April 22, 2014

China’s Wave of Strikes Shows Neglect of Labor Rights

by @ 1:57 pm. Filed under China, Trade Unions, Working Class

Cheap Labor Model Coming to an End

By Zhang Yiwei
SolidarityEconomy.net via Global Times

April 22, 2014 - A strike at a shoe manufacturer in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, which has spread to a branch factory in Jiangxi Province, has been prompted by a growing awareness of workers' rights in China, sending a signal that growth supported by cheap labor is no longer sustainable, experts told the Global Times Monday.


Thousands of workers at Yue Yuen, which makes sneakers for brands including Nike and Adidas, in Anfu county, Jiangxi, have been on strike since Friday morning. The striking workers are demanding their employer provide proof that it paid social security contributions on behalf of their staff, a source in the factory told the Global Times Monday. Yue Yuen belongs to Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, the biggest supplier of shoes and sneakers in China. 


"Nearly two-thirds of the roughly 6,000-strong workforce left the factory floor and sat outside. They doubt whether the company has paid the insurance for the years they worked in the factory in accordance with Chinese regulations," said Yin Shu, a factory employee in his 20s, who did not join in the strike.


There has been no violence or conflict during the strike, and officials from nearby villages and local police arrived to persuade workers to return to work Friday.


The company then announced that workers were to stay off work from Saturday to Monday and that management would discuss how to tackle the issue.


"Many of us have been influenced by the Dongguan strike. As our factory is the same as theirs, it's possible that our factory also has malpractices in paying social security insurance for employees," Yin said, noting that the company has yet to give proof that it has paid the contributions.
Thousands of workers in the Dongguan-based Yue Yuen shoe factory have refused to work since April 5, one of the largest strikes in China in recent years.

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April 15, 2014

How China Counters ‘The Falling Rate of Profit’ and Other Problems Endemic to Capitalism

by @ 2:22 pm. Filed under China, Marxism, Socialism

China and the Crisis of Crisis Theory

By Heiko Khoo
SolidarityEconomy.net via  China.org.cn

April 14, 2014 - The recent BBC documentary called "How China Fooled the World" presented by Robert Preston claims that China's economy is about to collapse. The program starts well: correctly showing that China's state-owned enterprises dominate the economy and shape its development. However, it fails to adequately consider the advantages of this system of public ownership.

China's problems were presented as a mirror of those that paralysed Western capitalism in 2008. The world financial crisis is said to have caused the Chinese government to embark on an unsustainable, credit fuelled, investment orgy. This generated a colossal property bubble that is now about to burst. This theory corresponds to Western hopes and assumptions that the structure of China's economic system cannot be responsible for its success. Only private ownership and capitalism can produce success. China temporarily "fooled the world" but now comes the crash.

This is a lesson that developing countries in particular are expected to memorize by heart. Indeed, the entire future of imperialist dominance of the world depends on it. For if other developing counties take the commanding heights of their economies into public hands and embark on development like that in China, their subordination to European, North American and Japanese economic imperialism will surely come to an end.

Since 1989 capitalist strategists, advisors and experts got it wrong about China again and again. For example, the unfortunate professor Gordon Chang wrote "The Coming Collapse of China" in 2001: 13 years later he is still waiting. Some Western Marxists like Alan Woods think China is dominated by capitalism and claim that the world economic crisis was caused by a "crisis of overproduction," i.e. that workers aren't paid enough to buy back what they make. Woods predicted that China's economy would collapse in 2007. Seven years later, China's economy has grown by 67.7 percent.

The prolific Marxist economic blogger Michael Roberts explained in this column in January 2010, that the global economic crisis was caused by the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. This occurs because private companies seek to maximize profits, and competition compels them to increase the proportion of their total investment spent on machinery and equipment (which Marx called dead labour) vis-à-vis human labor power (which Marx called living labor). As human labor power is the only commodity that produces new value, and as the proportion of dead labor in total investment increases over the long-term, the rate of profit inevitably tends to decline. This process is an inexorable law under capitalism.

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April 14, 2014

Not Your Grandpa’s Solar Cells

by @ 12:57 pm. Filed under Green Energy, Green Industry, High Design, Solar

How solar cells are taking over sea, sky and space

The TURANOR PlanetSolar cruises past Tahiti

The TURANOR PlanetSolar cruises past Tahiti

By Eric Mack

SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag

Solar technology has evolved beyond just your grandpa's big, bulky photovoltaic panels on the roof. Advances in flexible, hyper-efficient and nano-scale materials of late has made it possible for solar cells to begin popping up in all kinds of shapes and places you might not expect. Here's a quick rundown of some surprising spots where solar technology dwells – be sure to flip through the gallery to get a full grasp on the scale of the increasingly solar-powered landscape.

Solar at sea

Solar panels are great, so long has you can find the real estate on which to place them. One Swiss company is taking a novel approach to this limitation by creating floating islands of solar panels on Lake Neuchâtel. Each of the three planned 25-m (82-ft) diameter islands will be home to 100 photovoltaic panels for the next 25 years, for research and development purposes.

A floating solar island with 100 PV panels (Image:Nolaris)

Meanwhile, with costs of fuel always seeming to be on the rise, shipping companies and other seafaring concerns are increasingly looking for ways of harnessing the power of that intense sun constantly beating down on vessels.

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April 5, 2014

China’s Continuing Renewable Energy Revolution: Global Implications

by @ 8:23 am. Filed under China, Climate, Green Energy, Socialism, Solar, Wind Power

By John Mathews and Hao Tan

The Asia-Pacific Journal,

Summary: China’s renewable energy revolution is powering ahead, with the year 2013 marking an important inflection point where the scales tipped more towards electric power generated from water, wind and solar than from fossil fuels and nuclear. This means that its energy security is being enhanced, while carbon emissions from the power sector can be expected to soon start to fall, we argue.

March 24, 2014 - China’s energy revolution, which underpins its transformation into the world’s largest manufacturing system (the new “workshop of the world”), continues to astonish all observers and to terrify some. China is known widely as the world’s largest user and producer of coal, and the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This is true. Less noticed has been the fact that China is also building the world’s largest renewable energy system – which by 2013 stood at just over 1 trillion kilowatt hours – already nearly as large as the combined total of electrical energy produced by the power systems of France and Germany.1

Fig. 1 Chinese thermal power generation and rising coal consumption up to 2013

Source of primary data: the data of the total coal consumption (up to 2012) and thermal electricity generation (up to 2011) is available from the US EIA. The data of coal consumption for thermal power is available from the National Bureau of Statistics of China. The data of the total coal consumption for 2013 is available from the China Coal Industry Association. The data for the thermal electricity generation in 2012 and 2013 is available from the China Electricity Council.

The energy landscape continues to give the clearest indication of the trends in industrial dynamics and prospects for the future. China is powering ahead with renewables while at the same time it expands its reliance on fossil fuels; the US by contrast is further locking in its dependence on fossil fuels. The distinction is critical.

Data for the full-year 2013 are now available, from both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the US and the China Electricity Council (CEC) as well as the National Energy Administration (NEA) in China.2 This allows us to examine the total electric power systems in each country, and to assess the direction of change by studying the increments in power generation capacity added in 2013, as well as additional electrical energy generated and the allocation of new investments across the three main energy sources – fossil fuels (mainly coal); renewables, and nuclear.

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March 25, 2014

Who Needs a Boss? NYT on Worker Coops

Arizmendi Bakery in San Francisco

MARCH 25, 2014

New  York Times Magazine

It’s the Economy

By SHAILA DEWAN

If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery. But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.

Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.

Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.

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March 21, 2014

Three Years Later, the Lessons of Fukushima Are Uglier Than Ever

by @ 8:23 am. Tags:
Filed under Energy, Green Energy, Nukes

 fukushima

So much for safety measures: Fukushima unit 4, one year after the disaster. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/EPA )

By Michael Hiltzik

SolidarityEconomy.net

March 10, 2014 - Three years ago--2:49 p.m. March 11, 2011, Tokyo time, or late on the night of March 10 in continental U.S. time zones--what may be history's worst, most enduring nuclear power plant disaster began in Japan. It's a baleful anniversary that bears object lessons for the entire nuclear power industry in the U.S. and around the world.

The Fukushima Daiichi power complex, largely destroyed by the earthquake that struck Japan at that hour and the two tsunami waves that followed starting about 40 minutes later, is almost certain never to operate again. Only two of Japan's 50 power reactors have received permits to restart in the wake of the disaster. Communities for miles around Fukushima have been rendered uninhabitable for decades to come. Cleaning up the site itself will cost tens of billions of dollars and take almost a half-century.

That's the state of affairs for now. For more details, we urge you to read "Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster" by David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman and Susan Q. Stranahan of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which we reviewed in these pages last month. But the authors of that book did not stop with a meticulous reconstruction of the events; they made clear how the events arose from the careless regulation of nuclear technology in Japan and the lax management of Fukushima's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Make no mistake: The same flaws exist among the regulatory agencies and nuclear utilities of the U.S. As Lyman observed in congressional testimony, "We have plants that are just as old…. We have a regulatory system that is not clearly superior to that of the Japanese. We have had extreme weather events that exceeded our expectations and defeated our emergency planning."

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March 18, 2014

Green Jobs Aplenty: An Argument for Building the ‘Smart Grid’ with Green Power

power lines

Blacking out America would be a cinch, because there’s not enough distributed solar

By John Upton

 SolidarityEconomy.net via Shutterstock

Crippling America’s old-fashioned electrical grid for a long period of time would be disturbingly easy. Saboteurs need only wait for a heat wave, and then knock out a factory plus a small number of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations that are scattered throughout the country.

That’s according to the findings of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analysis. “Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer,” wrote FERC officials in a memo for a former chair of the agency.

FERC’s alarming findings about the grid’s vulnerability were reported this week by The Wall Street Journal:

A small number of the country’s substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions. The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months.

“This would be an event of unprecedented proportions,” said Ross Baldick, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

No federal rules require utilities to protect vital substations except those at nuclear power plants.

The thought of a terrorist attack on a substation is not merely hypothetical:

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March 11, 2014

New England’s Green Energy Rising

by @ 9:57 am. Filed under Economy, Green Energy, Wind Power

Wind Power Now Competitive with Conventional Sources

Wind turbines at Hoosac Wind Farm.By Erin Ailworth

  Boston Globe Staff  

Wind turbines at Hoosac Wind Farm.

The state’s biggest utilities, in a milestone for New England’s wind power industry, have signed long-term contracts to buy wind-generated electricity at prices below the costs of most conventional sources, such as coal and nuclear plants.

The contracts, filed jointly Friday with the Department of Public Utilities, represent the largest renewable energy purchase to be considered by state regulators at one time. If approved, the contracts would eventually save customers between 75 cents and $1 a month, utilities estimated.

“This proves that competitively priced renewable power exists and we can get it, and Massachusetts can benefit from it,” said Robert Rio, a spokesman for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a trade group that represents some of the state’s biggest electricity users.

The utilities — National Grid, Northeast Utilities, and Unitil Corp. — would buy 565 megawatts of electricity from six wind farms in Maine and New Hampshire, enough to power an estimated 170,000 homes.

The projects, in various stages of permitting or development, are expected to begin operations between 2014 and 2016.

John Howat, senior energy analyst at the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center, said he needed to review the details before he could provide a thorough assessment of the contracts. But his initial reaction to the price — on average, less than 8 cents per kilowatt hour? “Wow.”

“It seems like there’s something for environmental and consumer advocates here to be happy about,” he said.

The agreements forecast further growth for the wind industry as the willingness of utilities to make long-term commitments makes it easier for developers to obtain financing for more wind farms. That, in turn, would probably lead to new conflicts in rural areas, where large-scale industrial wind farms are typically sited.

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March 10, 2014

Cyberwar: Manufacturing Contempt for Venezuela

by @ 11:13 am. Filed under Socialism, Venezuela, Youth

A profile of the Venezuelan opposition’s systematic misinformation campaign and social media’s contribution to it

By Cyril Mychalejko

SolidarityEconomy.net via upsidedownworld.org

March 4, 2014 - The Venezuelan opposition has been skillfully using Twitter and Facebook to disseminate horrifying photos and testimonies of alleged government violence and abuse against protesters over the last few weeks.

The problem with these allegations and images which have gone viral globally, and even used by media outlets, is that they are fabrications; many of the most viral photos allegedly from Venezuela have actually depicted images from places such as Syria, Chile, Brazil - and even a US-based porn site.

“Initial, inaccurate information will be retweeted more than any subsequent correction,” wrote Craig Silverman, journalist and founder of the blog Regret the Error, for the Poynter Institute in a post in 2010. Silverman’s insight reveals the dangers, often ignored, about the use of Twitter and social media as a news source, as well as a tool for liberation and uprisings.

However, the way social media is being used, or some might say abused, in Venezuela is not the result of a few “bad apples” or some mischievous students taking part in opposition protests. In fact, this propaganda technique is being used by high profile opposition figures, while training anti-chavista Venezuelans to use social media has been a project of Washington for some time now.

According to Caracas-based journalist and attorney Eva Golinger, the US spent “nearly $15 million annually by 2007...directed towards youth and student groups [in Venezuela], including training in the use of social networks to mobilize political activism. Student leaders were sent to the US for workshops and conferences on Internet activism and media networking. They were formed in tactics to promote regime change via street riots and strategic use of media to portray the government as repressive.”

The adoption of social media as a tool to advance US foreign policy objectives, including regime change, did not end with President George W. Bush’s administration. Actually, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton further developed it as a coherent policy tool labelled “21st Century Statecraft.” I wrote about this and how Venezuela and other ALBA countries were targets for this new technological imperialism back in 2012.

In the article I noted how Judith McHale, former under secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department, provided clarity about how exactly Washington planned to use these new technologies in a forum hosted by John Hopkins University in March 2011.

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March 2, 2014

Green High Design: Sputnik Engineering Builds Solar-powered Solar Factory

The sleek rows of windows in the building's recessed oblong front combine with the wood fi...

By James Holloway

SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag

May 28, 2013 - The sleek rows of windows in the building's recessed oblong front combine with the wood finish to create the impression of a piece of 1970s consumer electronics (Photo: Buckhardt+Partner)

You'd expect, or at least hope, that members of the solar industry walk the walk when it comes to designing environmentally friendly offices and factories of their own. And though we don't know much about Sputnik Engineering's office and production building at Biel, Switzerland, its designer, Burckhardt+Partner, claims the building's electricity is provided entirely by renwable energy.

It's not remotely surprising to learn that Sputnik Engineering, which trades under the brand name SolarMax and which is in the business of making photovoltaic inverters (which convert the DC current produced by PV cells to AC required for certain uses, such as being fed into the grid), should turn to solar power for its new building. A rooftop solar array accounts for a "significant proportion" of the electrical demand, according to Burckhardt+Partner.

If the claim is accurate, it's an impressive achievement. It's one thing to build a house with all-renewable electric supplies. Offices and factories are much more intensive energy consumers, due to the equipment and machinery packed densely into the floor area – in this case, all 11,800 sq m (127,000 sq ft) of it .

An all-renewable approach tends to mean stringent control of energy use at the best of times, and it appears that efforts have been made to keep consumption down. The factory floor is bathed in daylight from the rows of skylights overhead, which will greatly reduce the need for electric lighting.

A word or two must be put aside for the aesthetics of the design. Thanks to the wood-panel facades the building would pass for a contemporary office complex or corporate HQ. The sleek rows of windows in the building's recessed oblong front combine with the wood finish to create the impression of a piece of 1970s consumer electronics.

Burckhardt+Partner's design won the competition to design the building in 2009. Construction was completed in 2012. We've asked for more detail on the technology behind this design, and will update this page if we hear more.



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February 17, 2014

Socialism Plans Ahead: China’s Future in Nanotechnology

by @ 12:37 pm. Filed under China, High Design, Socialism, Technology

By Eugene Clark
SolidarityEconomy.net via China.org.cn

Feb 17, 2014 - China is positioning itself to become a world leader in nanotechnology and 2014 is shaping up to be a momentous year. The development of China's nanotechnology industry combined with robotics which I discussed in an earlier article, are both key initiatives if China is to be successful in moving up the value chain in terms of global manufacturing.

Nanotechnology involves the study and development related to the manipulation and control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. This involves structures 100 nm or smaller in at least one dimension. "Nano" scale production equates to a billionth of a meter, just a fraction of the circumference of a single strand of human hair. A nanometer (nm) is one thousand millionth of a meter.

The field of nanotechnology is extremely varied, involving the creation of nano-size devices and new approaches of molecular self-assembly, as well as development and design of new materials with nanoscale dimensions.

Nanotechnology has many potential applications with significant economic consequences in industrial design, medicine, agriculture, energy, defense, food, etc. In medicine for example, these include nanoscale drug particles and delivery systems and nanoelectronic biosensors. In environmental technologies nanotechnology has resulted in major advances in water filtering, as well as fuel cells. It has spawned new products in microelectronics and textiles, paints, sunscreens, cosmetics, clothing and sporting goods. Nanotechnology is a rapidly growing industry that estimated already to be in the billions of dollars.

Today, China leads the world in the number of nanotechnology patents. This leadership role is also reflected in the fact that in 2014 alone China will host two major international conferences --the fourth Annual World Congress of Nano Science &Technology to be held in Qingdao on Oct. 29-31 and the recent International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and Nanotechnology held on Jan. 23-24, 2014, in Shenzhen

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February 16, 2014

In China, Democracy Must Begin on the Factory Floor

by @ 12:03 pm. Filed under China, Economic Democracy, Trade Unions

Main Entry Image

By Han Dongfang

SolidarityEconomy.net

Han Dongfang, a long-time advocate for workers' rights in China, is editor of the "China Labor Bulletin."

HONG KONG, Feb 11, 2014 -- After 35 years of economic reform and development, China's Communist leaders once again find themselves on the edge of a cliff. With social inequality and official corruption at an all-time high, China's new leaders urgently need to find some way of putting on the brakes and changing direction.

The last time they were here was in 1978 when, after the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, the then leadership under Deng Xiaoping had no option but to sacrifice Maoist ideology and relax economic control in order to kickstart the economy again.

Unfortunately, the party relaxed economic control so much that it ceded just about all power in the workplace to the bosses. Workers at China's state-owned enterprises used to have an exalted social status; they had an "iron rice bowl" that guaranteed a job and welfare benefits for life. Some three decades later, that "iron rice bowl" has been completely smashed and the majority of workers are struggling to survive while the bosses and corrupt government officials are getting richer and richer.

The country has gone so far to the other extreme that, if it is to maintain its legitimacy as the ruler of China, the Communist Party will once again have to make sacrifices and concessions. This time, it needs to sacrifice social control rather than economic control. Of course, the party will not permit broad political freedom in China, but it knows the only way it can create the conditions for ordinary people to share in the benefits of the much-hyped "economic miracle" is by allowing grassroots democracy to flourish. And probably the safest place for the party to start implementing grassroots democracy is on the factory floor.

China's workers have already begun the march towards workplace democracy. You just need to look at the thousands of strikes and protests by factory workers across the country to understand that China's workers will no longer accept being dictated to by the boss, nor will they accept a trade union that just keeps quiet and does nothing when their livelihoods are destroyed, as was the case during the breakup of the state-owned enterprises. Compared to 35 years ago, China's workers are willing and increasingly determined to take their future into their own hands.

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February 12, 2014

Good Ideas Dept: Post Office as Public Bank

by @ 7:59 am. Filed under Banks, Capitalism, Economic Democracy

Banks Throw Hissy Fit After Elizabeth Warren Endorses Idea to Allow Post Office to Offer Financial Services

By Helaine Olen

SolidarityEconomy.net via Reuters

Feb 11, 2014 - The U.S. postal service inspector general put out a report last week suggesting an intriguing way to shore up the ailing institution’s finances: Let the mailman double as a bank teller .

The plan? The post office would offer services designed to appeal to America’sunbanked and under-banked  — the more than 50 million adults who either have no checking or savings account, or use high-cost, predatory services like payday loans to supplement traditional banking needs.

This sounds like a win-win. Americans — particularly low-income Americans — clearly need greater access to low-cost financial services. At the same time, many financial institutions have been complaining for years  that providing banking services to low-income Americans is costing them money. So much so that they can barely bring themselves to open bank branches in anything less than well-heeled neighborhoods.

Surely, they would embrace any plan that could help rid them of these undesirable customers, while offering a new-found opportunity to make money.

Not so fast.

The banking sector immediately threw a hissy fit. “This would be like the banking industry moving into running the airlines,” Richard Hunt, the president and chief executive of the Consumers Bankers Association told American Banker last week. Another executive compared the plan to the Ford Edsel.

What gives? Is it just that bank archenemy Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose relationship with financial services most resembles Batman’s with the Joker, said she liked the scheme almost immediately?

Let’s take a look.

If the plan went through, in addition to selling stamps and processing mail, the post office would offer prepaid cards — one that would allow users to pay bills online, and withdraw money at ATMs. The post office would also develop services to let customers save and borrow money.

It’s not like the banks would be on the outside looking in. There is a continuing role for them in the inspector general’s plan. Not only could they handle the back office support for these new financial products and services, they could even buy the loans from the post office.

What could the financial services world possibly object to in this? Well, as I say to my children: Just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it’s true.

Turns out banks are not actually losing money on low-income Americans. In fact, the less than wealthy have turned into a nice little profit center for the big banks. If these customers want to stay, the banks make them pay.

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February 7, 2014

What We Can Do for Displaced Miners and Drillers

by @ 11:25 am. Filed under Green Energy, Green Industry, High Design, Solar

Need Jobs? US Solar Industry Provides Employment for More People than Coal and Oil Combined

By Christina Sarich

SolidarityEconomy.net via Nation of Change

Welcome to the future, its already here. Solar employs and nuclear destroys; we have ample evidence of that now, and with the annual U.S. solar jobs census we now have proof that solar power isn’t just providing energy, without destroying our oceans and contaminating the earth and air with strontium, caesium and barium, among other chemicals, it is providing more than 143,000 Americans a paycheck.

Since 2012, that’s nearly a 20 percent increase, says The Solar Foundation, which conducts the census. An additional 23,682 jobs have been added – 10 times the rate of employment growth as the national average of just 1.9 percent. In the past four years, 50,000 well paying jobs were added  – many of them building and installing solar panels, and this employment rate is expected to continue growing at a steady pace.

Solar installers also make an average of $20 – to $23.60 an hour – compared to the wages of a coal miner, that isn’t bad especially considering the payout to workers with black lung disease amount to billions, and the detrimental affects to a worker’s health are almost irreversible.

Comparatively, during the last two years, fossil fuel jobs declined by 8.7 percent, leaving 8,500 positions void, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you add up the figures, the solar industry now employs more folks than our coal and natural gas industries combined.

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February 6, 2014

Workers Of Self-Managed Factories Gather in Marseille

By Theodoros Karyotis
SolidarityEconomy.net via ZSpace

Feb 6, 2014 - Workers, activists and academics gather at the occupied and self-managed Fralib factory in Marseille for Europe’s first “Workers’ Economy” meeting.

Fralib is a herb processing and packaging factory located twenty-odd kilometers from the southern French port city of Marseille. The previous owner of the factory, chemical and agri-food giant Unilever, decided three years ago to move production of Lipton tea abroad to save on costs. The 80 workers, through protest and boycott campaigns, have demanded that the factory stay open and, after this proved impossible, they decided to take production into their own hands.

The workers here have recently restarted the machines of the big factory to produce a test batch of linden tea based on local produce, and they are currently looking for ways to restart production in full capacity. Fralib is one of a handful of European factories that, with or without a radical or transformational discourse, have moved towards workers’ self-management of production.

The occupation of businesses by workers and their democratic self-management through horizontal decision-making processes is a centuries-old practice. More recently, however, it has reemerged as an increasingly common phenomenon — most prominently in Argentina around the turn of the century, which currently counts about 300 “recovered” workplaces employing over 15.000 workers.

Can this model also constitute a viable solution in Europe, not only to growing unemployment and poverty, but also to the very exploitation and alienation that lie at the core of the capitalist mode of production? This was the main question that the first European “Workers’ Economy” meeting, held on January 31 and February 1 at the occupied Fralib factory, tried to address. The idea behind these independent and self-funded events was born seven years ago in Argentina, with its two-decades old tradition of factory occupations. Soon after similar events were held in Brazil and Mexico.

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