Jobs and Energy by Richard Grossman

Jobs, Energy & the Clam

by Richard Grossman

In spring 1976, I moved from California to Washington DC to become director of Environmentalists For Full Employment (EFFE). EFFE’s task was to counter corporate state propaganda that safe energy threw people out of work, was anti-progress and bad for the economy. We also built alliances among workers and environmentalists.

I had worked for the nation’s first anti-nuclear referendum, California’s Nuclear Safeguards Initiative. Nuclear corporations, banking and weapons corporations, construction and insurance corporations all had joined nuclear zealots in government and the press to scream jobs! jobs! jobs! without let up.

            Without the 1000 nuclear power plants across the nation, they screeched, no jobs. Without 50 nukes in California, everyone would go hungry, freezing and jobless in the dark. California AFL-CIO leaders dangling from corporate strings attacked solar energy advocates as anti-labor and un-American.

            EFFE’s effort over the next decade was three-pronged: research, penetrating AFL-CIO bureaucracies at the top, and public education.

            Based on our research, we revealed that federal Energy Secretary James Schlesinger and other corporate shills had done no analyses or studies. We proved that far more stable jobs would be created if money were directed towards energy efficiencies in generation, transmission, and end use and assorted solar technologies rather than towards nukes, coal, synthetic fuel, etc. The result would be jobs where people actually lived), better worker and public health and less ecological destruction. And we advocated for democratic energy: for decisions to be made by majorities, not by the corporate few.

            In 1977, EFFE published a best-selling 48 page pamphlet JOBS & ENERGY, which quickly went through four printings. On March 15-16, 1978, we helped to organize two days of hearings before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee: “Creating Jobs Through Energy Policy”. Testimony from union officials, the Urban League and diverse researchers made clear that corporate and government calamity howlers were plain liars. We then published numerous studies on investments, jobs, public health and the environment. Into the next decade, what became clear was that “jobs vs. environment” would vanish if We the People took control over energy policy and investment from the corporate class. Alas, the safe-energy movement did not rise to this challenge.

            Having determined that AFL-CIO energy policy had been set by the Building and Construction unions (with the help of ex-plumber and then-president George Meany), EFFE set out to penetrate union bureaucracies at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington DC. Arming the Auto Workers, Machinists, Woodworkers, Chemical Workers, Furniture Workers, and fast-growing service unions like American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with jobs and energy information, we helped leaders left out of policymaking stand up to the Building Trades (whose president, Bob Georgine, was appearing in pro-nuke newspaper advertisements). That internal struggle, in turn, busted open the false picture of unanimity within the federation. It also offered protections for regional and local rank and filers daring to challenge central labor councils and state feds controlled by the building trades.

            Once labor leaders had broken away, EFFE produced a little red pro-jobs, pro-environment, pro-solar, no nukes flyers signed onto by a score of union officials, and sent a gazillion copies around the country. We then organized the nation’s First National Labor Conference on Safe Energy and Environment, in Pittsburgh in October, 1980. Sponsored by nine international unions, with many high-level union speakers, the gathering drew about 1000 union members and a sprinkling of safe-energy activists. An invasion through the hotel kitchen by Pittsburgh building trades unionists on opening night led to a dramatic confrontation with autoworkers, machinists, coal miners, and public employees chanting “NO NUKES NO NUKES.” Eventually, many of the disrupters chose to participate in workshops and discussions through the weekend. EFFE organized a second such gathering the next year in Gary, Indiana.

            These and associated efforts helped build support within the House of Labor for courageous stances that countered AFL CIO

policy, such as Steelworker Local 1010’s powerful opposition to the Indiana Dunes nuke that sealed that the fate of that particular stupidity.

            EFFE sent thousands of JOBS & ENERGY pamphlets and other information to activists in New England. I met Peter Kellman and the Clam Labor Committee, and made presentations to diverse groups in NH. And I became a Clam, participating in the occupation leading to the arrest of the Seabrook 1,414. On site prior to the arrests I took an active part in the debate about whether the occupation should go into Monday morning and bar the construction workers from their jobs. A vigorous, sensitive and passionate debate, it ended in a vote NOT to block the workers. I had spoken in favor of this outcome because I thought we all could turn more and more working people against nuclear insanities.

            An irony: in the 1990s, I moved to NH and paid the Public Service Corporation outrageous monthly sums to cover “stupid costs” and other gifts lavished on it by the NH Public Service Commission. But at least there was only one radiation factory built there.

See: Energy, Jobs & the Economy, Alyson Press, 1979; Fear At Work: Job Blackmail, Labor & the Environment, New Society Publishers,1982, 1991.

Comments Posted:
1 Comment posted on "Jobs and Energy by Richard Grossman"
Mike Olszanski on June 27th, 2011 at 7:59 am #

Hi Richard.
What are you doing these days? Recent events have me wondering whether we need a new “No Nukes” movement.
The “brilliant” Dr. Chu, in particular, scares the hell out of me!
-Mike Olszanski, Gary, IN

Post a comment