Detroit demonstrators: Water is a human right; restore it to those who can’t pay

On July 18, three thousand people marched through the streets of Detroit demanding that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department restore water service to those whose service has been shut off  for non-payment.

On July 21, the department announced that it is temporarily suspending water shutoffs.

The department in April began shutting off water service to people who owed $150 or whose accounts were two months in arrears. By June, 3,000 customers a week were losing water service.

Detroit’s aggressive campaign of denying water service, began a month after Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr issued a request for proposals to privatize Detroit’s water system, which serves nearly 40 percent of Michigan’s population.

Orr was appointed emergency manager by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013 after Snyder declared Detroit to be in a state of financial emergency.

Critics of  Orr’s water privatization plan argue that the decision to shut off water to thousands of customers, most of whom are African-Americans, is the result of Orr’s and the governor’s effort to sweeten the privatization deal by clearing up delinquent accounts.

The city’s aggressive move to shut off water has created a water crisis in Detoit.

The plan to privatize Detroit’s water and the city’s water crisis share common roots.

Both are the result of the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, the Great Recession, which reduced the city’s tax revenue and increased poverty in the city.

After the city’s tax revenue plunged and the State of Michigan reduced Detroit’s share of the state’s revenue, Detroit filed for bankruptcy.

As a result of the bankruptcy filing, Orr began trying to sell of public assets.

The jewel of these assets is the the Detroit water system, which serves 127 Michigan communities as well as Detroit. The Wall Street Journal reports that the water system’s revenues total about $1 billion a year and that despite Detroit’s hard times, revenues continue to exceed expenses.

The Great Recession also cost Detroit thousands of jobs, which increased the city’s already high poverty rate. Nearly 40 percent of Detroit’s residents have income at or below the federal poverty level.

The high poverty rate means that many Detroit residents can’t afford the necessities of life such as water, which over time has grown more expensive.

During the last decade, Detroit water rates have increased 119 percent, and in June, the City Council approved another rate increase raising the cost of water by 8.7 percent.

A recent report by a panel of experts convened by the United Nations to investigate Detroit’s water crisis found that “because of a high poverty rate and a high unemployment rate, relatively expensive water bills in Detroit are unaffordable for a significant portion of the population.”

Cutting off water to people who can’t afford to pay “constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, one of the UN experts investigating Detroit’s water crisis.

At the July 18 demonstration, Jean Ross, co-president of National Nurses United (NNU), the primary sponsor of the march, said that cutting off water creates a public health risk.

“We need clean water for proper sanitation to combat the growth and spread of multiple infectious diseases and pandemics,” said Ross. “We need clean water for a safe and healthy environment. We demand the guarantee that all Detroit residents have immediate and full access to clean water.”

Speakers also said that access to clean water shouldn’t depend on a person’s ability to pay for it.

“The government didn’t give us the water, it is a natural resource,” said Dennis Williams, president of the UAW. “It is the peoples’ resource. It is not owned by corporations, it is not owned by city hall, it’s owned by the people of this land. It is our job united together to take back our government.”

Speakers at the demonstration also criticized the emergency manager’s plan to privatize Detroit’s water system.

“Privatization of water has already started harming Michiganders,” said Monica Lewis-Patrick, founder of We the People of Detroit, a community group leading the fight against the water cutoffs. “This issue is beyond Detroit. Detroit is the tip of the spear. . .  As goes Detroit, so goes Michigan and so goes the nation. Stop the privatization. Restore the water.”

Speakers at the demonstration said that the solution to Detroit’s water crisis won’t be solved through privatization and offered other solutions.

US Rep. John Conyers said that instead of going after those who can least afford to pay, Detroit officials should “get the corporations to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars they owe.”

The Guardian reports that 21,000 businesses, schools and other non-residential properties owe $46 million in unpaid water bills but that the city has made no effort to collect these unpaid bills.

US Rep. Keith Ellison, author of HR 1579, which would authorize a financial transactions tax, also known as a Robin Hood Tax, had a similar message.

“Instead of shutting people’s water off, why don’t we raise the taxes on these corporations?” said Ellison “We have a bill that would tax the transactions on stocks, bonds and derivatives so people can meet their basic needs like water.”

“This dangerous public health crisis is further proof that we don’t have a bankrupt city – we have a bankrupt system,” said John Armelagos, president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “It’s disgraceful to have children in the wealthiest nation on Earth on the edge of living in third-world conditions. . . Water is a human right and Kevyn Orr should put human needs above any agenda set by corporations that only want to further exploit Detroit.”

Staples tries to elude effects of boycott; changes name of Mail privatization deal

Staples, one of the largest office supply chains in the US, announced on July 14 that it is ending a privatization pilot program to provide postal services at more than 80 of its stores across the US.

But the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) said that the announcement was a ruse undertaken by the company to reduce the impact of a boycott against Staples organized by APWU.

Staples’ announcement came two days after the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) passed a resolution at its national convention supporting the boycott.

According to Mark Dimondstien, the deal between Staples and United States Postal Service (UPS) has changed names but not purposes. Staples will no longer provide postal services as part of the Approved Postal Services Provider pilot program, but instead will do so under the Approved Postal Shipper program.

“The Staples announcement and a letter from USPS dated July 7 make it clear: They intend to continue to privatize postal retail operations, replace living-wage Postal Service jobs with low-wage Staples jobs, and compromise the safety and security of the mail,” said Mark Dimondstein, APWU president. “This attempt at trickery shows that the “Don’t Buy Staples’” movement is having an effect. We intend to keep up the pressure until Staples gets out of the mail business. The US Mail is not for sale.”

The boycott support resolution passed at the AFT national convention held in Los Angeles criticizes the USPS’ privatization pilot with Staples as a “no-bid, sweetheart deal” that could jeopardize the security of the mail and lead to the replacement of good paying Postal Services jobs with low-wage, high turnover retail jobs.

The resolution also notes that teachers are facing their own fight against the privatization of public education and that “the AFT and postal employees are fighting a common battle against privatization.”

The resolution urges AFT members, their family, and friends “to no longer shop at Staples until further notice.”

According to the Chicago Teachers Union, an AFT affiliate, “teachers have an especially important role to play in this fight. Staples knows that teachers spend billions of dollars at office supply stores each fall and throughout the school year for the benefit of their students.”

During the convention, thousands of teachers attended a support rally for postal employees called by APWU.

The International Association of Fire Fighters has also joined the Staples boycott.

The IAFF announced on July 13 that the union’s executive board unanimously voted to support the boycott.

“The IAFF supports the APWU in its efforts to protect good-paying jobs and ensure the highest possible standards of customer service,” said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “IAFF affiliates, members and families have done a substantial amount of business at Staples. This no-bid contract between Staples and the USPS is an attack on postal workers and middle class jobs, and yet another attempt to shift good union jobs to part-time, low-wage non-union hourly workers.”

UAW charters Local 42 in Chattanooga; VW announces expansion

The UAW on July 10 announced that it was chartering of a new UAW local at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Members of the new UAW local, Local 42, said that they would begin signing up other workers at the Chattanooga plant. They also said that they expected the company to recognize the union.

“We’ll move forward as a members’ union until we gain the majority, which we feel confident will be very soon.” said Marc Lemmon, a Local 42 member.

“In the very short-term, I think we’re going to be at the bargaining table,” said Jonathan Walden, a Local 42 member.

At the media conference announcing the charter of Local 42, UAW international officials said that the UAW and Local 42  would work with Volkswagen to expand production at the plant.

“The UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga,” said Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer

In a related development, Volkswagen on July 14 announced that it was expanding production at the Chattanooga plant.

Local 42 members also said that now that a union was at the plant, the company will likely establish a works council.

Works councils, worker-management organizations at the plant level that make decisions about production, safety, and other matters, are part of the Volkswagen management culture and are present at all Volkswagen plants around the world except in the US and China.

UAW officials and Volkswagen executive management in Germany had discussed establishing a works council in Chattanooga, but those plans hit a snag when UAW lost a union representation election in February.

Establishing a works council without a union that acts as a collective bargaining representative of the workers would have been difficult because a works council without an independent union could be construed as a company union.

Company unions were made illegal in the US by the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 because employers used them to thwart workers’ efforts to organize unions and bargain collectively.

When UAW petitioned for a union election in January, Volkswagen management said that it would remain neutral.

After the UAW lost the election, it filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint said that the election had been tainted by outside interference.

Documents obtained by In These Times, showed that right wing groups like Americans for Tax Reform and the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation had poured money into the anti-UAW effort and had advised anti-union workers at the plant.

Several days before the election, Tennessee’s US Senator Bob Corker implied that a pro-union vote by workers would torpedo plans to build a new assembly line manufacturing SUVs at the Chattanooga plant.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also suggested that a pro-union vote would prevent Volkswagen from getting state subsidies to expand production.

Sen. Corker and Gov. Haslam declined to cooperate with the NLRB investigation, and in April the UAW dropped its complaint.

When it did so, union officials said that they would shift their focus toward helping Volkswagen expand production at the Chattanooga plant.

“The UAW is ready to put February’s tainted election in the rearview mirror and instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga,” said Bob King, the then-president of UAW.

At the media conference announcing the formation of Local 42, the UAW reaffirmed its commitment to help Volkswagen expand production.

“Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members’ union that represents those employees who join the local,” said Casteel. “As part of this consensus, the UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga.”

Four days after the formation of Local 42, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn announced that the company would invest $600 million dollars in its Chattanooga plant.

The investment will pay for a new assembly line that manufacturers an SUV and a research and development facility.

The expansion will add about 2,000 jobs in Chattanooga.

Casteel in a media statement said that the withdrawal of the union’s election complaint and the announcement that Chattanooga would be the site for the production of the new SUV were related.

“The UAW knew that withdrawing its objections to February’s tainted election, in consensus with Volkswagen, would expedite the company’s decision on the new product line,” said Casteel, “The fact that the new line is being announced four days after the rollout of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga reinforces the consensus that the UAW has reached with the company.”

One million take part in UK’s public service workers’ strike

In what was described as the largest industrial action in the United Kingdom in years, a million public service workers walked off the job on July 10 and went on strike for one day.

The massive action was coordinated by the UK ‘s Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the country’s public service unions including  Unite, Unison, the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS), the Fire Brigades UnionGMB, the National Union of Teachers, Northern Ireland Public Service Association (NIPSA) and the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport (RMT).

The strikers were demanding an end to the national cap on wage increases for public service workers and a fair pay increase.

“Across the public sector, workers are on strike today to say enough is enough,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC’s general secretary. “Year after year, pay has failed to keep up with the cost of living. Public sector workers are on average more than £2,000 worse off under this government.”

As part of his austerity program, Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010, froze the pay of  public service workers. In 2013, the freeze was lifted, but a 1 percent cap on wage increases was put in place. The Cameron government wants to keep the cap in place until 2018.

O’Grady said that half a million public service workers in the UK currently make less than a livable wage.

“They want us to work longer, pay more in (to our pensions) and get less out … we have tried to have negotiations with the government, but they are not listening, so we have no option but to strike,” said Charles Brown, a 52-year-old firefighter from London to the Guardian.

Brown was joined on strike by other fire fighters, teachers, local government workers, school support staff, home care workers, social service workers, court workers, civil servants, garbage collectors, and others.

The strikers were also protesting the austerity policies of the Cameron government.

In addition to freezing and capping the pay of public service workers, the austerity program cut public services, especially for those in need.

But while the government was freezing wages and reducing government services, it was also cutting taxes for corporations and the rich.

Not surprisingly, income inequality accelerated.

“Today, the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20 per cent of the entire population,” says a report by Oxfam, an international anti-poverty and anti-hunger organization. “That’s just five households with more money than 12.6 million people.”

Prime Minister Cameron and his supporters argue that the UK’s economy is growing again thanks to its austerity program, but the TUC says that benefits from growth have not trickled down to the working class.

“The economy might be growing again, but across the UK real wages are still falling,” said a media release issued by TUC a few days before the strike.

And while the nation’s unemployment rate has dropped to 6.6 percent, it still remains more than 2.5 percentage points above pre-recession levels.

A report commissioned by Unison, the UK’s largest public service union, says that a fair pay raise for public service workers would help the economy grow in a way that would benefit more people.

The report, entitled Lifting the Cap: The Economic Impact of Increasing Public Sector Wages, finds that increased government expenses resulting from a public service pay increase would be partially offset by higher tax revenue and lower government benefit costs resulting from the raise.

Furthermore, as a result of the multiplier affect, every 1 percent increase in public service pay adds £470 million in value to the economy and creates 10,000 to 18,000 new full-time jobs.

The Unison report was part of a broader effort to build public support for the strike and a fair public service wage increase. That effort appears to be working.

Unite, whose members also took part in the strike, recently released the results of a poll conducted by a market research firm showing that 61 percent of the public back the workers’ right to strike. The survey also found that 48 percent of the public supported a £1 per hour wage increase for local government workers while 35 percent did not.

The success of the strike apparently shook the Cameron government, which announced that it will ask Parliament to make it harder for public service workers to strike.

The Prime Minister wants to require a majority of union members to authorize a strike before it would be considered legal. Currently, the law requires that a majority of voting members authorize a strike.

Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, called the Prime Minister’s reaction hypocritical.  “The whiff of hypocrisy coming from Cameron as he harps on about voting thresholds is overwhelming,” said McCluskey to the Guardian. “Not a single member of his Cabinet won over 50 percent of the vote in the 2010 election, with Cameron himself getting just 43 percent of the potential vote.” (Guardian 7/9/14).

The July 10 strike is the latest in a series of actions undertaken by TUC and the public service unions to win a fair pay increase, and the unions plan to keep applying more pressure.

“It is important that we maintain the pressure for meaningful negotiations on pay and our campaign issues,” said PCS in a message to members. “So we have now called a ban on all voluntary overtime between 11 and 31 July.”

The National Union of Teachers is recruiting members to lobby Members of Parliament and to distribute leaflets to parents explaining the reasons for the strike and the union’s vision for improving education.

Unison said that it would soon present its a manifesto for public services to the Labor Party’s national policy forum. The manifesto challenges the country’s mainstream parties, including Labor, for their lack of support for public services.

At a rally of strikers in Bristol, John McInally, PCS vice president, told the audience what it would take to win a fair pay increase and protect public services.

“No more excuses, no more unions taking action on their own,” said McInally. “Everyone knows how we can defeat the pay freeze and austerity too – by joint coordinated action across the public sector.”

Unions bargain to fix LA

Carrying signs that read, “We’re Bargaining to Fix LA,” 1,000 Los Angeles city workers and their community supporters demonstrated July 1 at City Hall.

The demonstration was organized by Fix LA, a labor-community coalition demanding that Los Angeles officials renegotiate expensive and in some cases predatory bond deals and use the savings to repair the city’s crumbling infrastructure and clean up neighborhoods.

The Coalition of LA City Unions (CLACU), a bargaining coalition of six union representing 20,000 workers providing a wide array of city services, has been bargaining with the city on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Its proposals for a new agreement mirror those of Fix LA, itself a coalition of the six CLACU members and a long list of community and religious groups.

“(Our bargaining proposals include) provisions that would bring immediate benefits back into the communities in the form of restored services and improved public and child safety. (They also) . . .protect middle-class jobs and create career opportunities, such as local hire and public works programs for LA’s neediest neighborhoods,” reads the coalition’s statement on its bargaining position on the CLACU website.”

On its website, CLACU notes that when the Great Recession reduced city revenue, CLACU members accepted a wage freeze, health care cuts, and higher pension contributions to help the city preserve essential services.

Residents of Los Angeles also made sacrifices as the city cutback on street and sidewalk repairs, sewage maintenance and repairs, flood control maintenance, and debris clearing.

The financial services companies that lend the city money for capital improvements, however, have not made sacrifices. They continue to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and fees for questionable bond deals.

“There’s a lot in LA that needs to be fixed, and getting our money back from Wall Street is a good start,” said Richard Guzman, a garbage truck driver and member of SEIU Local 721, one of the unions belonging to CLACU. “These banks are making huge profits off of taxpayers and the only thing we’re getting in return is cuts. Our communities need neighborhood services restored and more good, public sector jobs.”

One bond deal that has come under close scrutiny is a credit swap deal arranged by the Bank of New York Mellon and Dexia, a financial services company based in Belgium.

Credit swaps are supposed to be insurance against increases in interest payments on bonds with variable interest rates.

But because of the Great Recession and because the US government has kept interest rates low to alleviate the effects of the Great Recession, interest rates on bonds have fallen. As a result, cities such as Los Angeles that purchased credit swaps must pay more.

The credit swap deal with Mellon and Dexia has cost Los Angeles an additional $46.8 million in interest payments, and without some kind of relief, the city will pay an additional $69 million by the time the swaps contract expires in 2028.

In addition, Los Angeles has spent billions on bank fees.

“We estimate the City of Los Angeles spent more than $300 million on fees to its banks and other financial firms, not counting payments for principal and interest on borrowed funds,” said Cheryl Parisi, CLACU chair, at city budget hearings last spring.

Fix LA wants the city to use its $106 billion in city controlled assets to leverage a better deal on bond fees.

“The bottom line is, our leaders in City Hall have a choice: LA can keep getting ripped off by Wall Street or you can change course and reinvest in our streets. I think the choice is pretty simple. That’s how we’re going to Fix LA,” said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721.

In addition to making better deals with banks, Fix LA wants the city to make its property tax structure more equitable so that large corporations pay their fair share to keep Los Angeles in good repair, close tax loopholes that deprive the city of much needed revenue, and enforce its rules on foreclosed property, which would not only improve neighborhoods but provide more revenue for the city.

The current contract between the city and CLACU expired on June 30, but the two sides continue to bargain.

CLACU says that it is bargaining for more than the city workers who it represents.

“We are bargaining to fix Los Angeles,” Parisi said.

German and US unions demand that T-Mobile respect workers’ rights

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) presented a petition signed by 62,000 people to the Deutsche Telekom (DT) board of directors demanding that the German telecommunications company allow workers at its US subsidiary T-Mobile to decide freely whether they want to join a union.

CWA was joined in presenting the petition by its German sister union ver. di, which represents 2 million German workers including those who work for DT in Germany.

T-Mobile has conducted an aggressive anti-union campaign, and DT, which recognizes its workers’ union in Germany and other European countries, has done nothing to stop it.

T-Mobile has recently run afoul of the US Federal Trade Commission, which is suing T-Mobile for cheating its customers.

CWA officials were in Germany to attend a meeting of DT workers from the US and Europe. CWA and ver. di, which hosted the gathering, have been working together to support T-Mobile Workers United (TU), an organization of current and former T-Mobile workers working together to improve their jobs.

The focus of the meeting in Germany was, according to the CWA website, “the global economy, trade, and the behavior of multi-national company’s with T-Mobile US the main case.”

At the meeting, ver. di workplace leaders said that the union would soon be launching its own petition campaign demanding that the German Parliament hold hearings on DT’s reluctance to require its US subsidiary to follow DT’s own guidelines for protecting workers’ rights to form unions and bargain collectively.

Unrealistic and ever-changing sales and performance goals, lack of job security, and a management style that relies on intimidation and public humiliation led workers more than ten years ago to begin talking with CWA about forming a union.

During that time, T Mobile has fired and disciplined workers for their union activity.

The unjust firings and disciplinary actions caused T-Mobile workers to file a number of unfair labor practices complaints.

In May, the company agreed to pay Josh Coleman for lost wages resulting from his firing and agreed in writing not to use an earlier disciplinary action against Ellen Brackeen in the future.

Both were TU members and union supporters. Coleman complained to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that he was fired for supporting the union and Brackeen complained that she was disciplined for the same reason.

Before the settlement was reached, the NLRB agreed with Coleman and Brackeen and had filed charges against T-Mobile.

There are still a number of unfair labor practices complaints pending against the company, and the NLRB recently moved to consolidate the complaints.

According to CWA, T-Mobile’s “anti-worker (actions) are directed by top management at headquarters in Bellevue, Washington.”

At the very top of T-Mobile’s management is CEO John Legere, who in addition to fostering the company’s anti-union culture, has run an aggressive campaign to re-brand T-Mobile as the underdog wireless company that’s more customer friendly than its two main competitors, AT&T and Verizon.

But Legare’s re-branding campaign has taken a number of hits lately.

Legere in a recent public speech given in Seattle said that AT&T and Verizon were “raping” their customers and that “they fucking hate (their customers).”

Legere’s casual use of the word “rape” struck some T-Mobile workers as a trivialization of violence against women and they publicly complained.

In a blog posting, five T-Mobile employees wrote that “Legere went too far using repugnant, sexually violent language for cheap laughs. Trivializing the brutality of sexual assault is not an edgy corporate communications strategy. For many women, this is not funny. It’s traumatizing.”

Legere and T-Mobile has also come under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FTC recently sued T-Mobile for cheating its customers out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC suit alleges that T-Mobile billed customers for unwanted third-party services “such as ringtones, wallpaper, and text messages providing celebrity gossip and horoscopes” and kept between 30 to 40 percent of the charges.

According to Time, the billing for unwanted services, known as cramming, was disguised on customer bills as “usage fees” so that customers couldn’t easily tell what they were being charged for.

T-Mobile says that it has stopped billing customers for third-party services and that the suit is baseless.

The FCC has also opened an investigation into charges that T-Mobile was cramming customers.

Workers at T-Mobile told CWA that T-Mobile was cheating its customers, and in 2013 CWA alerted DT.

DT took no action, but CWA is hoping that the FTC suit, the FCC investigation, and the petitions for worker rights will spur DT to stop ignoring the problems at T-Mobile and take action to end the abuses.

Florida labor groups calls for climate change action

The Northwest Florida AFL-CIO recently passed a resolution urging Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott to develop a plan for reducing carbon pollution from the state’s power plants. Carbon pollution from power plants is a primary cause of climate change.

Florida will be especially hard hit by the affects of climate change. A recent report by a business group that favors climate change action predicts that if nothing is done, climate change could cause between $15 billion and $23 billion worth of Florida property to be underwater by 2050.

The Florida labor group’s resolution calls on Gov. Scott to act quickly to develop a plan for reducing the state’s carbon pollution. The plan, says the resolution, should aim to create more clean energy jobs by encouraging the development of solar and other sources of clean energy.

The plan should also support the development of “more efficient technologies and upgrade our infrastructure to grow quality jobs in the Florida panhandle.”

President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan requires states to develop plans for reducing power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent, and the labor group said that Florida’s future demands that the governor take immediate action toward accomplishing this goal.

“Gov. Scott has a choice to make about the future of Florida,” said James Lingley, president of the Northwest Florida AFL-CIO. “Put forward a clean energy jobs plan that is as good for working families as it is for the planet, or sacrifice the control of how the state will meet these new emission standards. We believe that Florida is capable of meeting the goal of reducing carbon pollution while growing family-sustaining jobs for workers around the state.”

Gov. Scott like other Republican governors has been reluctant to act on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, arguing that any plan to reduce power plant carbon pollution will hurt business and damage the economy.

But a report by the Risky Business Project, co-chaired by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer, argues that taking no action to reverse climate change will hurt business and the economy even more.

The report quantifies the cost of doing nothing to reverse climate change.

In addition to putting billions of dollars worth of Florida property underwater, says the report, “$240 billion dollars worth of (Florida) property will likely be at risk during high tide that is not at risk today.”

The report says that climate change will cause more days of higher temperatures in the Southeast region of the US where Florida is located. As a result, “we are likely to see an additional 15 to 21 deaths per 100,000 people every year in this region over the course of the century due to increases in heat-related mortality, with urban residents at greater risk due to the heat island effect. At the current population of the Southeast, that translates into 11,000 to 36,000 additional deaths per year.”

The report also says that higher temperatures will reduce labor productivity in the region.

The Northwest Florida AFL-CIO sees the Clean Power Plan as an opportunity to save the state from the disastrous consequences of climate change and at the same time to develop and implement new technologies that will create good paying jobs.

According to the Solar Foundation, the solar energy industry is one of the fastest growing sources of new jobs in the US. In 2013, the solar industry employed 142,689 people in the US, up by nearly 20 percent over the number employed in 2012.

For the most part, these are good paying jobs. The median average hourly pay for a solar installer is $20, the mean average is $23.63.

“The time has come for Florida to live up to being the Sunshine State,” said Buck Hill, president of the Big Bend chapter of the Northwest AFL-CIO. “With a clean energy jobs plan, Gov. Scott can put Florida to work by unleashing the power of the sun.”