letters to the editor
»  Aquilina's Insult
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»  Well Done 1999
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»  US Union Site Worth a Look
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