A Fight for Civil and Labor Rights: Union Vote Looms at Nissan

united-autoworkers-auto-worker-nissan

A meeting with autoworkers in a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. (Photo: Maina Kiai / Flickr)

“Our only hope is to control the vote.”

Mississippi civil rights leader and NAACP icon Medgar Evers said those words over 50 years ago about the fight for voting rights. He believed, like many activists, that voting enabled dignity in the control of one’s political and economic destiny.

Decades later, a new generation of Southern activists is renewing that vision.

On August 3 and 4, a 14-year campaign to organize the Nissan Motors plant in the small southern city of Canton, Mississippi will come to its climax. The workers at Nissan will finally have their say and get the opportunity to vote for a union, the United Autoworkers (UAW), to represent them on the job.

The vast majority of the nearly 4,000 workers who will be voting at the Nissan plant are African Americans, a population that has historically faced severe economic exploitation due to racism.

The UAW promises it will help the workers grow in strength and negotiate better working conditions, hours, wages, and benefits at the plant. Additionally, the workers have made a broader call for more dignity and respect on the job.

A victory for the workers at Nissan would be historic. It would represent one of the largest successes for labor in decades and one of its largest triumphs in the South.

Read the full article on NBC News.

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G7 and Europe face energy wake-up call as food and fuel crisis looms

Russia’s absence from the G7 summit is a stark warning to Europe that political turmoil on its doorstep risks an energy price crisis, at the same time as the effects of climate change on food imports could drive up costs.

Europe’s poor risk being forced to choose between heating and eating

Russia’s absence from the G7 summit is a stark warning to Europe that political turmoil on its doorstep risks an energy price crisis, at the same time as the effects of climate change on food imports could drive up costs, Oxfam says today.

In a new report Fit for a Food and Energy Secure World?, the international agency argues that the crisis in Ukraine and resulting tensions with Russia are a wake-up call for Europe to reassess its energy mix. Europe currently imports half of its energy, predominantly fossil fuels. Russia is Europe’s top supplier for both oil and gas, with European countries paying an average of about €250 per head of population to Russian oil and gas giants last year. The EU spent €400 billion on fossil fuel imports last year – more than €1 billion a day.

Oxfam is concerned about Europe’s over-reliance on fossil fuels because of their contribution to climate change, which is already making the world’s poorest hungrier.

Europe’s two choices

Oxfam says Europe is at an energy crossroads with two clear options. It can continue to rely on imported fossil fuels and opt for dirty and expensive ‘home-grown’ energy sources like coal and fracking. This would miss a golden opportunity to tackle climate change, and commit Europeans to higher fuel and food prices as a result – hitting the poorest the hardest.  Alternatively, it could choose a more sustainable pathway, cutting energy dependency, reducing prices and helping prevent runaway climate change, which is already affecting food production.

Energy security plans need to put clean and affordable energy first

G7 leaders meeting at the summit tomorrow will be discussing Europe’s energy security at a time when the EU’s 2030 Energy and Climate Change package, which will set emissions targets and energy policy, is also being debated for agreement later this year.

Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “The vulnerability of Europe’s energy security is being played out right on its doorstep and is a reminder of how Europeans’ wallets risk being held to ransom.

“If Europe is to avoid rising fuel and food prices and play the role it should as a global leader in tackling climate change it is crucial that we see a shift away from fossil fuels and ambitious emissions reduction targets. G7 leaders in Brussels can add weight to common sense, by developing an energy security plan that places energy saving, clean, affordable and renewable energy first.”

Energy imports bill expected to rise dramatically

Europe is the world’s largest fuel and food importer. Oxfam’s report says even if governments meet their 2020 climate and energy commitments, Europe’s total imports bill for gas and oil is expected to spiral to €500 billion by 2030 because of rising prices. At the same time, if climate change continues unchecked, the EU’s food import bill, currently at €100 billion, could also surge by several billion by 2030. Up to 72 per cent of the EU’s food imports come from developing that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, including 70 per cent of the EU’s animal feed for meat and dairy farming.

Oxfam says opting for a ‘climate compatible’ energy policy, which will help control prices and climate proof food supply is crucial. This involves shifting from both imported and domestic fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency and improving renewable energy capacity and supply. Improving energy efficiency by 40 per cent by 2030 could save €239 billion a year by 2030 – an average saving of more than €300 a year for every household.

Oxfam is calling for the EU to agree to an Energy and Climate Package for 2030 that commits to energy savings of 40 per cent, boosting sustainable renewable energy use to 45 per cent of the energy mix and reducing emissions by at least 55 per cent.

G7 leaders in Brussels can add weight to common sense, by developing an energy security plan that places energy saving, clean, affordable and renewable energy first.

Winnie Byanyima

Executive Director, Oxfam International

Contact Information

In Brussels: Angela Corbalan on + 32 (0) 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org

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Climate ‘fiscal cliff’ looms for developing countries if leaders come to Doha with no new money

After another year of extreme weather, developing countries face a looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’ at the end of 2012. Yet new Oxfam research finds most climate finance pledges so far have been recycled funds or loans.

New Oxfam research finds most climate finance pledges so far have been recycled funds or loans

After another year of extreme weather, developing countries face a looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’ at the end of 2012 with no clarity about how they will be supported to reduce emissions and adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change, international aid agency Oxfam said today ahead of the UN Climate Change negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

At the 2009 Copenhagen talks, developed countries committed to pay $ 100 billion per year by 2020 of climate finance and made a down payment of $ 30 billion for 2010 – 2012, called ‘Fast Start Finance.’ At the 2011 Cancun talks the Green Climate Fund was established to channel the $ 100 billion commitment. In just over a month, the Fast Start Finance period will end and the Green Climate Fund remains empty.

Oxfam today publishes new research on developed nations’ Fast Start Finance pledges. Despite an agreement in Copenhagen that climate finance would be ‘new and additional’, Oxfam estimates that only 33 per cent of Fast Start Finance can be considered new – the remainder of the money was pledged before the Copenhagen conference – and at most only 24 per cent was additional to existing aid promises.

Most of the money comes as loans

Just 43 per cent of known Fast Start Finance has been given as grants; most of it was in loans that developing countries have to repay at varying levels of interest. Only 21 per cent of known funds have been earmarked to support adaptation programs to help communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Oxfam International Climate Change Policy Advisor Tim Gore said these funding shortfalls, extreme weather and the end of the Fast Start Finance period in December should force political leaders to work with urgency and ambition to increase climate finance in Doha.

“Developing countries are heading towards a climate ‘fiscal cliff’ without any certainty about how they will be supported to adapt to climate change after 2012 draws to a close,” Gore said.

New sources of funding

“There is a real danger that climate finance will be scaled down in 2013, at a time when it needs to be scaled-up.

“This year’s UN Climate Change negotiations come hot on the heels of Superstorm Sandy in the US, a disaster made more severe as a result of climate change.

“2012 also saw droughts in the US and Russia which caused world food prices to skyrocket, making it increasingly difficult for poor families in developing countries to put food on the table.

“Developed nations must find new sources of funding outside aid budgets to honor their $ 100 billion commitment without diverting money from other anti-poverty priorities like health and education.

Kyoto Protocol is at a crossroads

“Political leaders must genuinely consider propositions for new income streams, such as a scheme to reduce shipping emissions or new taxes on financial transactions in order to generate revenue for the Green Climate Fund.

“If leaders come to Doha with no new money, the Green Climate Fund risks being left as an empty shell for the third year in a row,” Gore said.

The Kyoto Protocol is also at a crossroads with its first commitment period finishing in 2012. Oxfam is also calling on leaders to adopt and finalize its second commitment period with rigorous rules and further measures to cut emissions.

Related links

Download the report: The looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’: An evaluation of Fast Start Finance and its lessons for the future

There is a real danger that climate finance will be scaled down in 2013, at a time when it needs to be scaled-up.

Tim Gore

Oxfam's Climate Change Policy Advisor

Contact Information

Members of Oxfam’s delegation in Doha are available for interview.

For interviews or more information, please contact:

Sunita Bose, Oxfam International Economic Justice Media Lead, on +1 650 353 1936.

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France’s Sarkozy reverses on some issues as vote looms – USA TODAY


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Rudd-Gillard showdown looms

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